Legal education provider BARBRI International has accelerated its plans to move into the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) prep market by acquiring UK-based training and assessment provider Kaplan Altior.
The acquisition was completed 30 November, and the new business BARBRI Altior will offer training courses including the Professional Skills Course (PSC) for trainee solicitors and preparation for the controversial SQE, which is set to be launched in 2021. The buyout will see all Kaplan Altior employees join the new company, which will operate from the same centres throughout the UK.
It also follows BARBRI teaming up with The College of Legal Practice last month, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The College of Law Australia and New Zealand. BARBRI’s partnership with The College provides a challenge to the effective duopoly of solicitor training in England and Wales, which has seen BPP and University of Law dominate.
BARBRI is mostly known for providing training to prepare for US Bar examinations, which are broadly similar to the format being adopted for parts of the SQE. Acquiring competency in PSC delivery also aids BARBRI in providing SQE preparation, with much of the PSC being integrated into the exam. Kaplan, meanwhile, emerged as the winner of the race to develop the SQE in 2018.
Speaking to Legal Business in November, BARBRI managing director Sarah Hutchinson (pictured) stressed the provider was well equipped to deliver SQE prep: ‘BARBRI has been in the market for over 50 years in the US, preparing about 28,000 students every year. There are about 35,000 new attorneys every year and BARBRI has a large market share: in the US we are by far the largest and longest established company. A big proportion of the US Bar exam is also multiple choice so we have a lot of experience on how to prepare people for a multiple choice test.’
BARBRI’s ramped-up presence comes after one of the incumbent providers, BPP, was earlier this week chosen by a consortium of six leading firms to provide SQE preparation. The firms are looking to broadly mirror the current education regime by maintaining core elements of the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and having prospective solicitors sit parts one and two of the exam prior to undertaking work experience.
The SQE’s introduction replaces a long-standing system of 30 years, uprooting the LPC and the two-year training contract. Now prospective solicitors need only pass a final, centralised exam divided into two parts and hold two years of qualifying work experience available from a wider range of employers.
K&L Gates advised BARBRI on the acquisition with a team spearheaded by London partner James Cross.