By Qualifications Manager at Law Training Centre.
The SQE and its introduction was part of the SRA’s Training for Tomorrow programme. The programme of change was created in response to the report on the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) in 2013. As we can appreciate, this change to the current qualification process has not just happened overnight. The LETR report was provided as part of the Legal and Education Training Review and outlined the need for regulators to focus on the standards that are required of solicitors following qualification and then beyond into their professional life and career.
The ultimate consumers of legal services are the public, and their expectations are a key part of the rationale for change ensuring that standards for the sector are maintained and improved, where necessary. It also means that those relying on competent and proficient legal advice can be assured that every solicitor has been through the same rigorous and appropriate training route. The new pathway removes any inconsistency around assessment of those professional skills and all students undertaking the SQE will be assessed using the same standards as part of the centralised approach confirmed by the SRA.
You may ask yourself, why do we need standards to be so high?
If we think about the client, they rely on you being able to carry out your role to ensure that you have done the best you can for them and their case. The standards need to be high because the consequences are high. A failure to effectively and appropriately deal with a matter could result in your client losing their liberty or failing to be awarded justified rights over residency for their children. An essential part of the legal services sector remaining strong and effective is for it to continually review and reflect on how things are done, how it can improve, and to reflect upon changes in society. Society evolves and so must the legal services sector to remain fit for purpose.
Whatever you feel about the SQE, it is here to stay, and this means that you need to understand how it will impact upon you. You may be someone who is already qualified, so you may be thinking why do I need to think about it? If that is the case, you or your firm may be recruiting new staff, and you should be aware of how those new members of staff are being trained. You may, however, be at the point of your career where you are making the decision of whether you start the current Legal Practice Course Pathway or, instead, wait for the new SQE pathway. Whatever your current situation is, the new SQE has importance in terms of the future of the provision of legal services.
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