Future RPC trainees will attend courses exclusively at the University of Law (ULaw) from September 2017, after the insurance firm switched to the training provider to prepare its professional courses in advance of the controversial new Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE).
From this September until 2020, trainees at the firm will be required to complete the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), Legal Practice Course (LPC) and an MSc in Law, Business and Management at the university’s Moorgate centre as sole provider, in a partnership RPC training principal Simon Hart described as the firm’s response to the ‘forthcoming radical reforms to legal education’, having previously worked with another group.
ULaw and RPC will also partner to design a tailored new insurance law module, replacing its previous course, in response to changes introduced by the UK Insurance Act 2015. This will be introduced in the 2017/18 academic year.
‘A large part of our practice is in the insurance market. One of the core areas of our firm is insurance, so we want to make sure that all our lawyers have the correct training in that department.’
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced in April that a new single, centrally-set examination will come into use from September 2020, replacing the current requirements for trainee solicitors to take the LPC or for non-law graduates, the GDL, by combining both into one examination. The decision followed two consultation rounds during which City lawyers raised various concerns. The City of London Law Society objected to the multiple-choice nature of the assessment, which according to the lobby group lacks the ability to test the full nuance of law knowledge.
The SRA argued that the SQE will provide a ‘more reliable and rigorous test of competence than is possible at present’ and ensure all new solicitors are assessed to the same standard.
Hart told Legal Business: ‘ULaw has followed the SRA consultation process very closely and has worked with us and other City firms to give us an insight about what was going on and understand our concerns about it.’
The SQE is split into two parts: SQE stage one and stage two. The first stage will test a candidate’s ability to use and apply legal knowledge through six assessments, while the second will test legal skills through ten practical assessments.
‘My concern was about whether the stage one exam papers would be sufficient to ensure anybody who arrives in the office has the correct academic legal training. The SRA has gone a long way to giving commercial lawyers reassurance about that,’ said Hart.
He said ULaw was thinking forward on how it is going to reorganise its courses as a result of the new exam, adding: ‘The firm and the university will work together to understand the nature of those changes as they take shape over the next three years’.
Granted university status in November 2012, ULaw already provides study training for lawyers at Linklaters, DLA Piper, CMS, Ashurst, and Berwin Leighton Paisner and a paralegal apprenticeship scheme for Freshfields and Hogan Lovells.
RPC said recently that it will retain 82% of its trainees this autumn, a 15% increase from last year’s intake. Its global profits fell 8% over the year end 2016/17.