The Solicitors Regulation Authority is recruiting representative candidates to pilot the second stage of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). However, former candidates claim the ‘super-exam’ will ‘always be second best’ to the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
SQE2 will be trialled for four days in December and will consist of written work and oral assessments. Candidates taking part in the trial will receive £300 for completing the pilot, with an extra £200 on offer for those who score in the top 10%.
The best performing applicants could also be offered work placements and spots on training contract assessment days.
The SRA said it is looking for people ‘similar to those who will eventually sit the exam’, such as those who have completed stage one of the LPC, international lawyers eligible to qualify via the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme and barristers practising in England and Wales.
Two legal analysts who trialled SQE1 in March, however, have criticised the assessment.
Shannon Moore and Emily McArthur, legal analysts for AO Advocates and McAllister Olivarius, told the Gazette: ‘Stage two [of the SQE] only assesses legal skills in two practice contexts. A candidate who can only prove that they are competent in drafting in two areas of law will always be second best to a candidate who has pursued a law degree or the LPC route.’
They added: ‘This will create a two-tiered system of those able to commit to longer, more expensive courses in contrast to those who cannot, who are most likely to be those currently under represented within the profession.’
Moore and McArthur both decided to pursue the LPC after trialling the ‘super-exam’.
Last month the SRA revealed that SQE1 could be entirely multiple choice after the pilot found that the written section could disadvantage members of ethnic minorities.
Julie Brannan, SRA director of education and training, said: ‘Our first pilot helped us refine the SQE1 assessment design to ensure that it will be a rigorous and robust qualification.
‘This second pilot will help us make sure we get the design of SQE2 right.’