If you are thinking about becoming a solicitor, you need to be aware that the route to qualification is changing, with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
The changes are being introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The SQE will be a centralised assessment to ensure everyone is assessed in the same way. The first opportunity to attempt the SQE will be from September 2021.
How will the qualification route change?
The current route:
1. Qualifying law degree or a law conversion course
Under the current route, you need to have completed a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD), such as the LLB, or a law conversion course (such as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)) before progressing on to the LPC. This is known as the academic stage of training, where you learn fundamental legal knowledge
2. Legal Practice Course (LPC)
The LPC is the vocational stage of training, where you learn to apply the legal knowledge you studied in your QLD or conversion course. You have the option to study a singular LPC or choose to enhance your study further and earn a masters qualification as part of your course, such as our LLM in Legal Practice with LPC.
3. Training Contract
After completing the LPC, you are required to work for two years as a trainee solicitor – commonly referred to as a Training Contract.
4. Apply to the SRA to be admitted as a solicitor
5. Qualify as a solicitor
The new route:
1. Undergraduate degree or equivalent
Under the new route the QLD, GDL and LPC will no longer be compulsory. To become a solicitor, all applicants must have either an undergraduate degree (in any subject), or equivalent experience, to study at degree level (eg. a degree apprenticeship). Studying an LLB degree may help candidates prepare for some of the SQE assessments, but will not give any exemptions.
2. SQE Stage 1
Stage 1 will assess your legal knowledge. This stage must be completed before progressing to SQE Stage 2. You will be tested on:
Substantive and procedural law and cover core subjects currently taught on LLB and LPC courses
Application on fundamental legal principles
Legal research and writing skills
3. SQE Stage 2
Stage 2 will assess your legal skills through practical examinations and assessments. You will be tested on:
Case and matter analysis
Legal Research and written advice
You can find out more about the SQE assessments here.
4. Qualifying work experience
Candidates are required to complete a minimum of two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE). It can be in a maximum of four periods, at up to four organisations. The intention is to provide you with greater flexibility and a wider range of options to develop the skills to practice as a solicitor. You could potentially count time spent working as a paralegal, in a student law clinic, or a placement during your law degree, at a law firm. The SRA suggest it is a good idea to do QWE before sitting SQE Stage 2, but it is not a requirement.
5. Apply to the SRA for qualification
The SRA complete quality and sustainability checks at this stage of the process to determine whether you are eligible to become a solicitor.
It depends where you are in your path to qualifying as a solicitor. Please see an outline of different paths below:
I have already secured a training contract
If you have secured a training contract it would be worth speaking to your future employer in the first instance, as they may have a preference on the route you take.
I will complete my QLD/law conversion course prior to September 2021
If this is the case, you may want to progress straight on to the LPC. Alternatively, you could choose to wait for the SQE. However, the SQE route would result in you taking exams in areas of law that you have already passed in your previous study.
I have started, but won’t complete my QLD/law conversion course until after September 2021
In this instance, you have a choice between the SQE and LPC. However, the SQE route for you would result in you taking exams in areas of law that you have already passed.
I will not be starting my QLD/law conversion course until after September 2021
You will only be able to follow the new route (SQE).
What should I do now?
We know that to make decisions about your future, you need to think carefully about the options available. You may be uncertain about how the changes affect you or need advice on your available options. These will vary depending on when you complete your studies, and on when law firms and providers transition entirely to the SQE route. At present, most law firms state that they are in no particular rush to transition, but this may change as the new route becomes more established.
If you need advice on your options, you can:
Speak to our Admissions Team, who can also put you in touch with an expert tutor