Proposals released by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) could open more opportunities.
A new report states that the SRA plan to bring in a centralised means of assessment for potential solicitors, possibly leading to improvements in the professions’ diversity as well as growth in social mobility.
Recently published by the Bridge Group, the independent study considers the SRA’s plans for the Solicitors Qualifying Examination and the impact it could have on the diversity within the profession.
The report states: “The proposals are highly likely to increase the number, and broaden the range, of training providers in the market, and provoke new models of training including online provision.
“Wider range of choice is…an important opportunity to support diversity, since it will enable students to chart more flexible pathways. Increased competitive pressures are likely to be introduced by the SQE, with an expectation this will drive down costs, potentially lowering this financial barrier for trainees.”
The report also highlighted the responsibility that employers and training providers have to improve the level of diversity. It went on state: “Reforming qualification can be a step in the right direction, but is not a panacea to address all diversity concerns; continued effort is required.”
Nicholas Miller, Director of the Bridge Group, said: “The proposal to introduce the SQE is designed to ensure consistency of standards and of competence; this is also very likely to shake up the training provider market and introduce more, and new, models of provision. These changes have the potential to support diversity through greater flexibility in training pathways, but also carry risks with routes to qualification becoming increasingly complex and challenging to navigate.
“It is imperative that the SRA, training providers and employers all embrace and enact their responsibilities to mitigate for these risks and support fair and equitable entrance to the profession.”
Julie Brannan, SRA Director for Education and Training, added: “We are committed to encouraging a strong, diverse profession that is representative of the communities it serves. We welcome this thoughtful and constructive report from the Bridge Group. While our proposals to introduce the SQE are not a magic bullet, we would hope they can contribute to a more diverse profession, through addressing some of the barriers within the current system and creating a more transparent legal training market.
“We recognise the need for students to have access to reliable, independent information about the outcomes they can expect from pursuing different routes into the profession, and for employers to have access to information that could help support diversity in recruitment. Should the SQE be introduced, we would work with all partners to provide guidance and support on the changes to help entrants to the profession navigate the new system.”
The SQE proposals have been extensively by the SRA, with comments and amending ideas being taken on board. A decision regarding the centralised assessment is predicted to be reached later in the Spring.