In Autumn 2021, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) introduced the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) meaning prospective solicitors are no longer required to take the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) to become a solicitor.
This new exam is the route that all new solicitor applicants in England and Wales have to take from 2021 onwards. The SQE will need to be taken in conjunction with a minimum of two years of qualifying work experience with a law firm. Applicants are also required to satisfy the SRA’s character and suitability, and English language requirements.
There are several differences between the SQE and the old-style LPC and GDL. And whilst the move to the new system isn’t completed yet, it’s advisable to familiarise yourself with the SQE as this is a viable choice for you.
SQE vs LPC and GDL
That process to phase out the LPC and GDL is fully underway and will soon be completely replaced by the new SQE route. Students who began a law degree, LPC or GDL prior to September 2021 can continue with their current qualifications until they are completely phased out in 2032. However, from this point on, all students will have to pass the same exams in the SQE before they can qualify as a solicitor.
What are the differences between the SQE, LPC and GDL?
The main difference between the SQE, LPC and GDL is that the SQE is made up of two exams, whilst the LPC and GDL are courses that feature examinations.
Previously, students would sit several individual exams that related to specific topics or career aspirations. This means that there were various routes that applicants could take in their studies. However, the SRA has now standardised the SQE so that every student must pass the same exams and complete the same amount of work experience, no matter if they have a qualifying law degree or are non-law graduates. The old system meant that non-law graduates could only progress through the GDL whilst law graduates took the LPC route.
Which pathway is cheaper?
The SQE can also work out cheaper than the LPC and GDL, which could cost upwards of £15,000. Currently, applicants must pay a total fee of £4,115 to sit both the SQE1 and SQE2, although this excludes the cost of an SQE preparation course and other studying materials.
Although applicants don’t have to take a preparation course to sit the SQE, the sheer number of topics and information in the exams mean that taking a prep course can greatly improve your chances of passing the first time. The cost of the SQE is just one incentive to pass the exams as quickly as possible, as well as the speed at which students want to progress through their application.
What is Qualifying Work Experience?
Another major difference between SQE and the older qualification methods is the method of gaining work experience. Solicitors who want to qualify through the SQE must complete two years of qualifying work experience, which can be completed at up to four different legal organisations. Previous work experience can also be counted towards the two years if it meets the set criteria.
The LPC and GDL, on the other hand, requires most students to complete a two-year training contract at a single organisation or firm, which can be difficult to secure due to the high demand. Training contracts can only be offered by a firm or organisation that are authorised to work with trainee solicitors.
BARBRI SQE Prep courses
BARBRI offers full and part-time SQE1 Prep courses, which are offered online with the support of a 1:1 Learning Coach. Video lectures, workbooks and practice lectures will help you to gradually build the knowledge you need to pass the exams first time.
Breakdown of the LPC vs SQE
Fill out the form below to download a comparison of the two routes to qualification.