The Solicitors Regulation Authority has come under fire for potentially allowing the same training provider to supply the new 'super examination' assessment.
SRA director of education and training Julie Brannan today confirmed there is nothing stopping a law school from applying to administer the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
Brannan, speaking today at the Westminster Legal Policy Forum in London, said the regulator was ‘absolutely live’ to the potential conflict of interest and controls and protections will be built into the system. 'It is very important we guard against distortions of the training market,’ she said. 'The people who understand about legal education and have the necessary expertise are likely to be involved in one way or another.’
The exam will form the gateway to the solicitors' profession and will come into use from September 2020. The SRA confirmed today that the tender process for selecting an assessor would start shortly.
But a number of legal education experts made calls for the SRA to look again about allowing any conflict - or at least any perception of one.
Jackie Panter, associate head of law at Manchester Law School, said she had 'concerns' about the same provider offering training and assessment.
James Welsh, director of the BPTC programme at BPP Law School, added that the 'dangers are greatly increased' of assessment providers tailoring questions to suit what has been taught.
Other delegates at the conference pointed out the assesment provider would be in a unique position to attract people to its training programme, if it was able to market itself as offering both.
Sarah Hutchinson, managing director of international legal education provider BARBRI, said there was already a problem with how training standards in England and Wales are perceived abroad.
'The system of qualification is seen - at best - as being fragmented and not easy to understand,' she said. 'At worst there is an allegation it is easy and we have weak standards - you might not like that but it's the perception. It's a disastrous idea that the assessment provider can also provide training. I don't agree there can be a Chinese wall.'