The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has today outlined a significant relaxation of its rules for law students and trainees to allow their assessment to go online.
The regulator has been under pressure over the last week to provide guidance to those coming up to exams or qualification, with students concerned over the implications of these being delayed by several months during the coronavirus epidemic.
In new guidance, the SRA said it wanted to be “as flexible as possible in this area, while still making sure solicitors who qualify have met the required standard”.
Supervised assessments are a key element of the legal practice course (LPC), and the SRA said it would relax the current requirements during the crisis.
“This means that for skills assessments and elective subjects, LPC providers may make alternative assessment arrangements.
“For the core LPC subjects, we will maintain our requirements for supervised assessment, but we will consider applications for online or remote proctoring of supervised assessments.”
The SRA was clear that approvals would be on a provider-by-provider basis, with applications needing to set out “how the proposed approach will maintain the security and integrity of the LPC qualification”.
Trainees are also permitted to start their training contract before they have completed the LPC, so it advised training providers to consider and plan for this possibility.
Trainees looking to qualify this September need to complete the professional skills course, but certain elements require face-to-face assessment.
The SRA urged trainees to contact it “as soon as possible” as it decides what to do, but again will consider applications for online or remote “proctoring” of assessments, or assessment of oral skills by video-link.
The new guidance says the requirement that trainees are ‘appropriately supervised’ would be met by firms “putting sensible arrangements in place” to do remotely, with no time limit.
The impact on the during of the training contract of a trainee on sick leave for a prolonged period should be treated the same as any other period of sickness leave during a training contract, it added.
The SRA emphasised that alternative arrangements for assessments for those on qualifying law degrees or the graduate diploma in law were already allowed as its rules did not specify or approve the form that assessments take on these courses.
But “some form of assessment is required” for foundation of legal knowledge (FLK) subjects.
“We are also content if you wish to postpone assessment of subjects into later academic years. However, by the time your students graduate, they must be properly assessed in all FLK subjects.”