Nearly 1,200 people have signed up to take the first ever Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) assessment in November, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has revealed.
There are now 12 training providers offering specific SQE training with BPP University law school finally unveiling its new courses.
Some universities are also planning to incorporate SQE into their courses,
The SQE is split into two parts and Kaplan, the SQE’s assessment provider, has received 1,155 bookings for the first sitting. Booking are now closed and three-quarters of them were from candidates taking the assessment in the UK.
The remaining candidates are spread across 47 other countries. One in 12 candidates has requested reasonable adjustments.
The SRA said that, with a “range of law firms” having already committed to taking on SQE trainees, with many starting next year, it expected candidate numbers to rise significantly.
SQE1 tests practical legal knowledge, consisting of just over 10 hours of assessment taken over two days – 8 and 11 November.
SQE2 assesses practical legal skills and knowledge, with the first assessments scheduled for April next year.
Anyone who has already started on training to become a solicitor, including undertaking a law degree, can choose to carry on through the traditional legal practice course route.
Julie Brannan, SRA director of education and training, said: ‘It is encouraging to see such strong take up for the first sitting. Whether it is apprentices, overseas lawyers or law students who see the benefits of choosing to do the SQE, this shows there is already strong demand for the SQE.’
She noted that many of the SQE courses now on the market – ranging from short online courses to extensive face-to-face teaching – would enable a candidate to train for under or around £10,000, including the assessment fees they have to pay of £3,980 for the two stages.
“It’s early days, but the SQE training market is clearly developing. More choice, more flexibility and more affordable options should enable more talented people, from all backgrounds, to have a fairer shot at qualifying as a solicitor,” she said.
Law graduates can take a seven-month full-time course for SQE1 at BPP costing from £9,500 (excluding the assessment fees).
Non-law graduates are offered a longer full-time SQE package, taking 12 months and costing a minimum of £13,500.
Students can then move on to intensive coaching courses for SQE 2. These cost £3,000 in London and £2,500 elsewhere.
Although courses are cheaper than the legal practice course, Jo-Anne Pugh, dean of the law school, said firms wanted to recruit those trained to a level “well beyond the SQE”.
She explained: “The overwhelming message from firms was they will be seeking applicants with specialist knowledge, skills, and behaviours that are well beyond the SQE curriculum.”
There is also a three-month ‘Essentials for Practice’ course for non-law graduates, costing £5,750 in London and £4,750 outside, which BPP said was designed “in collaboration with several prestigious law firms”.
This would “not only develop the skills required for SQE2, but allow students to build knowledge “across a range of specialist legal practice areas” that matched their career goals.
In other training news, meanwhile, City firms CMS, Dentons, Norton Rose Fulbright, Herbert Smith Freehills, Linklaters and Slaughter and May have joined forces to create a legal operations graduate programme.
It starts with a four-week course that will bring together graduates from the legal operations teams at the consortium firms. This will be supplemented by regular workshops throughout the programme to bring together the cohort of graduates to work on case studies and network.
The consortium has chosen the University of Law and pricing consultancy Positive Pricing to lead the design and delivery of the curriculum.
Participants will study the changing face of the legal market, understanding their firms’ legal practice, innovation, automation, legal tech, process design, legal project management and the core skills of legal operations professionals.