News release

SRA proposes a Solicitors Qualifying Examination for all new solicitors

We are proposing a shake-up in the way solicitors qualify, with a consultation on a new standardised system for assessing trainees.

Under the new system proposed by us, everyone wanting to qualify as a solicitor would undergo the same professional assessment based on the competences required to do the job.

The changes would ensure consistent high standards of entry into the profession, providing confidence for the public and employers.

Currently, solicitors become qualified in a number of ways – most take the law graduate route involving a three-year law degree, followed by a year’s Legal Practice Course and then two years of recognised work place training. There are also routes in for graduates in other subjects, non-graduates and lawyers qualified in other countries. The current system does not measure all candidates on a consistent or comparable basis.

Trainee solicitors are ultimately signed off as competent to practise at the end of their training contracts at their law firm. But, again, there is no mechanism to compare standards.

The proposed new assessment - called the Solicitors Qualifying Examination - is based on a new ‘competence statement’ developed by the SRA – a benchmark defining what all solicitors should be able to do competently in order to qualify and to practise. Pre-qualification workplace experience is an important part of qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales and is likely to form part of any new system.

The SRA believes this new approach could help foster greater diversity in the profession by ensuring all candidates meet proper standards regardless of the pathway they take.

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: "Entry into a profession is the key point at which the quality of the profession as a whole is defined. So it has to be right that everyone meets consistent, high standards.

"We think that the best way to ensure that solicitors meet the standards we, their clients and the public expect is to put in place the same, rigorous assessment for aspiring solicitors. That will give real confidence to employers, the users of legal services and indeed the profession itself."

The consultation runs until 4 March 2016 and can be found on our consultations page

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