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‘Serious reservations’: City firms blast new super exam proposals

 The City of London Law Society (CLLS) has criticised new proposals from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to create a ‘super-exam’ for all trainee solicitors.

The SRA-formulated plans have received a negative reaction from law-training organisations, but it is expected the organisation will go through with the proposals.
In particular, the CLLS objects to the multiple-choice nature of the assessment, feeling that such examination lacks the ability to test the full nuance of law knowledge.

The lobby group’s submission read: ‘Lawyers need to be able to do more than identify or worse, guess a correct answer swiftly.

‘They need to have the analytical skills developed in a legal context to develop a sustained, persuasive argument from first principles and then to test and challenge their own approach by considering case law and legislation.’

Last week, professor Andrea Nollent, vice-chancellor and chief executive at The University of Law, also laid out concerns to the new test. She said: ‘Although we don’t oppose the concept of centralised examinations, we disagree that the proposed SQE will be a robust and effective measure of competence.

‘We welcome the desirability of widening participation in the profession, but we don’t believe that these proposals, as they stand will, achieve these collective aims.’

CLLS training committee chair Caroline Pearce, head of training at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton said: ‘City firms are not likely to accept this regulatory minimum as a means of ensuring that solicitors they want to employ can practice effectively and instead for their recruits, they will insist on wider knowledge acquired from the best academic institutions and with their own skills and experience requirements.’

‘They would also be unlikely to favour SQE compliant law degrees and may even turn away from non-law degrees at undergraduate level because the law acquired on a SQE1 course alone will be inadequate.  This is likely to widen the gap between those who have the right academic credentials and those who do not.’

Travers Smith senior partner David Patient said: ‘We still have serious reservations about the scope and rigour of the proposed SQE, and the practicalities of trainees taking time out of demanding work commitments to prepare for the exam.

Patient (pictured) added: ‘We also believe the SRA’s proposals disadvantage non-law graduates, whom we value highly for the additional skills and diversity they bring to the firm, and more generally, we remain unconvinced that the SQE will deliver the equality and diversity benefits expected of it by the SRA. We sincerely hope that the SRA will pay heed to the views of practitioners before taking further steps with the SQE proposal.’