Update from National JLD Meeting
Well to introduce myself, my name is Nicola Wilding and you elected me as your National Representative for the MJLD this year. As part of my role, I make 3 trips a year to the Law Society in London to hear about the national JLD agenda and any policy changes that could affect the junior end of the profession. I also make sure that the MJLD’s voice is heard on a national level.
So as the autumnal leaves started to pile up, it was time for me to make my intrepid journey to the Big Smoke and visit the Law Society to represent the MJLD a couple of weeks ago. The meeting itself gave a great overview of all of the JLD’s recent activity and the significant changes the legal market that are being proposed.
The SRA are currently consulting on replacing the traditional routes to qualification with a new Solicitor Qualification Exam (SQE) and qualifying work experience, which is set to come in (currently) in 2020. Some of the key changes that are being proposed include whether you need a degree, the exams that are to be taken, the number of years it will take to qualify and the amount of work experience to be completed. In particular, the traditional training contract will no longer exist with SQEees (I am testing it out as the future term for “trainees”) will complete 18 months qualifying work experience instead of the traditional 2 year recognised training. The professional skill courses (psc) are also not making the cut, so some of you will never know the stress of the financial skills and business psc exam. (pictorial representation of the proposed different routes shown here).
So how do I learn about the SQE changes and how it will affect my route to qualification I hear you ask? Well luckily for you – Andrew Ball (Education Rep) and I are currently organising a talk on the SQE for you to come along and ask any of these questions. There is also a handy guide the National JLD have created which can be found here http://communities.lawsociety.org.uk/junior-lawyers/policy/solicitors-qualifying-examination-sqe/
The MJLD are keen to ensure that all LPC students and paralegals are given all of the information they need to navigate the legal minefield and achieve their goal of qualifying as a solicitor. So if you have any questions or don’t understand how this will affect you, then just ask away.
Fancy setting up your own firm on qualification?
Well the SRA thinks you should be able to do so, you may/may not know but currently there is a rule that you cannot operate as a sole practitioner or run your own firm until you are 3 years qualified. This was called the “qualified to supervise” rule and the SRA think it is no longer necessary for the current legal market. We want to know what you in Merseyside think about this, do you think you feel qualified enough to operate on your own without the supervision of more qualified fee earners as a newly qualified?
Alternative Routes to qualification
Did you know you don’t have to do a training contract to be a solicitor? No? Well I am pleased to say there are alternative routes for those of you struggling to break out of the paralegal trap that law graduates can often fall into. You will need your LPC and also to have completed the core PSC modules in addition to either having the CILEx certificate or evidence you have undertaken relevant work-based learning. A link can be found here to the guidance https://www.sra.org.uk/students/resources/equivalent-means-information-pack.page. If any of you are interested in pursuing this route, we would love to hear from you and how you find the process. Please note that once the SQE regime is in place, the alternative routes will no longer be available.
Retention Notice Period for trainees
For many trainees, the end of the training contract is a time for dread and apprehension as they have to decide “should I stay or should I go”? It is often made harder if you do not know if you are being retained until as late as days before the end of your training contract. The national JLD are lobbying to ensure that there is a recognised notice period for trainees which gives you security and allows you to plan the next stage of your career. The proposal is for there to be a 3 month timetable which starts with the job list being advertised internally, trainees submitting their applications and a final decision is made by a specified date. This is something the MJLD also feel should be in place for trainees and will keep you updated as to progress of the consultation. If you have any feedback you would like to provide on your qualification experience, then let us know.
In addition to the SQE talk mentioned above, Andrew Ball and I are currently organising a talk with local legal professionals on the options available after qualification. We want members of the MJLD to have all of the information available to them to decide what area of law they want to qualify into and also the type of firm they practice at. We have currently secured a speaker who changed legal discipline from contentious to non-contentious and also a solicitor who now practices as a barrister. This event looks likely to take place around March time, but we will keep you updated as to the format of the event.
This year I am really keen to ensure the MJLD is represented on the national stage and issues that affect paralegals, LPC graduates, trainees and newly qualified lawyers are highlighted. As you can see the SQE changes, the routes to qualification and qualified to supervise (to name a few) are some significant shifts in policy from the SRA. We want to make sure you have all of the information you can, to decide your route to qualification in the area of law you wish to practice.