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Well a lot has been happening in the last few days in legal education! Yesterday the SRA has announced it will delay implementation of the SQE until autumn 2021 which is a relief to most people apart from solicitor apprentices who will be completing their revolutionary journey to qualification in 2022. The transitional provisions for anyone who has already started their legal education will run until 2032.

Since the SRA announced their assessment provider was Kaplan, we have had information coming thick and fast. We now have indicative pricing (for the assessments only), a date for implementation and an announcement that Kaplan will be reducing the number of assessments for SQE1 from 6 to just 3 exams. No news on exact assessment specification but that’s expected to be in December. All 3 assessments must be sat at the same time, no picking them off one by one during a law degree. The 3 exams will be 1. Company/commercial; dispute resolution; contract and tort. 2.Property law and practice, wills and the administration of estates, equity and trusts and solicitors accounts. 3. Criminal law and practice, public and administrative law, EU and the legal systems of England and wales. Ethics will pervade across all assessments. Combined price is up to £4500. Pilot exams will start in March next year.

The 3 proposed exams form interesting combinations of subjects and based on the last assessment specification, aspiring solicitors will be answering 120 questions in 180 minutes across quite a range of subject areas.

The indicative prices are just that, indicative and there are many caveats on those price points including, but not limited to, whether there is to be a Welsh version of the SQE. Note that legal systems includes Wales too.

At BLS we realise that these changes pose a significant challenge to many firms varying in size and practice area. We are therefore proposing to run a conference in February/March to help firms understand these changes, the opportunities and challenges of legal apprenticeships and how the SQE is likely to impact.

Don’t forget the Bar

There have also been significant announcements from the BSB and LSB recently. The Bar Standards Board has announced their 4 pathways to qualification at the Bar and they are now requiring all chambers offering pupillages from autumn 2019 to apply for status as an Authorised Education Training organisation regardless of how long they may have been training pupils. There is also to be a minimum wage for pupillages in line with the living wage foundation recommendations- more on this from them in the New Year. Then there is the continued involvement of the Inns in the admission to the bar and their support for COIC, all of which is likely to impact next year!

I will write more about all of this to help members at all levels understand what is coming but in the interim this summary from the Law Society issued last week is a helpful guide to the SQE

and the SRA announcement from today is available here;

The BSB are also publishing their proposals on their website.

Catherine Edwards
Director of Learning and Development
Chair of the Education and Training Committee
Senior Practitioner - Keele University
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

leasehold home ownership consultation proposals 

Have you ever experienced that feeling of dread when an important client asks you to serve a Notice claiming the Freehold of a property under the provisions of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967?

How on earth do you interpret the questions in the schedule and provide the correct replies?

Well, if the proposals contained in the Law Commissions’ recent consultation paper ‘Leasehold Home Ownership – Buying your Freehold or Extending your Lease’ comes into Law, then that dread may vanish. The Government wants to make buying the Freehold of a house or extending the Lease of a house or flat “cheaper, quicker and easier” for all. Some might say that’s impossible to achieve without there being consequential damage elsewhere. However, the Law Commission were tasked with the job, and, as a result have published a consultation paper of over 540 pages on the subject. Given that the current law has developed over a period of over of 50 years, is an amalgamation of several Acts of Parliament and countless court decisions, it’s no wonder that the inquiry has had to be thorough. So, if the proposals make their way through Parliament, what can you expect?

In no order the salient points of the proposed changes are as follows:-

1.     The qualifying period for tenants to claim the Freehold of their home or an extended Lease of their flat or house will be eliminated altogether (in contrast to the two year waiting period under the current law).

2.     For the first time, it will be possible for tenants of mixed developments (i.e. houses and flats) to collectively acquire the Freehold of their estate.

3.     The new right to an extended lease of a house will mirror that of a right to extend a flat lease. Under the current law a leaseholder has a right to a 50 year lease extension whereas a flat-owner has a right to a 90 year lease extension.

4.     A brand new and much revered right for leaseholders who did not participate in a previous collective enfranchisement to do so at a later date (a new right to participate).

5.     A simplified basis of valuation both in respect of reversionary interests and of extended leases. The proposal is to determine valuation by an online calculator with fixed or variable credentials, thus helping to eliminate the most difficult obstacle, agreement as to price. Whether the new basis will include a margin for marriage value (as is currently the case in certain circumstances) or not, will be a hot issue for landlords.

6.     A simplified method of calculating the amount of the landlord’s costs.

7.     Except in very limited circumstances, a statutory obligation that a nominee purchaser must be a company limited by guarantee, rather than by shares.

8.     A fundamental new right of participating tenants to compel the landlord to take a lease back of any parts of the building which are not let to participating tenants in a collective enfranchisement. This will mean leaseholders will not have to pay for non-participating flats.

9.     A complete overhaul of the procedural system to harmonise different types of claims. There will be a single Notice for all types of claim, and in a form that should be capable of being completed by a relative novice. The work of the Law Commission has focused a great deal on the practicalities of the exercise of enfranchisement or lease extension rights, since so many disputes have arisen about form and content.

10.  A new and simplified system for dealing with missing landlord cases. The new procedure will harmonise the claims in the early stages.

11.  The proposal is that all disputes regarding enfranchisement, or a claim for an extended Lease including missing landlord cases should fall within the jurisdiction of the First Tier Tribunal thus removing the County Court’s involvement.

12.  Prescribed periods for completion of claims are proposed. This, along with the removal of some of the guillotine provisions under the current law will take a good deal of the stress out of making claims in the beginning and hopefully result in quicker settlement between the parties.

13.  Apart from the thorny issue of valuation, a further difficulty that landlords and tenants face is agreeing the terms of the conveyance or lease extension deed. It is proposed that in all three types of claims (enfranchisement, collective enfranchisement and lease extensions) a template deed of assurance will be prescribed with optional additional clauses available to the parties to pick from a list as circumstances require.

Those of you who practice in this area will know how complex and difficult the law relating to leasehold reform is. Often where the value of the reversionary interest or the premium payable for the lease extension is low, the cost of enforcing the tenants’ rights can far exceed the premium payable. The hope is that the new law if enacted as proposed will eliminate the traditional areas of dispute, lead to earlier settlement terms being agreed, and facilitate implementation in the spirit of compromise, which simply doesn’t exist under the current framework. Time will tell whether Parliament legislates in favour of the Law Commissions proposals, but one thing is certain. It is changing, and hopefully for the better.

Mark Adcock is a solicitor in private practice and part time lawyer with the Law Commission


The Birmingham Law Society is very pleased to be able to announce that it has joined forces with Legalese, the publishers of the Legal 500, to publish a special commemorative magazine that will not only celebrate the Society’s 200th anniversary but review this year’s Legal 500 West Midlands findings within a multi-page A4 perfect bound glossy special report.

See full story and sponsorship & advertising rates here.

Legal500 with BLS

birmingham law society marks bicentenary in birmingham post supplement 

The latest edition of the Birmingham Post celebrates Birmingham Law Society's bicentenary and includes a supplement, with a foreword by the President, James Turner.

The supplement is also available electronically and can be read online here.

To read the story on The Post online, please go to their website.

BP Law Society 1

in the footsteps of miss bebb... celebrity play reading and conference


 A play chronicling the struggle of women to be accepted in to the legal profession is receiving its Birmingham premiere.

Birmingham-born stage and screen actor Martin Shaw and Call the Midwife’s Laura Main will lead the celebrity cast in The Disappearance of Miss Bebb.

The performance will conclude a conference exploring the future of women in the law on 21 October, at the University of Birmingham. The radio-style play, with live music and sound effects, is open to the public. 

The Disappearance of Miss Bebb, by lawyer/playwright Alex Giles, is inspired by the 1913 case of Bebb v The Law Society. Gwyneth Bebb was one of three female plaintiffs in the case seeking admission to the Law Society, which at the time prevented women practicing as solicitors. The case paved the way for the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, allowing women to become lawyers. 

Martin Shaw reprises the role of Bebb’s barrister, Mr (later Lord) Stanley Buckmaster KC, which he performed at the play’s first performance in London last year. Laura Main will play Miss Bebb.

The 90-minute play premiered last year in London in support of the Kalisher Trust, a charity helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds pursue a career at the criminal bar.

The event is part of a programme to mark the 200th anniversary of BLS, which accepted its first female member in 1923.

Eileen Schofield, Chair of the Board at Birmingham Law Society, said: “It is a tremendous coup to have secured this play for Birmingham and a great way to mark our bicentenary.

“Women now make up half of new solicitors so it’s astonishing to think that a century ago they were barred from practice. Alex Giles’ work is a powerful drama and a great way to celebrate how far women have come in the legal profession.”

Tickets for the play are from £20-£40 and are available from Eventbrite. The proceeds will support the work of the Kalisher Trust.

Speakers at the The Future of Women in the Law conference include Lord Judge, former Lord Chief Justice; Linden Ife, practicing barrister with Enterprise Chambers and Eileen Schofield.