In autumn 2021, the Solicitors Qualifying Examination replaced the LPC as the new route to qualifying as a solicitor. So, what changed with the SQE? Quite a lot...
What is the SQE?
It stands for ‘Solicitors Qualifying Exam’ and is the new way to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales, replacing the old LPC, which will be completely replaced by 31 December 2032.
Why is the LPC being replaced?
For several reasons, according to the SRA.
- ‘More reliable and rigorous testing’ of future lawyers.
- Increasing learning standards, while reducing costs.
- Growing diversity within the legal profession
How is the SQE different from the LPC?
Unlike the full course that is/was the LPC, the SQE is only a set of two exams, snappily titled SQE1 and SQE2. Anyone with a degree that can pass both exams, complete 24 months of legal work experience and meet ‘character and suitability requirements’ will be able to qualify as a solicitor.
Do I need to do a law degree to sit the SQE?
What does ‘24 months of legal work experience’ mean? Will firms continue to offer training contracts?
It’s unlikely that large law firms will stop their usual tried-and-tested trainee programmes. Many people will continue to qualify as a solicitor after two years of training at one firm. The new route opens the possibility of completing legal work experience at multiple different employers, which can all count towards your recognised training.
Who is conducting the SQE?
The SRA appointed Kaplan law school as assessor and adjudicator for the SQE. Kaplan has previously run the QLTS for lawyers from overseas cross-qualifying in the UK.
What’s the structure of the SQE?
SQE1 includes 360 (!) multiple choice questions split over two exam papers of 180 questions each; SQE2 involves four oral exercises and 12 written tests and is more extensive (and more expensive) than SQE1.
Will I need to study before sitting the SQE?
In theory you could show up to sit the exams with no preparation, but we’d strongly recommend against that. Current LPC course providers including University of Law, BPP and many more offer preparatory courses for both exams, and each one individually.
What will the SQE cover?
SQE1 includes theoretical subjects, or 'functioning legal knowledge assessments' (FLKs):
FLK 1 tests: Business Law and Practice; Dispute Resolution; Contract; Tort; Legal System of England and Wales; Constitutional and Administrative Law and EU Law and Legal Services.
SQE2 focuses on six practical skills:
- client interview and attendance note/legal analysis
- case and matter analysis
- legal research
- legal writing
- legal drafting
When will I sit each part of the SQE?
You cannot sit the SQE2 unless you’ve passed SQE1. For those who are looking to fast-track the process, by registering for the SQE2 just before or just after the SQE1 exam, be aware that if you fail SQE1 you cannot sit SQE2, which may be a very expensive gamble. As outlined in the diagram above, it’s suggested that students sit SQE1 before their legal work experience period and SQE2 afterwards. There may well be some flexibility around this, and some candidates may complete work experience either side of both exams, or do the SQE2 before doing any qualifying work experience.
When did the SQE start?
How much will the SQE cost?
The total cost of both stages of the SQE is £4,115. That breaks down to £1,622 for SQE1 and £2,493 for SQE2. Those are the exam costs. For those who are looking to do a preparation course with one of the many providers, and we suggest you do, those costs will rise to around the £10,000 for both courses (dependent on the course provider you choose).
Can I get sponsorship from law firms for the SQE?
Law firms that previously sponsored future trainees to sit the LPC have carried this over to the SQE, though if the firm doesn’t explicitly say it covers SQE costs, it’s worth asking. Some firms require these lucky people to complete a prep course at a particular educational provider.
Where can I sit the SQE?
The exams are hosted in Pearson VUE test centres.
What happens if I’m a lawyer qualified overseas?
Lawyers from overseas hoping to cross-qualify into the UK now need to complete the SQE, which replaces the old QLTS. They will be able to apply for exemption from one or more sections based on existing expertise.
Can I still do the LPC instead of the SQE?
Anyone started or registered for the GDL, LPC or a qualifying law degree before autumn 2021 can still follow the old route to qualification – if you’re starting a non-law degree in 2021, it’s the SQE for you. As mentioned, previously, the old LPC route will be fully phased out by 2032.
What's happening to the GDL? Can I do the GDL?
Should I do the LPC or the SQE?
If both options are available to you, then it’s entirely up to you. The LPC perhaps provides more certainty, as it’s the tried and tested qualification; but major firms have or are likely to pivot their training contract recruitment increasingly towards SQE route applicants, who may also have more flexibility because they can complete work experience at multiple employers.