“Fundamentally flawed”: Academics savage SRA super-exam proposals

The Society of Legal Scholars has become the latest group to criticise the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) plans to reform the legal education system.

In its response to the SRA’s consultation on the planned changes, it savaged the proposal for a Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE) that all solicitors would have to take at the point of qualification.

The Society, whose 3,000 members are mostly legal academics in universities, described the idea of such a ‘super-exam’ as “fundamentally flawed”.

“It ignores the evidence in the Legal Education and Training Review, commissioned by among others the SRA, which said that most people are broadly happy with the current system of legal education and training the SRA and want only limited reforms,” the Society said.

“Despite having several years to do so the SRA has failed to provide robust evidence as to inconsistency of standards in the present system.”

“There is still no evidence that a new system of assessment for SQE1 [the first part of the proposed exam] that is mainly based on a large number of computer-marked questions, which have to be answered very quickly, can show that people have the same depth of legal knowledge as is demonstrated by the present [Qualifying Law Degree] system.”

“It does not show how the SQE1 provider will be regulated or how the cramming colleges that will train people to take the SQE1 will be regulated.”

“It ignores the fact that a two tier system will be created with there being a small number of SQE-only solicitors whose existence will damage the reputation of all solicitors.”

The Society concluded: “The SRA in setting out a new training regime are proceeding on the basis of faith rather than evidence and the risk for consumers, employers and students is enormous.”

The full response can be read here.

In contrast, one legal academic put forward a more positive view of the SRA’s plans on Twitter last night. Pedro Telles, a senior lecturer in law at Swansea University, wrote that setting up general access exams to the profession was “nothing to be afraid of.”

The University of Law and the City of London Law Society have both made public their responses to the SRA consultation in the last week.