What is the new SQE? (Solicitors Qualifying Examination)

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is a brand-new set of exams which is scheduled to be introduced from 2021 that aspiring solicitors will need to complete.

The SQE is intended to become the common assessment for all those wishing to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. It is set to become the biggest change to legal education for decades – replacing the current Graduate Diploma in Law, Legal Practice Course and traditional training contract requirement.

After 2021 there will be a new path to qualify as a solicitor, namely candidates will have to:

  1. Have an undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification (i.e. a degree level apprenticeship) in any subject.
  2. Complete Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination.
    1. SQE Stage 1 deals with general legal knowledge via multiple-choice assessments.
    2. SQE Stage 2 focuses on evaluating practical legal skills.
  3. Have completed two years’ suitable qualifying legal work experience.
  4. Pass the current character and suitability requirements.
  5. Apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

What is the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination?

How is the SQE different to the current process?

To recap, currently a qualifying law degree such as a ‘Law LLB (Hons)’, or a degree in another subject followed by the Diploma in Law (GDL) conversion course, is required as a prerequisite before being able to start the Legal Practice Course (LPC).

On completion of the LPC, aspiring solicitors must complete a two-year training contract. The Professional Skills Course (PSC) must be completed during the training contract. Once the LPC, training contract and PSC have been completed a trainee solicitor can apply to be admitted as a solicitor.

Under the new SQE regime candidates can have any undergraduate degree (or equivalent qualification). They will need to pass SQE 1 and 2 exams but there won’t be a specific course they must follow. And the two-year training contract will be replaced with a two-year period of qualifying work experience (QWE). This can be completed before, during or after the solicitors qualifying exams and with up to four different organisations. The QWE can include periods of unpaid work such as working in student law clinics or working for Citizens Advice.

When is the SQE coming in?

The current SQE launch date is estimated to be in September 2021. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is currently piloting the key components of the exams, with the SQE1 pilot being completed in July 2019 and SQE2 pilot in December 2019.

Once the SRA has gathered feedback from candidates, they intend to publish their findings and update the launch date as needed.

When the SQE is launched it is also anticipated that there will be a period of transition. Students who have already started on the current qualification path will be able to choose to continue on this route. This includes anyone who has accepted an offer to start a law degree or the GDL by the time the SQE is introduced. New entrants will follow the SQE regime.

Preparing for the SQE

As further specific information on the Solicitors Qualifying Examination programme is confirmed, Kinch Robinson are preparing extensive training and learning materials to support individual candidates and law firm training programmes.

So make sure you follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook for the latest developments and our course announcements.

Should your law firm be in the early stages of planning for the SQE for your lawyers, please feel free to contact us on how we can assist.

Posted by News Desk in News

StaRs is here – introducing our new e-learning course

The SRA’s new Standard and Regulations came into force on 25 November 2019.

Do you know what’s changed?

Lots of the duties are similar to the old 2011 Code of Conduct but there’s some significant changes too.

You need to make sure that all your team know what the new requirements are:

  • the amended core principles
  • the impact on their day-to-day work
  • the new information they need to tell your clients

And there’s a brand new duty to ‘demonstrate your compliance with your regulatory obligations’.

So every solicitor needs to know what those obligations are.

Take a look at our new SRA Standards and Regulations e-learning course if you’re looking for:

  • a cost-effective method of training your staff
  • a resource that can be used as an ongoing reference tool
  • a solution that includes tracking so you can demonstrate compliance
Posted by News Desk in News, 0 comments

Introducing the SRA Standards and Regulations

Two new Codes of Conduct

On 25 November 2019 the SRA Standards and Regulations will replace the SRA Handbook. There will be seven Principles instead of ten, and two codes of conduct, one for Individuals and one for Firms. They are much shorter than the current Code of Conduct. Whilst they adopt most of its key themes, they abandon its approach based on Outcomes and Indicative Behaviours. Instead the new codes focus on lawyers and firms using their professional judgement and justifying their actions.  “Nothing new there” you might think, “we can carry on as normal”. You would be wrong.

Big changes for every lawyer

There’s a significant change of emphasis because of a new duty to demonstrate compliance with your regulatory obligations. Just how are you going to do that for every tricky decision you make every day of the week?

Other changes include:

  • A new principle of honesty – how does it work alongside the principle of integrity?
  • A new duty not to waste the court’s time.
  • Reinforced duties for supervisors in relation to the work and competence of their teams.
  • Changes to the exceptions to the duty of disclosure to clients.
  • Reporting obligations which may (or may not) be satisfied by notifying your COLP.
  • A new duty to take remedial action if a client suffers loss or harm when things go wrong – What kind of action will be appropriate?
  • A time limit for providing prescribed information to clients when a complaint has not been resolved to their satisfaction.

E-learning for busy lawyers

In October we will release our e-learning course on the new SRA Standards and Regulations, with an introduction and three short modules, one on the Principles and one on each new Code. They will focus on what you need to know, not on what you don’t.  You’ll learn enough to stay compliant, and know where to look when things get tricky.   Like all our e-learning this course is quick, relevant and engaging.

Contact

Get in touch if you’d like a sneak preview, a heads-up when we launch or if you want to discuss options for hosting the course on your own LMS.

Email: Kath@kinchrobinson.com
Phone: Kath on 0114 273 8300.

Image of compliance
Posted by News Desk
RTA liability training, e-learning that really works

RTA liability training, e-learning that really works

"Looks nice, but does it work?" She looks up from the iPad demo. Not the response I’m expecting. She asks again - "Looks nice, but does it work?" Good question. Here’s a good answer.

Scroll back two or three years - insurer and law firm clients are troubled by junior staff making incorrect and inconsistent liability decisions in road traffic accident (RTA) cases. Poor decisions are costing them money. They want some online training. So we get to work, and we make something great. See a demo for yourself.

If you're reading off-line, we have 130 RTA animations (left and right turns, roundabouts, overtaking, car parks, and so on). You watch the accident on screen, you look at resources that might help (e.g. the Highway Code) and you make a liability decision. And then you watch an experienced barrister reviewing the evidence and the key issues, and giving a view of the likely outcome in court.

"Brilliant!" we thought. And to be fair, so did some clients. But not all of them. The non-believers wanted reassurance. Fair enough.  So we designed a "proof of concept trial" involving a test before training and a test afterwards. One of our clients took the idea and ran with it. This is what happened.

They selected 22 learners (of mixed levels of experience), explained the trial and demonstrated the scenarios. The learners then completed the first test in one week. It included 10 scenarios with the barrister's review stripped out. For the next three months the learners worked through over 130 scenarios in separate sections covering car parks, roundabouts, country roads, etc. Then we stopped their access to the scenarios, and they took a second test on 10 different (but similar) scenarios.

We gave 10 points for an answer the same as the barrister and 5 points for an answer that was within 10% of the barrister's view.

Here’s what we found. The e-learning works! Every learner improved and their decisions were more consistent. Here are some of the key points.

  1. They made more correct decisions (decisions on or within 20% of the barrister’s view). The smallest improvement was 5% and the largest improvement was 75%. The average improvement was 33.6%. See Table 1.
  2. They made fewer incorrect decisions (decisions more than 20% away from the barrister’s view). The smallest improvement was 5% and the largest improvement was 90%. The average improvement was 37.5%. See Table 2.
  3. Their decisions were more consistent (taken all together, their decisions were spread over a narrower range after the training). Wildly different decisions on the same evidence were much rarer.
  4. The tests helped to identify "tricky" decisions (those decisions, like roundabouts, which the learners found challenging). This will enable the client to focus further learning and resources on supporting staff to improve in specific areas.

 

Contact: Jody Jezusek
E: jody@kinchrobinson.com
M: 07717 750042

Created June 2019, updated February 2020

Posted by News Desk

The price of information (and negotiating in the dark)

Money case

I have enjoyed training negotiation skills to lawyers for many years. For newly qualified lawyers, I note that there are some key differences between those coming from education, and those who come with an employment history. My purpose in this article is to identify one of the pressing issues for those (in the majority) who do not have prior careers and whose approach is broadly still academic. The point is that, for the conventional graduate, there is generally a deep resistance and aversion to making decisions on imperfect information.

A degree of phlegmatic pragmatism seems to seep into those who have had a working life before coming to the law; almost no matter what that prior work was. I should know. I have trained lawyers who were formerly (to name just a few examples); a nun, an Argentinian shepherd, a Mauritian taxi driver, a Caribbean police officer, and a Pakistani Cabinet Minister.

In formal education, how can it ever be a bad thing to try to acquire knowledge? More knowledge tends to equate to more marks in assessments. ‘Wanting to know things’ is the attitude that understandably comes with the graduate into their work. It is hard for junior lawyers to appreciate that in the real commercial world, there is a price attached to acquisition of knowledge, and that the price can sometimes be too high to pay. One of the skills of a negotiator is knowing when it is not worth finding something out, and settling a case in a degree of ignorance. It is not an easy or intuitive skill for anyone, most particularly for a recent graduate.

Colin Powell (former General, Secretary of State, and Joint Chief of Staff under George Bush), has described that in many of the military campaigns in which he took senior leadership decisions, he had a rule of thumb for decision making. The rule was that he would locate his decisions within a ’40-70%’ margin. That is to say, that he would make decisions when he had between 40% and 70% of the relevant and available data. The range is striking because it is so low. It serves as a sharp reckoner for the junior lawyer entering litigation with a desire to interview scores of witnesses and instruct a barrage of experts. Colin Powell would make life and death decisions with as little as 40% of the relevant available data.

For Colin Powell, time was the key factor. If he waited to acquire more data, the situation would move on, and the data he had would no longer describe the situation as it had then become. In order to control the cycle of decision making, it was imperative for him to act at speed. That meant sacrificing the quest for perfect intelligence. He describes ‘analysis paralysis’ – a state of affairs where a combatant state was delayed by burdensome volumes of data which would run cease to be current by the time it had been fully assessed.

For lawyers, the driver is ‘cost’ (rather than speed). The data we strive to acquire may not be worth the cost its acquisition. By the time we have spent so much money acquiring the information, there is no margin left with which to negotiate. The margins tighten so much that a form of ‘negotiation paralysis’ can set in, where no negotiation can succeed because the only way left to win is to recover costs following success at trial.

Of course, we bear a risk when proceeding in the dark. Negotiation is all about balancing risk and pricing the risk as best we can. Mistakes will inevitably be made.

I recall from my own practice, a very dull case with a remarkable twist. It was a small road traffic accident, involving two motorists colliding on an icy road. The value of the claim was low, and consequently the pre-trial preparatory work had clearly kept outlay to the bare minimum. The insurers’ outlay in non-recoverable costs was bound to exceed the value of the judgment. The motorists had filled in pro-forma questionnaires about the incident. The forms were short and had clearly restricted the opportunity for either driver to engage in much narrative. No one seemed to have met the drivers yet. With such understandably threadbare preparation, a crucial piece of evidence had not emerged.

My opponent (by chance an old university friend of mine), had the pleasure of letting me know the missing gem of information in the case – 10 minutes before trial. He told me in a particularly smug and irritating manner that his client turned out to have a rather useful occupation. ‘WHY?’ (I asked in genuine incredulity – hence the capital letters) ‘should any of us care what your client does for living when it comes to two motorists skidding on an icy road?’ He told me (with glee at his impending victory) that his client’s job was…(a drum-role would serve well here) a NATO ice-driving instructor. He was based in Norway, and trained the special forces of NATO signatories how to drive safely on ice. He was probably the best ice-driver in the world.

Early knowledge of that information might very well have saved expense and caused an early resolution of the case, which I lost predictably and emphatically.

In terms of training, I see great merit in sessions designed to really illuminate the costs of various enquiries and procedures, and giving examples of how and when good money had chased bad. Trainees and junior lawyers will need help in many cases to build confidence in making decisions which may be based on imperfect knowledge but are proportionate on cost and serve the overall aims of a client.

James Welsh

Posted by James Welsh in News