Law teachers blast “disingenuous” SRA over super-exam

The Association of Law Teachers (ALT) has criticised the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s “disingenuous” reporting of the reaction to its proposed reforms to legal education.

The SRA conducted two different consultations in which it canvassed the views of the profession, before deciding last month to push on with the introduction of a super-exam for aspiring solicitors.

In a statement, the ALT said that it continued to have “strong reservations about the SQE as a suitable form of assessment for aspiring solicitors” but had “particular concerns relating to the disingenuous reporting of the consultation responses by the SRA.”

It pointed out that the SRA said that it received 253 responses to its consultation, but only 148 are included in the published responses.

Chair of the ALT Dr Jessica Guth said: “Given the overwhelming lack of support for the SQE in the responses that have been published and the many concerns raised throughout this consultation process, it is important that a proper analysis of ALL responses received can be undertaken and we therefore urge the SRA to publish the missing 105 responses or indeed explain the discrepancy in numbers”.

A spokesperson for the SRA said that it asks for permission to publish respondents’ comments, therefore the responses published on the SRA website are limited to the ones where permission was given.

Professor Elaine Hall, who undertook an initial analysis of the consultation responses on behalf of the ALT, added: “The SRA conflate ‘support for an independent professional assessment in principle’ with ‘support for the SQE’. This is a stretch, since the second consultation looked at specific questions about the SQE only. The assessment principle was partially addressed in the first consultation with 209 respondents, published in 2016: 41 agreed, 33 were neutral and 135 disagreed”. The ‘support in principle’ is not evident anywhere in this data.”

“The SRA – by using terms like ‘general support’ and suggesting that it is universities who ‘consistently’ oppose the SQE – are drawing attention away from the simple facts: 68 per cent of the respondents think the SQE is not ‘a robust and effective measure of competence’ and 66 per cent think it is not ‘a suitable test of the requirements needed to become a solicitor’.”

“These negative views are not only the province of universities, they are held by the majority of solicitors’ firms who responded and more than half of individual legal professionals. These are the people who will employ newly-qualified solicitors and they are not convinced that this a good idea.”

An SRA spokesperson said: “We have always been clear that views on SQE were mixed, and open about the fact that those organisations that supported centralised assessment in general said they were concerned about the detail.

“We agree that there is a more work to do on the detail of SQE, and, as we have said, we are committed looking to working with everyone over the coming months to get it right.”