Currently, to qualify as a solicitor under the current system, the SRA requires a qualifying law degree (or GDL), an LPC qualification and to complete a two-year period of training, known as the training contract. You must also meet the SRA’s criteria on character and suitability.
The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) is a new set of exams, expected to be introduced in 2021 that all prospective solicitors will have to pass in order to qualify. This is to replace the GDL and LPC. Instead, candidates will only need to pass both stages of the SQE and complete two years of qualifying work experience.
Unlike the GDL and LPC, the new SQE is not a course but simply a series of exams, which are divided into two stages. There is no education or training involved. The two years of work experience does not need to be completed like the traditional training contract, instead it can be split over four firms or organisations.
SQE: Stage 1
Stage one of the SQE involves two exams of 180-question multiple choice questions testing how candidates would apply their legal knowledge, research and writing skills in real scenarios. It is not just a memory test; it tests application of knowledge to real-life situations a solicitor may encounter.
The areas the exam will cover are:
- Legal research and writing
- Principles of professional conduct
- Legal systems of England and Wales
- Public and administrative law
- Dispute resolution in contract or tort
- Property Law
- Commercial and corporate law
- Wills and administration of estates and trusts
- Criminal Law
SQE: Stage 2
Stage two differs by consisting of practical skills assessment involving role play and simulation, similar to the incumbent LPC. There are five key skills to Stage 2:
- Client interviewing
- Advocacy /persuasive oral communication
- Case and matter analysis
- Legal research and written advice
- Legal drafting
SQE2 skills stations will be for the most part be written assessments, other than advocacy and client interviewing which is assessed orally.
SQE assessments will take place at Pearson national test centers – the same place where you would take your driving theory test.
Qualifying Work Experience
Such experience can be gained from up to four placements at different organisations and may include volunteering at a law clinic or working as a paralegal role. This can be completed, before, during or after completing SQE 1 or 2.
According the SRA, fees are broken down per exam. These are yet to be finalised.
- SQE1 – between £1,100 – £1,650
- SQE2 – between £1,900 – £2,850
These figures to not include the SQE preparation courses that many candidates will complete prior to attempting the exams. The true extent of the cost is unknown, with the only statement being that it will cost less than the current LPC. Ultimately, the pre SQE prep will be commercially driven, decided by universities and law schools that decide the fees for the course.
What about the LPC?
Anyone who starts a law degree, GDL or LPC before September 2021 can qualify through the old system. They will have until 2032 to complete the route and qualify as solicitors. However, they may choose to qualify through the SQE if they prefer. Many city law firms have stated that they will transition to the SQE prior to 2032.
Should I proceed with the current route, or complete the SQE?
|Reasons to wait for the SQE||Reasons to complete the LPC|
|SQE is expected to be shorter and cheaper, so progression into the workplace will be quicker. There may be more opportunities to build your work experience due to the predicted rise in law firms taking on apprentices through new graduate entry schemesThe qualifying work experience is likely to be easier to obtain than a TC||SRA has been clear that the SQE assessments will be rigorous and challenging, so you may not want to be in the first few cohorts whilst they are setting the standard.The length, availability and cost of the SQE are not yet known.Getting the chance to study electives as part of the LPC allows you to cater the qualification to your career aspirations, which will not be possible under the SQE.|
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