– Qualification as a solicitor
Qualifying As a Solicitor in England and Wales
From September 2021 unless you meet the transitional requirements. You will need to qualify under the SQE.
To qualify through the SQE route, you will need to:
- have a degree in any subject or equivalent level 6 qualification
- pass both stages of the SQE assessment
- two years’ full-time (or equivalent) qualifying work experience
- pass SRAs character and suitability requirements.
You can find out more on the SQE final design, and development by visiting the following sites:
- Solicitors Regulation Authority
- The SRA are the architects and ‘owners’ of both the SQE and the LPC. So, their advice is definitive, accurate and always up to date. You can read all about the SQE here SRA | Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) | Solicitors Regulation Authority
SQE FAQs & Key Features
The Solicitors Regulation Authority have developed some infographics to help you understand more clearly the SQE route and what to expect. Please visit the below site to find out information such as:
- How to become a solicitor.
- What sitting the SQE will look like.
- What the SQE assessment will test.
- An explanation of Qualifying Work Experience.
SRA | SQE at-a-glance | Solicitors Regulation Authority
- What do I need to study/know to pass the courses? / What is the content of the SQE exams? The SQE is split into:
SQE 1: 2 x exams of 180 MCQs each testing functional legal knowledge (i.e. the knowledge you get from a law degree or a GDL conversion course)▪ SQE 2: 16 written and oral exams to test your practical legal skills & functional legal knowledge in five distinct subject areas.
For full information see Assessment information | SQE | Solicitors Regulation Authority (sra.org.uk) – you’ll also find sample questions here.
FREE access to SQE practice exams, concise SQE e-learning modules and sample SQE1 prep course lectures. https://www.allaboutlaw.co.uk/academy
- Do I need to take a course? It is advisable that you do take a prep course as it is believed that without one you are unlikely to pass the exams (and you will have to pay for retakes). At the time of writing (Jan 2022) there are over 70 organisations offering prep courses. These range from UK Universities who previously offered the LPC, training organisations that have offered other legal qualification in the past (i.e. CiLEX / Barbri) to new organisations, individuals and international bodies in other countries. You can see a full list on https://www.sra.org.uk/students/sqe/training-provider-list/ It is really important that you understand that the prep courses are NOT regulated, accredited or overseen in any way by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (as the LPC is). LawCabs has a list of providers of the LPC, GDL and SQE preparation courses. Legal Cheek has a list of the SQE preparation course providers only.
- How much will the SQE cost? The total cost of the exams only will be £3,980. This is made up of SQE1 @ £1,558 and SQE2 @ £2,422
- How much will prep courses cost? Each provider will set their own prices. They are mostly cheaper than the LPC. A prep course, by itself, is not a recognised qualification and will have limited use on your CV. Courses range in price from £2000 – £11500. Make sure you check out what you will get for the money.
- Can I combine the Prep Course with a Maters Degree? Yes; a number of universities are offering this pathway which consists of all the prep you need for the SQE exams + some extra modules for both interest and to enhance your knowledge/skills to make you attractive to employers. Other benefits include access to student finance (if you haven’t already used your allowance, i.e. by taking a masters already) and you will leave the course with a recognised qualification that employers will value i.e. a Masters degree! You will get this even if you fail the SQE exams – Remember: we are talking about Masters courses that include the SQE prep not the exams which still have to be sat at an external test centre. You can fail the SQE exams and still pass the masters course.
- Can I get funding for the SQE exams? There is no government funding (i.e. no student loan) to take the SQE exams as a stand-alone qualification. Some firms will sponsor (pay) the SQE if they have recruited you to their training programme before you have commenced study (and a few may reimburse although this is not particularly common)
- Can I get funding for the Masters with the SQE prep? Yes, you may qualify for Student Finance to undertake such a course so long as you have not already used your entitlement i.e. by having already taken a Masters course.
- When and where can I take the SQE exams? SQE Exam dates and locations are available here – https://www.sra.org.uk/students/sqe/sqe-assessments/#heading_01fd The SQE 1 exams are taken at Pearson VUE test centres – there are many all around the country and some abroad. The SQE2 exams (at the time of writing – April 2021) have to be taken in London, Cardiff or Manchester.
- What is the pass rate for the SQE? The first-ever SQE1 exam results were released on 20 January 2022 and only 53% of candidates passed.
- Can I retake SQE exams? Yes you can but you will have to pay the full cost again (unless retaking just one part of SQE1). You can resit up to 3 times only. You must conclude the qualification within 6 years or start again.
- Will the SQE allow me to work as a lawyer in another jurisdiction? I have not yet been able to establish how the SQE will be viewed by other jurisdictions. Although many common law countries do accept an English legal vocational qualification there is usually a bias towards the Bar course and often some additional conversion study, exams or assessments to undertake. The best advice I can give is that you check with the relevant regulatory authorities in the country in which you want to practice. This is the same advice I would give in relation to the LPC and Bar courses anyway. Always double check!
As from September 2021 you can only qualify through this route if you meet the transitional requirements. If you do not meet these, you will need to qualify under the SQE.
How to choose between the SQE and LPC
- Always remember that the SQE is a set of exams and the LPC is a course. SQE exams are centrally set and all candidates take the same exam at a test centre outside of any prep course. The LPC is a course that you must attend and the assessments will differ at each university/provider. This gives you chance to pick the course based on the type of assessments you do best in (although most providers will have a mix of assessments)
- The SQE may look cheaper on the face of it but don’t be fooled by cheap courses which may not include much support. It’s important not to simply look at the cost of exams: if you need to retake any assessment you will have to repay in full – in SQE2 this will be the whole cost, even if you have only failed on assessment.
- You must make your own decision based on what is best for you. Do not ask anyone else to make the decision for you but do discuss your options with a Careers Adviser or someone else who knows you and understands the options. If you ask me which you should do I will not tell you; instead, we will talk about the things that you need to consider. This might be: cost; style of learning; whether you want to do a course of study; location; previous legal work history; career aspirations and so on.
- https://www.legalcheek.com/lc-careers-posts/should-i-do-the-lpc-or-sqe/ – this is a great read and really up to date (Nov ’21)
- Should I do the LPC or the SQE? – The Oracle (lawcareers.net)
- LPC vs SQE: choosing the qualification route for you – The Lex 100
- SRA | LPC or SQE decision tree | Solicitors Regulation Authority
- Should I study the LPC or SQE? | The University of Law
- LPC or SQE: Key Differences & Which to Choose| Insights | BPP
Qualifying via the CiLEX pathway
The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives has been training lawyers, called Chartered Legal Executives (CLE), for many years. It is possible to become a solicitor by training to be a CLE and then taking some additional exams. However, CLEs are lawyers in their own right and undertake a very wide range of practice areas so, for many, there is no need to further qualify as a solicitor. The main difference is that a CLE will normally have a single specialism whereas a solicitor will train in a number of practice areas (even if they later stay as a specialist). A CLE will work in the same way as a lawyer with fee-paying clients, they may advocate in court and become a Judge. This way of qualifying has become increasingly popular and is much cheaper than either of the above. Many trainees will also be working whilst they study part-time.
If you are a law graduate you can enter a fast track qualification which only requires you to take two exams. There is a requirement for 3 years of work but it isn’t as formal/structured as a training contract. Non-law graduates are also able to enter this profession (as can non-graduates) but they will have a few more exams to sit.
Read more about this route here:
- CILEX Home – everything you need
- Legal Executive Job Description | TotallyLegal – a short overview
- What is a legal executive? | AllAboutLaw – short overview
- Find a job (cilex.org.uk) – the page for finding a job as a trainee legal executive.