All about the SQE
What is the SQE?
Previously, the route to becoming a solicitor in England and Wales involved the Legal Practice Course (LPC). If an aspiring solicitor graduated with a qualifying law degree, they would immediately proceed to the LPC, and complete a two-year training contract soon after. The route for non-law graduates was slightly different as they had to obtain their Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) first, before competing their LPC and training contract.
The qualification route has now changed, due to the implementation of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). The SQE is a new centralised exam for solicitors that was introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in September 2021 and effectively replaced the LPC. Under this new system, aspiring solicitors will have to pass Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the SQE, and complete two years of qualifying work experience.
The SQE was created to ensure that all aspiring solicitors, regardless of which education route they took, are assessed to the same standard. This ensures consistency across the board. Furthermore, the SRA believes that the introduction of the SQE will reduce the barriers to entering the legal profession as the cost of study is far cheaper in comparison to the LPC.
Upon completion of the SQE stages, the SRA will check to ensure each candidate meets their suitability requirements before officially admitting them as a solicitor. Candidates must have no criminal record, no record of dishonesty, and no serious credit or money issues.
For those interested in the complete route of becoming a solicitor, check out the Stages To Becoming a Solicitor article.
Stage 1 of the SQE
SQE 1 consists of two exams, each made up of 180 multiple-choice questions.
The first exam tests the following topics:
- Business law and practice
- Contract law
- Dispute resolution
- Legal Services
- The legal system of England and Wales
- Public Law
- Tort law
Contrastingly, the second exam tests:
- Criminal law and practice
- Land law
- Property law and practice
- Solicitors accounts
- Wills and admin of estates
SQE 1 costs £1,558 and should be sat after the completion of a qualifying law degree or the GDL. A candidate must pass SQE 1 before attempting SQE 2.
Stage 2 of the SQE
SQE 2 tests practical legal skills and functioning legal knowledge. It is comprised of 16 written and oral tasks.
The following skills will be assessed across various contexts:
- Case and matter analysis
- Client interviewing and attendance note
- Legal drafting
- Legal research
- Legal drafting
SQE 2 costs £2422. A candidate is allowed to resit both the SQE 1 and SQE 2, a maximum of three times, within a time frame of six years.
Qualifying Work Experience
The two years of qualifying work experience can be taken at any point during the SQE. However, the SRA expects that a majority of candidates will pass SQE 1 before beginning their work experience. The legal work experience can be completed at a maximum of four organisations, and is not limited to just training contracts, unlike the LPC. Working as a paralegal, volunteering at a law clinic, or even completing a legal work placement all meet the work experience requirements. The experience does not have to be paid but must allow the candidate to develop the competencies a solicitor has. Each placement or work experience will need to be signed off by a solicitor at the organisation.
Essentially, the creation of the SQE has given aspiring solicitors more flexibility when it comes to obtaining work experience. It reduces the stress of securing an overly competitive training contract, by diversifying the types of work experience that are recognised.
Check out the ‘Law Jobs’ section to see what trainee solicitor or other qualifying work experience opportunities we currently have available.
What Does The SQE Mean For Recent Law Graduates?
The SRA has stated that if a candidate has started their law degree or LPC before September 2021, they have up till 2032 to qualify under the LPC. Having said this, candidates also have the option to switch to the new SQE route, if they prefer. Aspiring solicitors that begin their degree after September 2021, will not have the option of qualifying via the LPC.
Although the route to becoming a solicitor is considered an arduous journey, the introduction of the SQE does seem to reduce the barriers to entry into the legal field.
Written by: Simran Gill