Plans to allow students to claim exemptions from the legal practice course (LPC) for the first time have been unveiled by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) – although it will be for the LPC provider to decide whether to accept them.
A consultation paper issued last week is the product of a decision three years ago to explore exemptions as a way to provide flexibility to students, especially those following a “non-traditional route to qualification”.
It said the move to accredit so-called “prior certificated learning” should also help bar vocational course graduates unable to secure pupillage, as black and minority ethnic students generally find this harder. This problem has become more relevant as bar graduates will no longer be able to transfer to the solicitors’ profession under the new rules for the qualified lawyers transfer scheme.
“Although the difficulties that BME students may have in securing pupillage is primarily a matter for the bar, the SRA does not wish to compound any such disadvantage,” the consultation said.
The exemption will be from course attendance, not the final assessment.
Under the proposals, an application for an exemption could only be founded on courses regulated by the other legal professional bodies that are at the same level as the LPC. The rationale for this is that the remit and regulatory framework of the other approved regulators is sufficiently similar to justify recognising their professional qualifications.
The application will then map the LPC outcomes against the publicly available outcomes of the comparator course. It must be of an appropriate level and must cover the entirety of an LPC module. Though the SRA will conduct the exercise (for a fee), it would be for the LPC provider to decide whether or not to accept the SRA’s decision, given that they are the awarding body.
It is not clear from the paper whether a provider which accepted an exemption would then have to reduce the cost of the student’s course and, if so, how that aspect of the decision would be regulated.
The SRA says it does not plan to recognise accreditation gained on the basis of “experiential learning” as it is “much more difficult to assess and to be assured that the candidate has met the requisite standard”.
See our current consultations page here for more details on this and other consultations in the legal world.