A report to the Law Society claims that LPC aptitude tests offer a “number of benefits”. That claim is not looking very strong according to a report of the research report they have commissioned. As I can’t get access to the report yet [footnote: the report link is now working thanks to some speedy work from the Law Soc web team], I am going to use Neil Rose’s report to make a few points about what the report apparently says.
- Aptitude tests would be difficult to introduce for anything other than highlighting those most likely to fail the LPC. It is difficult to see the regulatory case for this from the point of the view of the SRA as these people would not be admitted to the profession in any event.
- This would have little impact on the numbers passing the LPC and so would not impact on the shortage of training contracts for the number of LPC graduates. The main reason the Law Society decided to investigate aptitude tests to “manage” entry to the profession.
- Linking a test to the likelihood of gaining a training contract [as this would] would be “more difficult” to justify. This is an argument I find difficult to understand: aptitude tests should be designed to assess aptitude for practice, so why wouldn’t they be justified? (Perhaps what is meant is that firms would not stomach them).
- Reducing the number of students looking for contracts can be done by more proportionate (but still potentially anti-competitive?) means e.g. raising the standard required to pass the LPC. The report suggests candidates might then “self-select more effectively for the course”. That might be right, but it is not something which works brilliantly at the Bar or indeed, as I understand it, Bars around the World.
- There are other alternatives to testing which do not cost students money, such as: raising the standard degree class required for entry to the LPC from a 2:2 to a 2:1; restricting the number of resits (only around 65% of LPC candidates pass first time); and restricting the time for which passing the LPC is valid, so that the pool of graduates seeking training contracts does not just keep on increasing. The first of these might also have the effect of increasing the level at which LPC students could be taught, the other putative benefit of aptitude tests.
Interestingly, although amongst solicitors and students surveyed, support for a voluntary aptitude was strong and such a test had the added benefit of providing some assessment of motivation and conscientiousness. The report said a voluntary test would be “unlikely to have a great impact on the standard or number of people enrolled on the course”. That is, plenty of people want aptitude tests, they just want them for someone else.