Law school launches SQE-friendly conversion course

McBrien: Making students better prepared

BPP has become the first law school to reveal details of a new conversion course aimed at getting students through the first stage of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE).

BPP University said the post-graduate diploma in Law (PGDL) was designed to meet the “specific requirements” of the SQE.

The SQE is a new, single assessment for qualifying solicitors and is due to be introduced in autumn 2021, in two parts. Would-be solicitors will also need to have two years of qualifying work experience, but this need not be in the form of the current training contract.

SQE 1 aims to test students on substantive and procedural law, covering core subjects currently taught on law degree courses and the legal practice course (LPC), along with the application of fundamental legal principles, and legal research and writing skills.

SQE 2 will be a practical legal skills assessment covering client interviewing, advocacy, case and matter analysis, legal research and written advice, and legal drafting.

BPP’s PGDL, available from September 2020, would be shorter than the current graduate diploma in law (GDL) at eight months and replace the “single, end-of-year exam season” with workload “spread evenly across the course”.

A spokesman for BPP said the course would “include all the foundations of legal knowledge tested by the SQE, including company law, and will also ensure students have an awareness of the key commercial concepts and practice skills expected by prospective employers”.

She referred to online research commissioned by BPP in 2017, which found that 77% of City firms expected their trainees to arrive with “more workplace skills than just basic test preparation that the SQE assessments will provide”.

The spokesman said: “The new course will last for eight months with study set at a pace suited to highly capable graduates.

“It will have a modular structure that will spread student workload evenly across the course rather than a single end-of-year exam season and more contact time with expert tutors will be spent in small group workshops to help to further develop students’ understanding and professional skills.”

She said PGDL graduates would continue onto BPP’s LPC, or its “upcoming SQE preparation courses”, subject to the transitional rules being developed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for the SQE.

BPP’s existing GDL course will continue until the spring of 2020, with students studying the current GDL or PGDL being able to qualify as a solicitor or barrister, subject to the transitional rules.

The spokesman added that the price of the PGDL would be announced next month.

Laura McBrien, lead designer of the PGDL, said changes in the regulation of training for solicitors and barristers had “given us the opportunity to think about how we can best support our students: ensuring they are engaged and motivated in their learning, spreading their assessment load and making them better prepared for their future professional studies and career.”

She added: “We are excited that the new structure and content will help students to reflect, progress, and ensure they are ready for the world of work following the completion of our programme, whatever their career aspirations.”

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