The Junior Lawyers Division of The Law Society has written to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) urging it not to delay final exams for the Legal Practice Course (LPC) until the coronavirus pandemic has passed, citing the General Medical Council, which has relaxed its rules to allow final-year medical students to pass without sitting their final exams.
In a letter, JLD chair Charlotte Parkinson wrote: “Delaying LPC exams until autumn 2020 will have serious implications for those with training contracts due to commence in September 2020. Namely, it will be a heavy burden for those that have to sit exams alongside work.”
The LPC does not have to be completed before a training contract is started; however, releasing trainees to sit exams half way through a training contract would cause considerable disruption for many law firms.
The letter continues: “There is no guarantee that employers will grant trainee solicitors study leave to sit these exams. This would mean trainees required to sit LPC exams would have to take time off work, most likely unpaid or use up their annual leave.
“Employers may even postpone the training contract until the student has taken the LPC exams… meaning that the student is left with no job and consequently no income (alongside escalating debts) for an unknown period of time.”
The JLD proposes alternative solutions such as using online software such as Examplify to ensure the integrity of exams, or allowing students to submit coursework pieces, “marked using criteria reflective of that used to make the LPC exams.”
Other suggestions include using video assessments for practical exams such as advocacy or client interviewing, and potentially exploring whether using students’ predicted grade would be a fair assessment.
“Whatever the solution,” Parkinson concludes, “it is imperative that current LPC students must have their LPC grade prior to September 2020. We therefore request that, in implementing a solution, current LPC providers must provide students who complete the course with their LPC grade by no later than 24 August 2020.
The JLD is following in the footsteps of students on the Bar Professional Training Course, who have already written to the Bar Standards Board calling for their exams not to be postponed.