The Solicitors Regulation Authority has denied that the new solicitors superexam will be a cash cow for the regulator, saying that at least part of any profit from the scheme will be paid into an ‘access and investment’ fund.
The SRA’s claim appears in a 60-page application to the Legal Services Board (LSB) last week seeking formal approval for the Solicitors Qualifying Examination, which is due to be introduced in 2020.
Charges for taking the exam will not be known until spring, when the SRA is expected to announce the appointment of an assessment provider. In its submission, the SRA said that a proportion of profits will be paid into an ‘access and reinvestment fund’ — provided the assessment organisation’s annual profits ‘exceed a specified margin’.
‘The SQE is not an income-generating exercise for the SRA. We do not wish to retain excess profits for ourselves. We will decide how this money is spent either by reinvesting in the SQE, or to provide financial assistance to candidates,’ the submission states.
It also reveals that a ‘chief scrutineer’ is to be appointed ‘to promote confidence in the SQE’.
The LSB has 28 calendar days from 12 January to approve or reject the plans. If needed, it can extend the review period to 90 days.
The SQE will consist of two parts. Part one will be a computer-based assessment which will include multiple choice questions. Part two will test practical legal skills and be taken after a period of work-based training.
An SRA spokesperson said: ‘The aim of the SQE is to guarantee consistent, high standards for qualifying solicitors, as well as helping widen access to the profession.
‘We developed our proposals by engaging with more than 10,000 people. This is the next stage in the process and we look forward to the LSB’s decision.’