SQE at a glance
It’s not just a new name, it’s an entirely different way of testing, bringing with it the need for an entirely new way of preparing for the examination.
The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) is an independent centralised assessment, introduced in September 2021, which every aspiring solicitor in England and Wales is required to undergo. It will eventually replace all current routes to solicitor qualification.
The SQE is comprised of a series of exams that, unlike the GDL/LPC exams, include mixed subject questions (contract with civil litigation, for example) and multiple-choice formats. Furthermore, the SQE means that a classic undergraduate law degree, or non-law degree, will provide insufficient test preparation on their own.
The SQE has been designed to establish the competence of candidates qualifying as solicitors. All candidates who have passed the SQE will have demonstrated the competencies specified by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) through the Statement of Solicitor Competence (SoSC).
The new path to qualification
Under the new SQE route, to become a solicitor, you are required to undergo the following steps:
Undergraduate degree or equivalent
An undergraduate degree in any subject, or equivalent, obtained domestically or internationally.
Duration: 2-4 academic years
This consists of two Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK) assessments. LPC graduates are exempt from the SQE1 exam. More on the exemption and the process of application for it here.
This is the stage of the practical legal skills assessment. A candidate must pass the SQE1 exam before proceeding with sitting the SQE2 exam, unless they are exempt.
Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)
Two years’ worth of qualifying work experience in up to four different organisations that can demonstrate solicitors’ skills. This can be paid or unpaid and needs to be signed off by a qualified solicitor or a Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP).
This can be undertaken before, during, or after the SQE assessments.
For more information on the QWE, please check the SRA website here.
Why was it introduced?
The main aim of the SQE is to ensure that all candidates meet the same single, high standard for admission into the profession. It also opens up the profession by providing flexibility during the qualification process for SQE candidates, ensuring more diversity and inclusion.
For more on this, you can read the Bridge Group report and the Hook Tangaza research findings, both of which were commissioned to assess the impact of the SQE on the legal profession and admission to it.
Why take the new SQE rather than the old route?
The SQE offers greater flexibility, spreading the preparation course and exam fees over longer time periods.
Unlike the full-time LPC, earn whilst learning with BARBRI SQE Prep.
The SQE and the opportunity for qualifying work experience in place of a traditional training contract allows flexible entry into the profession.
Many smaller LPC providers will discontinue their course or migrate to SQE preparation, making it difficult to gain a place in an affordable or convenient LPC.
Innovation and investment will be directed towards the SQE as universities, law firms and employers begin focusing on the new qualification.
From 2022, most employers will expect their future trainees to have qualified under the SQE.
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