The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) was introduced in September 2021 as the new route to qualifying as a solicitor of England and Wales. By 31st December 2032, the SQE will have replaced the Legal Practice Course (LPC) entirely, but depending on when you started studying, there is currently some crossover.
The SQE was brought in to offer more flexibility over how you train to become a solicitor. With the SQE, trainees can complete Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) at up to four different law firms, instead of securing a training contract at just one – which is notoriously difficult.
Also, the SQE is a centralised qualification, ensuring that all aspiring solicitors are taught to the same standard, unlike the old route, which has involved multiple organisations in the evaluation process.
There are plenty of LPC courses you can take on the internet, but you might be wondering whether you can complete the SQE online too. In this article, we’ll answer this question in-depth, explaining everything you need to know about how you can train as a solicitor of England and Wales.
Can you study for the SQE online?
There are many ways in which you can study for the SQE – from completing an intensive full-time course online to taking part-time classes in person – meaning you have the flexibility to train in a way that suits you.
Whether you’ve always known you wanted to become a solicitor, so you already have some legal knowledge, or you’re looking for a career change, meaning you’re starting your legal education from scratch, there are plenty of courses for you to choose from.
Continue reading to find out what these are, what you can expect to learn during your studies and why online learning can be more beneficial than classroom learning.
What are the different types of SQE courses?
There are many SQE courses available, both at institutes up and down the country and online. You can take preparation courses for the SQE1 and SQE2, which are available for both law graduates and non-law graduates. There are also training programmes that provide a foundation of legal knowledge specifically for non-law graduates who want to follow the SQE route to becoming a solicitor.
BARBRI offers two online SQE courses, both of which include a flexible personal study plan, supplemental touchpoint workshops and one-to-one mentor support.
This course leads straight into the SQE1 exams, which are scheduled to take place twice a year.
It can be studied full-time over ten weeks or part-time over either 20 or 40 weeks.
While the intensive ten-week version is aimed at recent law graduates, the 20- and 40-week versions are recommended for non-law graduates or foreign-qualified lawyers.
The SQE1 Prep costs £2,999, with full-time courses starting in April and part-time courses starting in February.
The SQE2 Prep prepares students for the SQE2 practical skills assessments.
This course is a part-time course studied over 12 weeks and costs £3,499, with a discounted price of £2,999 for those who have also taken the SQE1 Prep.
What do you learn on an SQE course?
SQE preparation courses aim to provide you with the legal knowledge you need to answer the questions you’re most likely to be asked in the SQE1 and SQE2 examinations.
For an indication of what you can expect to learn, the topics covered in each exam are as follows:
The first assessment comprises two exams: The FLK1 and the FLK2 (Functioning Legal Knowledge 1 and 2). Both are closed book, and each one is made up of a series of 180 multiple-choice questions. You’ll be given a hypothetical scenario and asked to choose between five possible answers. The questions are designed to test how you would approach some of the legal issues you might encounter as a newly qualified solicitor, and you’ll be expected to demonstrate your integrity and honesty in accordance with the SRA code of conduct.
The FLK1 covers:
- Business law and practice
- Contract law
- Constitutional and administrative law and EU law
- Dispute resolution
- Legal services
- The legal system of England and Wales
- Tort law
The FLK2 covers:
- Criminal law
- Land law
- Practice law
- Property practice
- Solicitors’ accounts
- Wills and the administration of estates
The SQE2 consists of 12 written assessments, which take place over three half-days, and four oral assessments, which take place over two half-days.
You’ll be required to complete the written parts of the assessment on a computer, while your practical skills will be assessed via role-play scenarios. These will cover client-solicitor interactions, court-based procedures and file reviews.
The exams aren’t designed to test how well you can memorise legal knowledge, and rather than a checklist approach, you’ll be assessed based on global professional judgements. You will, however, be required to demonstrate that you can apply fundamental legal principles in a way that addresses a client’s concerns and needs.
You won’t be permitted to bring any other materials into the examination centre as the examiner will provide you with everything you need to complete the assessments.
The SQE2 oral legal skills assessment covers:
- Client interviewing with linked attendance note / legal analysis
The SQE2 written legal skills assessment covers:
- Case and matter analysis
- Legal drafting
- Legal research and written advice
- Legal writing
Is it better to study online or in class?
In the past, online courses involved simply watching a lecture or seminar online rather than attending in person. For this reason, they weren’t considered to be as effective as classroom learning. However, ever-evolving technology has meant that online learning has come a long way since it was introduced in the 1980s – and some even consider it to be the best way to learn, for the following reasons:
Online learning is more flexible
With online learning, you can fit your studies around your life, meaning you can earn while you learn as you don’t have to quit your job. It’s also beneficial for stay-at-home parents as they don’t have to worry about childcare.
You can save time because you don’t have to travel anywhere. This also means you have more choice, as you can enrol on a course anywhere in the world.
Online learning enables you to work at your own pace – so you can choose to progress more quickly if you wish to – and you can replay material, which you wouldn’t be able to do in a classroom or lecture hall.
Online learning is more consistent
Tutors and lecturers have different teaching styles, which can vary from person to person. But with online learning, the course design and implementation of online learning are the same every time, meaning you can be confident you’re being taught the right material at the right time.
Online learning provides more support
One-on-one time with your tutor can be limited in a traditional classroom environment, as time is limited to a particular slot. This is in contrast to online courses, which ensure you get plenty of support in the form of instant messaging, forums and chatrooms, email or video calling.
Technology improves learning
While online courses do still include videos, these days, they usually only make up part of the programme. The videos are accompanied by various other tools and techniques, such as interactive challenges and lessons, as well as AI and algorithms that follow an individual learner’s journey.
For example, BARBRI’s technology is constantly developing to learn which questions are most likely to come up in the exams, and we use the Intuitive Study Assistant and Coach (ISAAC) algorithm. It’s been developed to maximise effectiveness, performance and retention without increasing workload or compromising on student wellbeing. ISAAC combines AI with real-world exam intelligence to produce programmes that are uniquely tailored to each individual. It monitors which topics you’re mastering and which topics are more of a struggle and adjusts the learning path to maximise your strengths and rectify your weaknesses. Ever-evolving, it also uses each learner’s performance to guide further acquisition, application and assessment.
Our blog post on online learning versus classroom learning goes into all this in more detail.
Can anyone take the SQE?
In contrast to the LPC (which is being phased out, meaning only those who began training as a solicitor before 1st September 2021 can take it), anyone can take the SQE, providing they have a degree in law or a non-law degree with a preparation course. This includes aspiring solicitors who initially chose to go down the traditional route to qualify.
What else do I need to do to become a fully qualified solicitor?
As well as passing both the SQE1 and SQE2 examinations, to qualify as a solicitor of England and Wales, you need to complete two years’ full-time (or part-time equivalent) Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) and meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.
QWE can be either paid or volunteer work but it must be confirmed by a solicitor. Alternatively, it can be approved by a Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) who either works with you or has direct knowledge of your work.
QWE is much more flexible than a traditional training contract. It can be done in England, Wales or overseas, it doesn’t have to cover English and Welsh law, and it can be completed in either a single two-year block or in separate stages at up to four organisations. It can even come from experience gained prior to starting your SQE, and you have the choice of completing it in between or after sitting the SQE1 and SQE2 examinations.
All of the following should count as QWE:
- A placement during a sandwich law degree
- Time spent on a training contract
- Work at a voluntary or charitable organisation, such as Citizens Advice or a law centre
- Working as a paralegal in a law firm or an in-house legal department
- Working in a law clinic
However, the following won’t count:
- Admin, finance, IT or marketing work (even if it’s within a law firm)
- A placement consisting of a single repetitive and limited task
- Simulated legal services
To pass the QWE, you’ll need to demonstrate your competency across a wide range of areas, such as ethics, managing yourself at work, professionalism and judgement, technical legal practice and working with others. This means you should ensure that your role covers all of the necessary competencies, which your employer or hiring organisation will be able to advise you on.
There are many ways in which you can study for the SQE, giving you the flexibility to train in a way that suits you.
There are plenty of courses to choose from, including BARBRI’s online SQE1 Prep and SQE2 Prep courses, both of which include a flexible personal study plan, supplemental touchpoint workshops and one-to-one mentor support.
These SQE preparation courses aim to provide you with the legal knowledge you need to answer the questions you’re most likely to be asked in the SQE1 and SQE2 examinations.
Online programmes, such as BARBRI’s, are usually more effective than in-person instruction because they use AI and algorithms to follow an individual learner’s journey. Completing a course on the internet rather than in person also offers more flexibility, consistency and support.
Anyone can take the SQE, providing they have a degree in law or a non-law degree with a preparation course, but to qualify as a solicitor of England and Wales, you’ll also need to complete two years of QWE and meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.