A survey by Leeds Law Society of the training revolution proposed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority has found that 60% of the 150 respondents fear the changes would harm the solicitor brand.
Another 26% thought focusing on a centralised point-of-admission exam rather than prescribing the route to qualification might damage the profession’s reputation, while only 8% believe the changes would improve standards.
Leeds solicitor Catherine Woodward, a member of the society’s board of directors, said the SRA’s proposals for a Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) prompted detailed comments from more than half of the respondents.
Almost all respondents wanted to see the qualifying law degree and conversion course retained, with a third suggesting centralised marking to ensure consistency. The most criticised aspect of the current process was the Legal Practice Course (LPC), but more than half believed it should be reformed rather than abolished.
Just under two-thirds wanted the training contract/period of recognised training retained, with nearly a third suggesting there should centralised testing at the end to ensure consistency.
On the proposed SQE, respondents broadly agreed that any centralised test should assess all the elements of the degree, LPC and training contract – as well as soft skills and professional conduct.
But Woodward said there was concern that it would not be able to cater for the bespoke nature of the training contract.
One respondent commented: ‘If candidates are not fit for qualification at the end of the training contract, this means that either the firm is not training them properly so it should not be taking on trainees, or the candidate should not have passed the degree/GDL/LPC stages’.