Author: Matthew Skelding, Institutional Partnerships Account Manager
In the evolving landscape of legal education and qualification, students and recent graduates are faced with a new and transformed path to achieving qualification as a solicitor in England and Wales. A significant shift has occurred as the Legal Practice Course (LPC) has transitioned to the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). While this change was implemented with the intention of lowering barriers of entrance to the profession it has not been without its challenges. Even though many academics expressed concerns about the SQE, as it represented a move away from traditional approaches to legal education and training, the move has happened, nevertheless.
Guiding You Through the Process
Universities have always played a crucial role in supporting students throughout their legal journey and they may become even more important now students are faced with navigating this new route to qualification. The first key aspect where universities can assist their students is by helping their students understand the 4 components that make up the new route to solicitor qualification, namely the SQE (parts 1 & 2); Qualifying Work Experience (QWE); and the Character & Suitability requirement. Universities can also get ahead of the curve for their students by providing comprehensive information on the structure, content, and requirements of the SQE and the logistical challenges of enrolling onto the SQE. Things to look out for from your university’s employability and careers service could be social media, website content, information sessions and workshops depending on the time of year.
Preparing for MCQs
There are numerous ways universities can give students a foundation for what is, for most students, a new-look form of assessment comprising of 360 MCQ questions spread over 2 days. Importantly, this doesn’t require a complete departure from research-based curricula; rather, it’s about providing some early exposure to the new assessment format. Incorporating some single best answer Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ’s) into teaching and assessment can help students develop skills such as time management and adaptability as well as wider course coverage. MCQ’s can also increase cognitive engagement when used as formative assessments. In due course students undertaking SQE1 will be required to undertake more intensive preparation. However, students with a clearer understanding of MCQ testing and experience of the format will have the advantage over those without.
For many students and recent graduates, who have not been fortunate enough to acquire a training contract, attaining and navigating Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) is a pain point. The variety of ways students can attain QWE as well potentially even backdating previous work can lead to ill-informed decision-making which can potentially cost the newly qualified solicitor job opportunities further down the line. Universities can alleviate the pain by helping students to access QWE opportunities, having external partners that offer internships, but most importantly offering in-depth knowledge on what QWE will be most valuable to that individual student. For the student it is important to realise that experience not counting as QWE is still extremely valuable. For example, working in a university legal clinic could potentially count as QWE but even if not, it will certainly help students secure QWE opportunities because of having hands on experience.
In conclusion, while uncertainty and ambiguity may still surround the SQE and the changing landscape to qualification, universities possess the power to guide students through this transition. By offering comprehensive information, tailored preparation materials and practical experience. Universities can equip students and recent graduates to confidently navigate the new-look route to legal qualification. Embracing change and adapting to the evolving legal landscape can ultimately empower aspiring legal professionals to succeed in their careers.
For anyone looking for more information BARBRI, a trusted partner to over 25 universities, find us on campuses near you in the coming months.
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