The Legal Services Board (LSB) today gave itself more time to approve or reject plans to overhaul the way in which solicitors qualify after legal educators and the Law Society again hit out at the scheme.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority applied to the LSB last month seeking formal approval to press ahead with its plans to introduce the Solicitors Qualifying Exam – due to be introduced from 2020.
Under the approval process, the LSB would have had to approve or reject the plans within 28 days from the date of application (12 January) - unless an extension of up to 90 days was agreed. The LSB said today that an extension period had been engaged, meaning a decision does not have to be issued until 9 March.
The LSB said: ’After completing an initial assessment of the application, we have concluded that we need to extend the initial decision period to allow the SRA to respond to questions regarding the proposed amendments, and for the LSB to consider the responses to our enquiries.’
Responding to the SRA’s application, the Association of Law Teachers (ALT) said that the regulator was asking the LSB to ‘take a leap of faith’. It said: ’The SQE has not yet been fully devised, never mind tested and independently evaluated. We do not yet know how it would be administered and run or exactly what format it would take.’
Further, in a joint letter, the ALT, the Committee of Heads of University Law Schools, the Society of Legal Scholars and the Socio-Legal Studies Association, criticised the SRA’s proposal that a degree in law, or conversion course, would not be required in order to take the SQE.
The organisations said that this ‘contrasts with the position in virtually every country in the world,’ adding: ‘It is our view that it is wholly implausible that SQE1 as proposed can provide anything like the same level of assurance of the knowledge of the foundation subjects and analytical legal skills’ they added.