The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has announced it will be introducing the Solicitors Qualification Examination (the SQE) in September 2021, which is set to change the way future solicitors will train and qualify. This page will detail everything you need to know about the new exam - keep reading to find out more!
The SRA have long been concerned about the way in which individuals are currently prepared for solicitor practice. They argue that current methods employed by educational institutions to educate and examine (on courses such as the qualifying LLB Law Degree, LPC and the GDL) are inconsistent and difficult to monitor. As a result, the SRA suggested that one standardised exam (the SQE) be implemented across the board in an attempt to bring uniformity to the way in which individuals are examined going forward. The SRA issued two consultations on this issue, the last one being ‘A New Route to Qualification: The Solicitors Qualification Examination’, which was published in October 2016. This consultation closed on 9th January 2017, the results are in and the SRA has announced that the proposed SQE will in fact be implemented.
What Will the SQE Involve?
The precise details of the SQE have recently been released and will be split into two parts:
The first part (SQE 1) will test a candidate’s ability to use and apply legal knowledge; and
The second part (SQE 2) will test legal skills.
What’s the Cost?
The fee estimates for the examinations have been released and although they are approximate, the cost is likely to be in the range of £3,000 to £4,000.
SQE 1 is estimated to cost £1,100 to £1,650 whereas the SQE 2 will cost slightly more at approximately £1,900 to £2,850.
SQE Part One
It is envisaged that the first part will broadly assess functioning legal knowledge through a series of six computer-based examinations. Part one is likely to be made up of a number of different question formats, including:
Single best answer questions
Extended matching questions
Multiple choice questions
The exam is also likely to assess basic legal research and written communication skills. The SRA have acknowledged that computer-based testing would not be appropriate in this case. It is understood that candidates will have three attempts to pass the exams and can only move on to part two once they have done so. Proposed exam topics for part one of the SQE include:
Professional Conduct, Public and Administrative Law and the Legal Systems of England and Wales
Dispute Resolution on Contract or Tort
Property Law and Practice
Commercial and Corporate Law and Practice
Wills and the Administration of Estates and Trusts
Criminal Law and Practice
SQE Part Two
The second part will assess core legal skills (for example, client interviewing, advocacy, case and matter analysis, legal research, written advice and drafting) through a series of five assessments repeated in two separate legal contexts. Such assessments will not occur until the candidate has completed a period of work based learning. Five key things you need to know about the SQE – read them here >>
SQE Work Based Learning
In addition to sitting the SQE, candidates will be required to complete a period of ‘work based learning’ (not dissimilar to the current training contract system), which will take place in a law firm or SRA approved organisation. The length of this training set to be 24 months. At the end of this period of work based learning, candidates will then sit part two of the SQE.
In their news release dated 25 April 2017, the SRA suggested that the new qualification will have four elements. In order to qualify as a solicitor, candidates will need to:
have passed SQE stages 1 and 2 to demonstrate they have the right knowledge and skills
have been awarded a degree or an equivalent qualification, or have gained equivalent experience
have completed at least two years of qualifying legal work experience
be of satisfactory character and suitability.
SQE – The Transitional Phase
In the same news release the SRA stated that after full implementation of the SQE, law students and trainees who are in the process of completing a law degree, conversion course, LPC or training contract will be able to choose between the old and new routes. All qualifying solicitors will be expected to go through the new system by around September 2024. The SRA intends to consult fully on these transitional arrangements later this year and as and when further news emerges, we will update this page.
In 2019, Kaplan will run pilot tests of the assessments in order to judge their effectiveness. The pilot assessment for SQE 1 will include 360 questions split over three separate exams, as it has been decided that the test design can still be effective in a more streamlined form.
Those who have started a law degree or law conversion course before September 2021 will still be able to decide whether they want to qualify under the SQE or the old system, which they can do so until 2032. However, after 2021, all future solicitors will have to qualify through the new SQE format.
For More Information on How The SQE Will Affect Your Career, watch the SRA‘s video below: