By Legal Futures Associate The College of Legal Practice
The route to qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales has changed. In September, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is introducing the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) which will eventually replace the current Legal Practice Course (LPC).
We have addressed some of the common questions around the SQE to ensure students have all the information they need to make an informed decision about their route to qualification.
What is the SQE?
The SQE is the new qualification examination for aspiring solicitors in England and Wales.
Unlike the LPC, the SQE is not a course or study programme, but two sets of examinations.
- SQE1 tests functioning legal knowledge.
- SQE2 tests oral (advocacy and client interviewing) and written legal skills.
You need to pass both SQE1 and SQE2 to become a solicitor. See section below titled Do I need anything else to qualify as a solicitor? for more details.
Key facts about the SQE
- It is run by Kaplan on behalf of the SRA
- SQE1 comprises of 360 multiple choice questions, in two five hour examinations over two days.
- SQE2 comprises of 14 hours of assessments split over 5 half days.
- The SQE1 assessment costs £1,558 and the SQE2 assessment costs £2,422. This cost is separate from the cost of any preparation training.
When does the SQE start and when are the examination dates?
The first SQE1 assessment will take place in November 2021 with the first SQE2 assessment following in April 2022. Bookings for the first SQE1 assessment are open with a deadline of September 2021.
Assessments run 2-4 times a year. You can take SQE1 in 30 locations across England and Wales. Current locations offered for the SQE2 are Cardiff, Manchester and London. For more information on assessment dates and locations visit the SRA’s website.
If you need any help in deciding which assessment you should apply for, please contact our team who will be happy to discuss your circumstances with you.
Should I be taking the SQE or the LPC?
The SQE is being introduced in a phased way from September 2021. Once the SQE examinations start in Autumn 2021, you can decide to qualify under the new SQE route.
As the LPC is being phased out, you will only be able to pursue the existing LPC and Training Contract route if you commence a law degree, Graduate Diploma in Law or LPC on or before 31 August 2021. You will then have until 2032 to qualify as a solicitor before the LPC and Training Contract route is turned off. Even if you have commenced one of the above, you may still decide to take the SQE if you wish.
The SRA have a decision tree which could help you determine which route you can take.
Do I need anything else to qualify as a solicitor?
There are four things you will need to qualify as a solicitor:
- have a degree in any subject or a qualification or experience that is equivalent to a degree
- pass both SQE1 and SQE2
- two years’ full-time (or equivalent) qualifying work experience (QWE)
- pass character and suitability requirements.
How can I gain my qualifying work experience?
Unlike the LPC and Training Contract route, you do not need to wait to pass examinations before you can start your two years’ QWE.
You can take your SQE examinations alongside QWE, and if you’re already working in the legal field, you may already be accruing QWE which can be “banked”.
QWE is a lot more flexible than the Training Contract. You can gain your experience in up to four different organisations, unlike the traditional one firm Training Contract, and some voluntary work may count towards the two years, such as volunteering in Law Centres. For more information on qualifying work experience, see the SRA’s guidance.
How can I prepare for the SQE?
Do not be mistaken in thinking that the SQE is easy!
Even with a law degree, the SQE assessments will be difficult. It is not only about legal knowledge, but the ability to identify issues and apply legal knowledge throughout the assessments. This may be the first time you will experience complex multiple-choice and oral examinations, so you will need to prepare well in both legal knowledge and examination technique.
Preparation courses are not mandatory, and you can prepare yourself for the SQE examinations if you feel confident and comfortable to do so. If you want a little help preparing for success, we offer a series of part-time and full-time courses which will provide you with the legal knowledge, examination technique and opportunities to practice your interview and advocacy skills before the assessments. You’ll have significant 1-2-1 supervision from both a personal tutor and subject matter experts to get you ready for the assessments and to set you up for a successful start to your career as a solicitor.
We’re so confident in our preparation courses that you can take the course again free of charge if you are not successful in passing the SQE assessment.
Our team are on hand to assist students and employers in the transition to the SQE and preparing you for the examinations. If you need any assistance, or if you’re interested in hearing about our courses, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org