Currently the requirements to become a solicitor are to have a degree or equivalent qualification, and then to either continue on the LPC, or the GDL first followed by the LPC, depending on whether your degree was in law or not. It is then required for you to obtain a training contract, which is a two year work placement as a law firm or similar.
With the SQE in place, you will have to pass both parts of the exam, including a two year work placement, and be able to clearly demonstrate the skills you have picked up from your legal work experience.
In the current system, the university you study your LPC or GDL at will write your exam questions for you, meaning that each university could quite easily have exams of different forms and difficulties.
The SQE will allow for all candidates to be assessed consistently, ensuring that all are confident and competent to practise the law, having all gone through the same examinations.
The SRA have placed a huge emphasis on the flexibility of the SQE as one of its main assets. There are far more choices on how aspiring solicitors can train in order to qualify.
This better reflects life experiences and circumstances which one may encounter, as well as fixing the current issue some candidates experience where they are stuck between the system of work and qualification.
There will be two parts to the SQE assessment.
Part one will include many different question formats in multiple legal topics. Then, before you partake in part two of the assessment, you are required to take part in two years of relevant work-space learning, which is not dissimilar to the current training contract system.
Part two will then require you to use skills you acquired from said work placement, such as legal research, written advice, drafting, advocacy and client interviewing. The skills assessed will be designed to ensure that you have the skills a qualified solicitor requires, meaning work experience will need to give you the opportunity to develop such skills.
Though this is a new scheme, the SRA have reiterated that they are not creating a definite release date until they are completely happy with how it’s going to work. It will be rigorously tested to ensure that this is the case.
Also, do not fear if you are currently on your pathway to qualifying, as those who have begun their LPC or GDL will still be able to either continue on this route, or switch to the SQE if they would prefer.
The current thinking is that the SQE will be introduced in September 2020; though this is flexible, it has been confirmed that the SQE will be in full action by September 2024.
So here are five crucial elements of the SQE, demonstrating a much more flexible and modern take on the road to becoming a qualified solicitor.
Words: Lexi Roache
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