Westminster Legal Policy Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Legal education & training in England and Wales - the new SQE and Bar pathways, access and implementation, and preparing lawyers for technological change and international practice

Morning, Wednesday, 11th November 2020

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will assess the future of legal education and training in England and Wales.

The discussion and key developments at a glance:

Significant changes in the pathways to qualification for solicitors and barristers:

  • new courses and qualifications, and their introduction and implementation
  • what they mean for law as an attractive and accessible profession
  • how they support the development of new skills and use of technology that will be needed by lawyers of the future

Final SQE design and introduction date announced by the SRA - subject of Legal Services Board (LSB) approval - which will be assessed through a single, broad exam rather than permitting student electives, and the transitional arrangements for existing students and trainees.

We also expect discussion on concerns that the absence of course loans and the possibility that employers continuing to recruit directly from highly selective universities - rather than focusing on SQE performance - could undermine the objective of improving access to legal education.

The agenda:

  • The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) and next steps for implementation
  • Introducing the new barrister training courses - progress and remaining concerns
  • The challenges of implementing the SQE and the changes to barrister training so far - knowledge and skills development, and opportunities offered by the new qualifications
  • Improving training and access to the legal profession - addressing costs, promoting the law as a career option, and expanding routes to becoming a lawyer
  • Legal education in England and Wales in an international context: preparing students for work at international law firms
  • Modernising education for new sectors and the future role of technology - legal services for new business models, utilising innovative technology, and improving digital and remote learning

The background to the discussion:

  • the new SQE system:
    • introduction - due to be implemented in 2021 to replace the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the Legal Practice Course (LPC)
    • aims - consistent evaluation across all academic solicitor training routes, increasing competition and innovation in universities, and widening access to the legal profession
    • approval - the final decision by the LSB, expected before this conference, on the new qualification following a series of pilots, or ask the SRA to make further revisions
    • concerns - the qualification’s structure, particularly replacement of a written skills test with a multiple choice format for SQE1, from some in the sector and the Justice Select Committee 
  • bar training courses:
    • introduction - a new range approved by the BSB, replacing the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) - expected this September with an option to pause studies and take on paid work
    • concerns - from some in the sector that stringent application processes for some new bar training courses - and their limiting of places - could lead to a two-tier system 
  • participation, retention and progression:
    • reports that many chambers may need to withdraw pupillages for aspiring barristers, due to financial pressures exacerbated by COVID-19
    • SRA findings that 40% of students on the LPC do not go on to complete training contracts
    • COVID-19 and university participation - students concerns in this year’s BPTC cohort regarding home exams discriminating against those who require reasonable adjustments and breaks 
  • COVID-19 and university participation:
    • the BSB commissioning an independent review into this summer’s BPTC exams, as students call for the regulator to scrap exams and waive the requirement for exams to be passed before being called to the bar, following software crashes and other issues impacting results
    • students from this year’s BPTC cohort raising concerns regarding home exams discriminating against those who require reasonable adjustments and breaks

The discussion in detail:

  • the new qualification route for solicitors:
    • challenges - regarding the qualification’s design with multiple choice assessments and practical legal skills tests covering client interviews, advocacy, case analysis and legal research
    • opportunities - potential for course providers to adapt to the new qualification more easily, and to increase remote learning and the number of online education providers offering on-demand and fast-track courses
    • assessment - reform to the system for solicitor training, and its implications for modernising examination methods and improving access for prospective lawyers
    • fees - cost effectiveness, with exam fees set at £3,980 before adding provider training costs
  • new barrister training courses:
    • early indications - how the courses are operating
    • potential - whether changes will succeed in making courses more flexible, accessible and affordable to a wider range of people
    • benefits and uptake - of the newly approved pathways to becoming a barrister, including integrated academic and vocational, and through apprenticeship
  • expanding routes to professional engagement:
    • solicitor apprenticeships - and supporting legal education at sixth form and secondary school level - and improving the attractiveness of the legal profession as a career option
    • accommodating changing learning habits
    • industry training - growth and improvement during studies
    • promoting diversity - and supporting the inclusion of disadvantaged groups
  • supporting progression:
    • preparing aspiring barristers and solicitors for competitive appraisal and selection processes - and supporting the provision of fair trainee salaries
    • the international context - the impact of changes to legal training on preparing students for work at international law firms
  • innovative technology - looking at next steps for:
    • adopting digital platforms to prepare for legal practice
    • expanding virtual learning to support education during COVID-19 and beyond
    • utilising AI and data science
    • preparing students for new business models
    • what can be learnt from international approaches

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the Ministry of Justice; the Government Legal Department; BEIS; and HM Revenue and Customs.

Overall, we expect speakers and other participants to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials, legal institutions and examination boards, professional training bodies and legal service providers, universities and legal academics, local government, charities and consumer groups, together with reporters from the national and trade media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

Professor Thom Brooks

Dean & Chair in Law and Government, Durham University

Keynote Speakers

Chris Nichols

Director of Policy, Legal Services Board

Julie Brannan

Director, Education and Training, Solicitors Regulation Authority

Professor Thom Brooks

Dean & Chair in Law and Government, Durham University

Mark Neale

Director General, Bar Standards Board


Lord Low of Dalston

John Howell MP

Member, Justice Committee


Caroline Strevens

Chair, Association of Law Teachers, and Head of Portsmouth Law School

Dr Giles Proctor

CEO, The College of Legal Practice

Cordella Bart-Stewart

Director and Founding Member, Black Solicitors Network

Charlotte Parkinson

Chair, Junior Lawyers Division, and Associate, Addleshaw Goddard

Kevin G Mulcahy

VP of Education & Community Programs, Neota Logic, and Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown Law

Patrick McCann

Global Head of Learning, Linklaters LLP

Laura Pinkney

Head of Nottingham Law School Legal Advice Centre, Nottingham Trent University

Professor Andrea Nollent

Vice-Chancellor and CEO, The University of Law

Ben Perry

Partner, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Lynda Gibbs QC (Hon)

Dean, The Inns of Court College of Advocacy

Rebecca Williams

Professor of Public Law and Criminal Law, University of Oxford