BPP Law School has revealed details of its new postgraduate diploma in law (PGDL), the conversion course for those wishing to pursue a legal career who did not study law at undergraduate level

The eight-month full-time course (or 16 month part-time) will launch in September 2020 across BPP’s various campuses, and replace the current Graduate Diploma in Law, which BPP will cease to run after spring of that year.

The change is due to the forthcoming introduction of the Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE), which will shake up the manner in which solicitors are trained and qualify.

BPP says its new course “will 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.”

Aspiring barristers will also be able to take the course.

The course can also be extended into an LLM and BPP has pledged to introduce the ability to study the areas of legal practice tested by SQE Stage 1 at a later date. Therefore, it says, “in one single LLM programme non-law graduates could have all of the training they will need to take them right through to passing SQE Stage 1.”

Laura McBrien, the lead designer of the course for BPP, said: “Changes to regulation in the training of both solicitors and barristers has 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.

“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.”

One detail on which BPP has remained silent is the cost of the new course, which it said it will reveal in October. Students currently pay £11,250 for the GDL at the law school’s London Waterloo branch.

The SQE, dubbed the ‘super-exam’, is the culmination of years of work into reform of legal education which began with the Legal Education and Training Review, published in 2013.

The SRA first put forward its proposed shake-up to the legal education system in December 2015, with the concept of a two-part qualification process central to its thinking: SQE Part 1 and SQE Part 2. Part 1 would test candidates’ ability to use and apply legal knowledge though multiple-choice exams, while Part 2 would be taken at the point of qualification and test legal skills.

How solicitors will qualify in future: the basics

SQE Part 1:

  • Tests functioning legal knowledge
  • Likely to consist of two exams of 180 multiple-choice questions
  • Questions will be complex, with ‘single best option’ answers rather than ‘right/wrong’ ones
  • A small legal skills assessment was included in pilot but deemed a failure and could be redesigned or dumped
  • Part 1 could cost between £1,100 and £1,650, according to estimates from the SRA in November 2018

SQE Part 2:

  • Likely to consist of two sessions of five practical legal skills assessments, which include client interviewing, advocacy and persuasive oral communication, case and matter analysis and legal research
  • Part 1 must be passed before Part 2 can be taken
  • Part 2 could cost between £1,900 and £2,850, the SRA estimates

Work experience

  • Two years of work experience must be completed before qualification
  • Can be completed in chunks at different organisations or all in one go
  • Parts 1 and 2 of the SQE can be taken before, during or after work experience is obtained

Other requirements

  • To qualify as a solicitor candidates must have been awarded a degree or an equivalent qualification, or have gained equivalent experience
  • They must also be of satisfactory character and suitability

The GDL and LPC

  • Set to be gradually phased out as SQE is brought in
  • But law schools and other organisations are likely to launch similar courses