The local law society representing South London has slammed proposals for a solicitors’ ‘super-exam’, saying it will lower the standard of entrants into the profession and damage the public’s trust in solicitors.
Responding to the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s proposals for a solicitors qualifying examination (SQE), the South London Law Society said the plans will also reduce consumer protection.
The society represents hundreds of solicitors’ firms in the London boroughs of Wandsworth, Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Greenwich.
The SRA’s second consultation into the proposals, which recommend trainee solicitors take a two-part exam, closed yesterday. Its first consultation received more than 200 responses – many of them negative.
Responding to seven questions on the SRA’s proposals, the SLLS said it ‘strongly disagreed’ or ‘disagreed’ with each.
Asked if the proposals will be a suitable test of the requirements needed to become a solicitor, the society said the knowledge, intellectual skills, legal work experience and the level of professional practice required to pass the SQE will be ‘less than required at present'.
The society added that neither stage of the exam will assess candidates thoroughly enough.
SQE 1 does not address the 'ability to recognise ambiguity and deal with uncertainty in law or an ability to produce a synthesis of relevant doctrinal and policy issues’, it said. 'The effect is likely to encourage students to focus on the application of straightforward principles of law in everyday practice situations without sufficient regard to complexity and ambiguity,’ it said.
Plans for candidates to take the second stage of the exam after their training experience will see them gain ‘considerably less benefit’ than the current scheme, the SLLS added.
Further, it says the ‘high costs of assessment’ - it estimates the exams would cost more than £6,000 - will threaten diversity.
Other respondents to the second consultation include the University of Law which said the proposals would not widen participation and could lower levels of competence.
Chancery Lane meanwhile said it broadly supported the revised proposals but warned that the lack of requirement for a degree could dilute standards.