You may have heard talks about the new SQE coming in soon, and some of you may be a bit confused about where this sits in place with the current solicitor’s qualification process (Legal Practice Course (LPC)). Well, this article gives a brief summary of what the SQE is.
When and why?
The SQE will be introduced in autumn 2021. It aims to enhance the quality, accessibility and flexibility of legal services education and training.
Who will take the SQE?
If you have started a Qualifying Law Degree or the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) before Autumn 2021 you can either take the SQE or follow the old route to qualification. If you choose the latter, you have until 2032 to complete the academic and vocational stages of qualification. Currently, the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA) plans to continue to authorise Legal Practice Courses (LPC) until the end of the 2024/25 academic year.
Everyone else will have to follow the new route to qualification. This includes those who have started a non-law degree in 2018, 2019 or later.
The SQE route?
Under the SQE route, to qualify as a solicitor, you need to have a degree in any subject (or equivalent qualification), pass the SQE stage 1 and 2 exams, complete 2 years of qualifying work experience (QWE) and fulfil SRA’s character and suitability requirements.
QWE could include time spent as a paralegal and experience with charitable organisations such as Citizens Advice. Any QWE gained before autumn 2021 can count towards the two years of QWE. But your roles should not be in more than four organisations and should enable you to develop the competencies to become a solicitor.
Breaking it Down
The SQE stage 1 (SQE1) exams will mainly assess legal knowledge through multiple-choice exams and one written exam. Candidates will be assessed on traditional substantive and procedural law such as Public law and Property law. There will also be a legal research and writing assessment in SQE1. Unlike the LPC, SQE1 will also have no electives. But it is likely that law schools or law firms will provide something similar to trainees going to Specialist law firms. After passing SQE1 candidates will have six years to complete QWE and pass the SQE2.
SQE2 will focus more on legal skills like advocacy and interviewing. These skills will be assessed through practical exams and assessments. SRA expects SQE2 to be taken at or towards the end of the QWE.
You can read SRA’s guidance on the SQE here.
The SQE or the LPC?
Cost: The LPC and GDL can cost up to £16,765 and £11,730 respectively. The SQE, on the other hand, is estimated to cost between £3,000 – £4,500 but this cost excludes training. Currently, law schools are yet to disclose what they will charge for SQE training. However, the SRA expects the overall SQE costs to be lower than the LPC/GDL cost.
Flexibility: Under the old route, you are limited to the traditional two-year training contract but with the SQE you have more options.
I hope this brief summary of plans for the implementation of the SQE helps. Please keep up with SRA’s SQE announcement. They will help you further assess LPC vs SQE. The announcements will also inform you of how the SRA expects firms and law schools to adapt to the changes to be introduced by the SQE.
Africa Legal and BARBRI International (‘BARBRI’)
To read more about the SQE and how as an international student you can qualify in the UK if you do not live in the UK, check out Africal Legal and BARBRI’s article to understand the SQE in more depth, and the benefits of using BARBI International for the process. Read more here – Law Qualification Changes.