The Solicitors Qualifying Exam will be just as expensive as the current system and the first cohort of graduates will be guinea pigs on an amended pilot scheme, junior lawyers have said.
Responding to official approval of the SQE by the Legal Services Board, the Junior Lawyers Division said the ‘first few cohorts of candidates to sit the SQE will effectively be taking part in an amended pilot (at significant cost) for issues which should have been addressed through further, comprehensive piloting prior to implementation’.
It added that the LSB relies heavily on assurances provided by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in relation to unpublished guidance and commitments to review areas where there are ‘evident or anticipated problems’.
On diversity, the Junior Lawyers Division said the total cost of the SQE is unlikely to prove cheaper than the current route to qualification and student loans may not be available to help candidates from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
‘It's also disappointing that some concerns that the JLD has directly raised with the LSB about the new examination format – for example, that candidates will be able to "fail" one key area of law (such as tort, contract law etc.) but still pass SQE (as opposed to having to re-sit the exam in the current system) – have not been addressed at all in the LSB’s decision notice,’ it said.
Legal education faces the biggest shake-up in almost two decades following the approval of the SQE, which will be introduced in phases from next autumn.
SQE1 will test ‘functioning legal knowledge’ and will comprise two multiple-choice tests. SQE2 will test legal research, legal writing, legal drafting, case and matter analysis, advocacy, client interviewing and attendance note/legal analysis.