Bar students are set to become the first group offered exemptions from parts of the legal practice course (LPC), it has emerged.
However, LPC providers will not be required to offer a discount on fees.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) education and training committee will be asked tomorrow to approve the proposal in principle.
Changes to the training regulations will then be drafted, although the approval of the Legal Services Board will be required before they are enacted and it will not consider an application until next January.
The move has been driven by the new Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme, which is primarily aimed at foreign lawyers and will no longer accept Bar students who have not completed pupillage. There was evidence that this change could impact adversely on black and minority ethnic Bar students, as they find it harder to gain pupillages and so are more likely to transfer to solicitor training.
An equality impact assessment last year found exemptions would have a positive impact in the areas of race, disability, gender and age and socio-economic background.
An exercise mapping the learning outcomes of the LPC against those of the bar professional training course (BPTC) and before it the bar vocational course (BVC) showed a close match or “best fit” between some of the outcomes.
“Consultations have taken place and there is support for exemptions to be given,” the committee will be told in a paper on the accreditation of prior learning.
Under the proposal, applications for exemption must be made no later than five years from completion of the BVC or BPTC.
BPTC and BVC graduates will be exempt from attendance and assessment in the core practice area subject of litigation, as well as the advocacy and drafting skills subjects, in stage one of the LPC. BVC students will also be exempt from the practical legal research skills subject.
Graduates from both courses will be exempt from two of the three vocational electives, cutting the notional study time down from 300 hours to 100.
The SRA anticipates that providers will either create a bespoke LPC for transferring graduates or that students will enter an individual learning contract with the provider as to the student and assessments to be completed.
The paper adds: “The issue of course fees and discounts must be a matter for each provider to determine.”
Though the SRA has much more work to do on credit for prior learning or experience, there is no prospect of further concessions for the time being. The paper says there was no “external or internal pressure” to extend exemptions beyond pupil barristers, but adds the issue should be considered as part of Review 2020, the root-and-branch review of legal education and training.