The Solicitors Regulation Authority has hit back at claims that it has pre-empted formal consultation on how it will assess trainees under proposed new routes into the profession.
Last week the Law Society said it was ‘deeply concerned’ that the SRA had expressed its preference for one of three proposed training routes before consulting the profession.
The Society said that the SRA's preferred route would involve centralised assessments against the competence statement for solicitors published in April. The statement would replace mandatory training contracts, the legal practice course or a law degree.
The other two options proposed by the SRA would involve aligning existing pathways to the requirements of the competence statement or the SRA authorising a range of pathways to qualification.
The Law Society said that the SRA’s ‘preferred option’ could adversely affect less-advantaged students who do not have contacts within the profession or access to the best-informed careers advice.
It could also leave poorer students unable to get funding for courses on the grounds that these would no longer be required, the Society said. ‘It is therefore unacceptable that an equality impact assessment has not been completed on the options put forward for discussion.’
But the SRA today stressed that no decisions had been taken on which option it will choose.
Crispin Passmore, executive director for policy at the SRA, said: ‘We have spoken to lots of people about the three options we have identified and received lots of views. We are testing a particular model, but no decisions have been taken.
‘We will be formally consulting on a new assessment framework in December and this will be accompanied by an equality impact assessment, something we promised back in March.’
The SRA said that comments from small and large firms, academic institutions, trainees and law students have helped the body to clarify the benefits of each training option. It plans to further engage training providers in October before the consultation opens.