From autumn 2021, the Solicitors Qualifying Examination will replace the LPC as the new route to qualifying as a solicitor. What's changing 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.
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?
Nope, an undergraduate degree in any discipline will suffice. Non-law graduates will likely have to do extra preparation before sitting the exams.
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.
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 very strongly recommend against that. Current LPC course providers including University of Law, BPP and many more will offer preparatory courses for both exams, and each one individually.
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 will include 360 (!) multiple choice questions split over two exam papers of 180 questions each; SQE2 will involve 15-18 tasks or 'stations' and will be more extensive (and more expensive) than SQE1.
What will the SQE cover?
SQE1 will include theoretical subjects, or 'functioning legal knowledge assessments':
- Principles of professional conduct, public and administrative law, and the legal systems of England and Wales
- Dispute resolution in contract or tort
- Property law
- Commercial and corporate law
- Wills and the administration of estates and trusts
- Criminal law
SQE2 will focus on five practical skills:
- Client interviewing
- Advocacy/persuasive oral communication
- Case and matter analysis
- Legal research and written advice
- Legal drafting
When will I sit each part of the SQE?
As outlined in the diagram above, it’s suggested that students will 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.
When does the SQE start?
The SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) has confirmed the SQE will begin in autumn 2021 – more specifically, the first SQE1 exams will take place on 8 and 11 November 2021. The first sittings of SQE2 will be in April 2022.
How much will the SQE cost?
Both stages of the SQE will cost a total of £3,980. That breaks down to £1,558 for SQE1 and £2,422 for SQE2.
Can I get sponsorship from law firms for the SQE?
Law firms which previously sponsored future trainees to sit the LPC will almost certainly carry this over to the SQE. They may well require these lucky people to complete a prep course at a particular educational provider.
Where can I sit the SQE?
The exams will be hosted in Pearson VUE test centres, hopefully in an in-person exam setting (see below).
Will coronavirus affect the SQE?
It’s the SRA’s hope that by November, restrictions will be sufficiently lifted to host the exams in a physical setting. Preparations are being made for virtual exams if necessary.
What happens if I’m a lawyer qualified overseas?
Lawyers from overseas hoping to cross-qualify into the UK will 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 who starts (or has started) the GDL, LPC or a 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. The SRA expects the old LPC route to be fully phased out by 2032.
What's happening to the GDL? Can I do the GDL?
The GDL will be replaced by equivalent courses for non-law graduates who want to go on to sit the Bar Course, and these may be relevant to future SQE sitters. If you want to qualify as a solicitor and have not started the GDL, LPC or a law degree before autumn 2021, then you will need to go through the SQE route. Extended prep courses will be offered for non-law graduates.
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 it’s likely that major firms will 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.