The Solicitors Qualifying Examination’s long road ahead.

Nick Stone, ARK Group Conference producer, looks at recent developments in the SRA’s reforms to the delivering legal education.

“…we would ask you to delay your decision, to enable the SRA's application to be given more careful scrutiny” – Bob Neill MP, Chair, Justice Committee, 8 March 2018, writing to the Legal Services Board.

It’s been a troublesome period for the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) as they try to implement reforms to delivering legal education. The SRA plans to replace the traditional route to qualification with a centrally assessed Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).

Back in January, these SQE plans were presented to the Legal Services Board (LSB), which had 28 days to reach a decision. However, scarcely three weeks after the LSB received the SRA’s proposals, the Board replied to say that they needed yet more time to consider their proposals.

A month later, SQE was hit by with more concerns, with MPs on the Justice Committee calling for a six-month hiatus whilst the concerns over the scheme are fully addressed. The committee raised concerns over the SRA proposals, which “would leave England and Wales as the only jurisdiction that does not require substantive academic study of law as a precursor to qualifying as a lawyer”.

So far, so rocky.

Finally, on 27 March, the LSB gave the green light to the SRA’s SQE. However, don’t expect the new SQE to be introduced anytime soon. As the LSB announced, “the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) does not automatically follow from today’s approval”. The SRA will need to make further submissions, with another application for approval in 2019.

Julie Brannan, Director of Education and Training at the SRA, will provide an update on the SQE reforms at the ARK Group’s Graduate Recruitment and Legal Apprenticeship events on 5 June 2018.