Kamran Khan, a recent BPTC student, joined the webinar and wrote about the main points he learned from the hour-long event. So if you’re considering a career in law, keep reading for an insightful summary of the information.
When will the SQE come into effect?
The Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) has been discussing reforms since 2015 and they have said that the SQE will not be introduced until September 2021 at the earliest. In other words, there is no fixed date as to when this proposal will be implemented.
The idea is that once the SQE is launched, the current solicitors’ qualification course (the Legal Practice Course [LPC]) will be phased out. One proposal is that anyone who starts their legal education before it’s introduced will be allowed to choose between the LPC or SQE pathway, as long as those using the current process complete it by 2032.
It is important to stress that this is all still speculation at the moment, but keep your eyes peeled for any updates!
The proposed SQE pathway will entail a new format altogether:
Undergraduate degree or equivalent
SQE Stage 1
SQE Stage 2
Qualifying work experience (QWE) (a minimum of two years’ work)
Apply to the SRA for qualification
Although the changes are different, they are not intended to be wholesale. Under the new pathway, there would not be any requirement for an aspiring lawyer to hold a qualifying law degree. Moreover, instead of the LPC, candidates will be expected to pass SQE 1 (knowledge-based examination) and SQE 2 (skills-based examination). Furthermore, whereas a training contract typically entails two years of training with the same company (albeit in different seats), the new QWE proposal would allow candidates to undertake work with up to four different legal employers (and this also includes pro bono work).
The SQE – simply put – is just another set of exams. Unlike the LPC, it will not contain elective modules; there will be two exams set by the SRA that candidates will be required to pass (SQE 1 and SQE 2).The exams will be set by Kaplan and all students will sit the same exam, regardless of where they are studying.
LPC v SQE – what will the SQE look like and cover
The SQE 1 segment will comprise of three three-hour exams, each containing 120 multiple choice questions on subjects including criminal law, property law, solicitors’ accounts etc. Throughout these exams, you will also be tested on professional conduct issues.
The SQE 2 will cover the skills component of the qualification which include modules such as client interviewing, advocacy and legal research.
Under the proposed SQE, there will not be the option of studying elective modules as there currently is on the LPC. One further difference between the LPC and the SQE is the standard at which you will be assessed at: whereas on the LPC, candidates are tested to the standard expected of a trainee, the requisite standard of a SQE candidate is of a newly qualified lawyer. Therefore, the course seems to be streamlined, and assessed to a higher standard with the intention of better preparing candidates for life as a solicitor.
Is there anything I need to do now?
In short, no! The nuances and details of the SQE are far from finalised, and the 2021 deadline seems to be a provisional one (akin to the way the Brexit deadline has played out…). As things stand, if you are considering a career as a solicitor, then you must have a qualifying law degree and complete the LPC prior to completing a training contract.