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LSB gives go-ahead to the first stage of reforms to how solicitors qualify

Responding to the Legal Services Board’s approval of the framework for changes to how solicitors are admitted to the profession, employers and education suppliers are being urged to push ahead with their preparations for the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination(SQE).

The SQE, which will not come in before September 2020, will involve a single common assessment which replaces the multiple courses and examinations available under the current regime.

The new assessment will mean the public and law firms can have full confidence that all new solicitors meet the same consistently high standards, regardless of how they qualified.

As well as building trust and confidence, the SQE should also help widen access to the profession, by allowing different routes to entry, including ‘earn as you learn’ pathways such as apprenticeships.

It will also remove the need for all would-be solicitors to pay significant up-front costs, often up to £15,000, to take the Legal Practice Course, which offers no guarantee of a training contract or becoming a solicitor.

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “We welcome the LSB approval for this key next step in our reform programme.  We are committed to introducing the SQE, which will give the public real confidence that all solicitors meet high, consistent standards.

“Confirmation that we can press ahead with the development of the SQE gives employers and education providers the surety they need to plan fully for its introduction. Law firms and academic institutions can now design approaches to recruitment and training which reflect their specific needs.

“The removal of regulation on potential routes to qualifying, including the QLD, GDL or LPC requirement, will provide opportunities for people from every walk of life to consider a career as a solicitor, while the introduction of Qualifying Work Experience should address the current training contract bottleneck.”