The Solicitors Regulation Authority has relaxed rules around professional training in response to the pandemic, allowing junior lawyers to defer compulsory modules for 12 months.

In a message to training providers, the regulator said trainees who cannot complete the professional skills course (PSC) - the final stage of mandatory training to become a solicitor - before admission can apply for a deferral. They will need to complete the course within 12 months of being admitted.

The SRA also reminded firms that it is not necessary for students to have completed the Legal Practice Course (LPC) before starting their training contract.

The relaxation of training rules is part of an effort to ensure junior lawyers qualify on time. Last month, the SRA allowed LPC assessments to move online, having previously suggested that core examinations would have to be delayed. It has also allowed the PSC to temporarily move to online, authorising the University of Law, BPP and Barbri Altior to deliver the course remotely.

In contrast, the Bar Standards Board has refused to budge on online exams for core modules, despite pressure from students. Responding to a letter from over 200 bar school students, BSB director general Mark Neale said centralised examinations will not go ahead until August. ‘The integrity of the assessments is paramount; we must be able to reassure stakeholders that learning outcomes have been assessed and standards have been maintained,’ he said.

Neale added that the BSB cannot be directly compared to the SRA as ‘the SRA does not set and mark the LPC exams as we do with the centralised examinations’.

Law Society president Simon Davis said it is encouraging to see trainees given the room they need to qualify on time. However he added: 'Despite these measures, there will be some students who will not have the chance to complete their assessment and we will continue to work with the SRA to ensure that adequate arrangements are made as soon as conditions allow.'