Broadcast: News items

Sussex Law School consults on changes to legal qualifications

Law degree and exam requirements are changing in the near future. The Sussex Law School has been consulting with our law alumni on how our approach and teaching methods will develop in response to these changes. We asked Professor Andrew Sanders, Professor of Criminal Law & Criminology and Head of LPS about what these developments mean for Sussex and for future law students.

What’s changing?

From 2020, the Solicitors Regulatory Authority is changing legal qualification and exam requirements. It will no longer recognise the current qualifying law degree (QLD) and the legal practice course will disappear. Instead, aspiring solicitors will need a degree in any subject, and will then take two sets of centrally-set ‘solicitors’ qualifying exams.

What will the new exams look like?

Students will sit the first solicitors qualifying exam (SEQ) before the training contract, and the second towards the end. SQE1 will mostly be multiple choice and students will need an understanding of law practice.

How will this affect students?

Most students wishing to become solicitors will need to take a new post-graduate course to prepare for the new solicitors qualifying exam.

What will this mean for higher education and the legal profession?

The most vocationally orientated law schools are likely to offer the new post-graduate course to prepare for the SQE.  Along with most research-intensive universities, Sussex will not be in a position to offer this type of postgraduate course. Most law graduates do not become solicitors anyway, so we need to help students develop transferable rather than narrow vocational skills. The SRA has been roundly criticised for these changes by much of the legal profession as well as most academic commentators. Notably, the Bar is not going down this route. It will continue to recognise the QLD, as it still distinguishes between academic education and vocational training, and sees the need for both. However, it will be less prescriptive than previously, allowing more scope to vary the QLD.

How is Sussex responding to the changes?

The Sussex Law School has decided to make the most of what it, and the wider University, excels in, i.e. interdisciplinary teaching, a global outlook, and the search for social justice.  We’ve been considering to what extent we should teach within traditional legal categories, as distinct from topic-based courses such as ‘regulating harm’, or 'law and globalism'. How can we ensure that our graduates understand how disasters like Grenfel happen, and can help design policies to prevent similar disasters in future? As the Dean of Toronto Law School put it, when asked to explain how his School came to be in the global ‘top 10’ last year: “… we’re teaching students how to think about law … and not what the law is.”

At the end of December 2017, we held focus groups on campus and in London with Sussex Law alumni to help us work on our approach to the changes ahead. One lawyer with responsibility for recruitment said: “Knowledge of the raw law is not that important for us”.

Our wish to become more distinctive was received enthusiastically: “Law and history or Law with politics the simplest way to be noticed is not to be part of the herd”.

An interesting way of teaching law it would stand out”.

We are tremendously grateful to everyone who joined our focus groups. We now need to work out the detail. If anyone else would like to join in this conversation, please do let us know.

Written by Professor Andrew Sanders 

By: Maria Andreou
Last updated: Friday, 13 April 2018