The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will relax its rules to allow Legal Practice Course (LPC) exams to be taken online, after criticism from many sides of the profession.

The SRA normally requires face-to-face assessment for the LPC, and it had initially postponed exams until the autumn in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

However, it faced an immediate backlash. The Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society wrote a letter criticising the decision, while a widely-shared blog post by the academic Steven Vaughan, relating to the SRA’s approach to qualifying law degrees, concluded: “Much of the public policy and social reaction to COVID-19 has been bedevilled by a failure to realise that we are in an exceptional situation and by good faith but misguided attempts to continue with something close to business as usual. The SRA may be falling into the same trap.”

Meanwhile, a graduate recruitment head at a leading City firm told The Lawyer earlier today: “The SRA are being incredibly antiquated. They seem to lack any understanding of the gravity of the situation and burying their head in the sand. The education providers are banging their heads against a brick wall; there is no recognition of the need to be agile and make fast decisions, and that level of uncertainty is causing anxiety and making planning incredibly difficult for the firms. Our law school partner is trying to look at practical workarounds under the current constrictions set by the SRA but it’s not ideal for anyone.”

“Every other education provider has been able to acknowledge this is a huge issue and come up with, not perfect, but sensible alternatives. If universities and exam boards can do it I don’t understand why the SRA can’t.”

However, in an update to its website, the SRA has reconsidered its position and now states: “Having listened to feedback, including from training providers, law firms and other groups, we are relaxing our current assessment requirements for all parts of the Legal Practice Course (LPC).”

It continues: “We have decided to allow a particular form of remote assessment invigilation called proctoring, and to consider other proposed approaches on case by case basis. That should remove uncertainty and help the vast majority of people to complete their studies and pursue their careers. Many have training contracts due to start in September – our approach will enable law firms to continue as planned.”

Proctored exams are timed exams that students take while software monitors their computer’s desktop, webcam video and audio.

For skills assessments and elective subjects, the SRA has decreed LPC providers may make alternative assessment arrangements.

For the core LPC subjects, it states: “We will maintain our requirements for supervised assessment, but we will consider applications for online or remote proctoring of supervised assessments.”

“LPC providers must apply to us for approval before making any changes to assessments. We will consider changes to our current requirements on a provider by provider basis. Approval will be subject to review by us at any stage.”