The Legal Services Board has listed concerns about the quality, cost and diversity impact of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam, suggesting there is still a long way to go before the assessment is approved.
A report by Chris Nichols, the LSB’s director of regulation and policy, says that a number of substantive issues were raised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s first application for approval.
These include concerns about quality, cost, accessibility, and equality and diversity, as well as the question of whether the exam will be provided in Welsh.
The LSB agreed to send a ‘non-exhaustive list of key issues’ to the SRA which must be ‘fully addressed’ in the next application.
Key issues raised by Nichols include the work experience section of the SQE, which carried the risk of students ‘being treated poorly and getting limited utility from their time’. He added that there was ‘an overall lack of any quality assurance of the process by the SRA’.
The LSB will also request an equality, diversity and inclusion impact assessment, evidence that the SQE will not compromise quality, and an evaluation of the impact the changes will have.
Nichols wrote: ‘We will expect to see evaluation built in to the design from the start and clear commitments to monitor, review and respond to emerging evidence.’
In a blog post, chair of the LSB Dr Helen Phillips wrote: ‘The board is aware of the strength of feeling around the SRA’s introduction of the SQE, and we were pleased to have an opportunity to discuss the next steps for the process.
'We know that there remain a number of concerns for stakeholders, and our overarching desire to proactively gather and understand such views carries over into any discussion of the SQE.'
The SRA expects to submit its second SQE application to the LSB in July or August 2020 and for the new route to qualification to begin the following autumn.