If you’re an aspiring solicitor, you’ll have heard about the SQE. In 2017, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) officially announced the introduction of the SQE (Solicitors Qualifying Exam) in September 2021.

Why the Change to the SQE?

The SQE is being introduced in response to the SRA’s concern about how aspiring solicitors are prepared for solicitor practice. It argues 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.

The new route is intended to dispel any preconceived notions that a university route is better than an apprenticeship or ‘equivalent means’ route, since it is a standardised test. The SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) describes this as giving all qualifiers the opportunity to “demonstrate a level of intellect and analytical ability at least equivalent to that of a graduate.”

The SRA also acknowledges the varied entry requirements and assessment methods for law degrees, the GDL and the LPC, and the difficulty this creates in attempting to provide a standardised qualification. The new test will hopefully help to alleviate some of these concerns with a single, standardised route.

How to Qualify as a Solicitor Through the SQE Route

To qualify as a solicitor, candidates will need to:

  • Have a degree or an equivalent qualification, or have gained equivalent experience
  • Have the legal knowledge needed to pass the SQE (this can be achieved by taking an LLB or law conversion course)
  • Pass SQE stages 1 and 2
  • Have completed at least two years of qualifying legal work experience

 

BPP SQE infographic

Infographic by BPP Law School

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What Does the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam Involve?

The SQE is comprised of two parts:

  • The first part (SQE 1) assesses functional legal knowledge; and
  • The second part (SQE 2) tests the practical application of legal knowledge, including legal skills.

Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)

In addition to sitting the SQE, candidates are required to complete Qualifying Work Experience (similar 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, and can be undertaken at any point during your SQE, including before you sit your exams. The work must support in developing skills outlined by the SRA competencies regarding the delivery of legal services.

QWE includes the following:

  • Paralegal work
  • A placement during a law degree
  • A student law clinic or at the Citizens Advice.

SQE1

The first part of the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam assesses functioning legal knowledge across two assessments, each with 90 multiple choice questions.

SQE2

The second part of the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam assesses core legal skills (for example, client interviewing, advocacy, case and matter analysis, legal research, written advice and drafting) through a series of six assessments.

Five key things you need to know about the SQE.

For information on how the SQE affects your career, watch the SRA’s video:

For More Information on How The SQE Will Affect Your Career, watch the SRA‘s video below:

The Transitional Phase

Law students 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 until the SQE comes into force in 2021.

Those who have completed, started, accepted an offer, or paid a deposit for a law conversion course before 1st September 2021 will be able to pursue the previous LPC route.

For those who have begun pursuing the LPC (via QLD, ELD or CPE), you have until 31st December 2032 to qualify as a solicitor through this pathway (as long as the course remains available to this date).

SQE Costs

The total fee for taking both SQE assessments will be £3,980.

The breakdown is as follows:

SQE1: £1,558 (covering 10 hours of examinations testing candidates’ functioning legal knowledge.)
SQE2: £2,422 (covering 14 hours of written and oral tasks testing both practical legal knowledge and skills)

The costs do not cover SQE preparation courses, which will vary in price depending on the institution and course you choose.

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