1. The cost of qualification to the student will go down – but not as much as the SRA hopes.
The SRA says: “The fees are likely to range between £3,000 and £4,500.”
The estimated cost for the two stages of assessment are:
- SQE1 will primarily test the application of legal knowledge. The fees range estimate is £1,100 – £1,650.
- SQE2 will test practical skills, with a fee range of £1,900 – £2,850.
BARBRI will be creating a preparation course for the exams, and it is likely the preparation fee will be around £7,000.
It is likely the total cost of qualifying (SQE prep course plus exams fees) will be between £10,000 – £11,500. This is considerably less than average of £15,000 spent by existing law graduates on a LPC, but it could hardly be described as “affordable” for many students.
The introduction of the SQE and the impact on diversity in the legal profession may therefore be negligible.
However, the costs of qualifying through the SQE may be more manageable because, at least in theory, the fees can be spread over a longer time period. There is also more opportunity to earn whilst you learn.
2. Very few universities will respond initially, and so law degrees will not prepare students to qualify as solicitors by preparing them for the new exams.
Students will need courses to help them prepare for SQE exams. The knowledge test (SQE1) goes well beyond the syllabus of a typical law degree, including practice and procedure topics rarely if ever covered on a typical LL.B. In SQE2, the level of skills required (particularly in the specialist legal skills such a drafting and advocacy) means that trainees cannot just pop out of the office one weekend and sit the exams. They will need to prepare, and a typical university degree will not be good preparation for the SQE.
3. However, over time, the competitive pressures will increase on the university sector and so law faculties will have to start preparing law students for their exams.
It is likely that the university sector will integrate more skills training into the law degree.
I expect that an increasing number of universities will create accredited degree modules in clinical legal education. I anticipate that there will be greater demand from law students to spend time in practical law clinics, enabling them to make an early start on developing practical know-how and skills.
I hope to see more focus on the ethics of modern legal practice (rather than the historical development of legal ethics typical of some traditional jurisprudence courses).
4. Law firms will not require their trainees to switch to sqe before 2021 or 2022, particularly now that we know the sqe will be launched in 2021.
There is a long transition period (until 2030) and existing law students can effectively choose whether to continue on LPC/training contract route or switch to SQE.
The main reason to switch will be when non-law graduates (formerly CPE/GDL) will be required to undertake SQE but any student commencing the GDL in or before 2020 will be able to complete their qualification in the existing regime.