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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 https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/law-careers/becoming-a-solicitor/sqe-overview/

and the SRA announcement from today is available here; http://www.sra.org.uk/sra/news/press/sqe-launch-2021.page

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
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