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December 2, 2020
The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is coming into play in September 2021 and is substantially different from the traditional route into practice via the Legal Practice Course (LPC). This article from BPP covers the key differences you need to know between the two routes.

What Are the Key Differences Between the LPC and SQE?

Traditionally, completing the LPC and then progressing onto a two-year training contract is the well-trodden path to becoming a qualified solicitor in England and Wales. Before starting the LPC, students are required to have a Qualifying Law Degree (LLB or GDL).

However, now with the introduction of the SQE, a qualifying law degree is no longer mandatory and students can gain their 2 years’ Qualifying Work Experience (QWE), before, during or after sitting their SQE exams. Read on to find out more about some of the key differences between the two. 

Entry Requirements

As mentioned above, with the LPC, students will need to have graduated with an LLB or taken the GDL or a Postgraduate Diploma in Law.

The SQE has opened the doors for students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines to qualify as a solicitor. You’ll need a UK undergraduate degree, or a qualification or work experience which is equivalent to a UK degree e.g. a solicitor apprenticeship.

Examinations and Assessment

The LPC

The LPC is divided into two parts: stage one and stage two. Stage one comprises foundation modules which are the same for everyone. The most important part of this stage are the core practice areas that will complement your undergraduate study or your graduate conversion course.

These are:

  • Business Law and Practice;
  • Civil Litigation;
  • Criminal Litigation and;
  • Property Law and Practice.

Additionally, students gain a roster of skills such as:

  • Advocacy;
  • Interviewing and Advising
  • Practical Legal Research and;
  • Drafting Legal Writing.

During stage two you can choose between three electives, which allow you to specialise areas that align with your career goals. These may include Corporate Finance, Commercial Law and Intellectual Property, and Immigration Law, amongst many others.

Exams for the LPC are varied and range from multiple-choice questions, written examinations, oral examinations and take-home assessments.

The SQE

The SQE is a standardised exam for aspiring solicitors and is also divided into two parts.

The first stage, SQE1, is split into two papers which span across a range of practice areas, such as:

  • Business and Dispute Resolutions;
  • Civil and Criminal Litigation;
  • Property Law and Practice and;
  • Criminal Law.

These two papers comprise of 180 multiple-choice questions and each last 5 hours and 6 minutes. It may appear that multiple-choice questions could be easy, however, all five answers will look plausible as they’re marked on a ‘single best answer’ basis.

The second stage, SQE2, assesses your practical skills. These include:

  • Face-to-face assessments for oral skills, including client interviewing, legal analysis, and advocacy.
  • Online assessments which test your written skills, such as case and matter analysis, legal research, legal writing and legal drafting.

Training Contract vs Qualifying Work Experience

Under the LPC route, you are required to complete a training contract, which is two years of regulated work-based training, typically undertaken with just one employer.

If you follow the SQE route to qualification, you will need to undertake two years’ of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE), which can be carried out with up to four organisations. This provides ample flexibility and opportunity to develop your knowledge and skills in a range of different settings.

QWE can be gained at any time during your SQE journey, however, the SRA anticipate that you will have undertaken a significant amount of QWE before attempting to sit the SQE 2 assessments. However, we anticipate that most firms would want their trainees to have completed their SQE 2 before starting their QWE.

Which is the Right Route For You?

Whether you choose to take the LPC or SQE route is ultimately your decision as it is based on your personal circumstances.

If you’re a non-law graduate, the SQE route would be best for you as it’s suitable for individuals from a wide range of backgrounds. It also allows you to take more varied work experience with QWE.

If you’re an LLB graduate or have undertaken a law conversion course, then you may prefer to go down the traditional route of taking the LPC – which offers structured, linear training.

See our approach to the SQE.

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