What is the SQE?
The SQE, or Solicitors Qualifying Examination is an assessment for aspiring solicitors in England and Wales. The assessment ensures that only the highest standards are met for qualifying solicitors.
The SQE is a new exam that will replace the LPC and GDL, with the first assessment of this new process taking place later this year. You do not need a degree to qualify as a solicitor if you have equivalent qualification or work experience.
Everyone must take the SQE assessments which are broken down into assessment 1 and 2, to qualify as a solicitor in the UK.
The SQE comes into force from the 1st September 2021 and will replace the LPC, Legal Practice Course, but will continue to be offered for at least three years from September 2021.
Currently, the most common route to qualification requires you to complete a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD), such as the LLB, or a non-law degree and law conversion course such as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).
You then must complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and undertake a two-year period of recognised training (more commonly known as a training contract) with a law firm. During the training contract, you must attend the Professional Skills Course (PSC) and pass a final assessment as part of that course.
With the SQE, the requirements have changed slightly:
- you must still hold a degree or equivalent, but it can be in any subject
- you must pass the new SQE assessments
- you must have a minimum of two years’ ‘Qualifying Work Experience’ (QWE)
- you must still be able to show that you are of satisfactory character and suitability
How the SQE works
The SQE is a new assessment that all aspiring solicitors will soon be required to pass.
SQE Assessment 1
The SQE1 assessment will test your ‘functioning legal knowledge’ in two exams, made up of 180 multiple choice questions.
The first exam covers:
- business law and practice
- dispute resolution
- legal system of England and Wales
- constitutional and administrative law and EU law and legal services.
The second part of SQE1 covers:
- property practice
- wills and administration of estates
- solicitors accounts
- land law
- criminal law and practice.
SQE Assessment 2
The SQE2 assessment will test some of the professional skills needed to practice. The assessment is taken over five days and is comprised of 16 practical exercises involving both written and oral tasks. SQE2 assesses the following skills:
- Client interviewing
- Case and matter analysis
- Legal research and written advice
- Legal drafting
The practice contexts are:
- criminal litigation
- dispute resolution
- property practice
- wills and intestacy, probate administration and practice
- business organisations rules and procedures.
The SQE will launch from 1st September 2021, with the first SQE 1 assessment taking place in November 2021. However, there will be transitional arrangements in place until 2032 for those who have already started on their route to qualification. Their current advice is, if you wish to continue to qualification on the current route, you must, on or before 31st August 2021, have accepted an offer for a QLD or a conversion course (CPE/GDL/PGDL) as long as those courses commence on or before 31 December 2021.
However, for non-law graduates, if you have accepted an offer of a training contract before 31 August 2021, you have until 31 August 2022 to apply for, accept and commence that course. If you have deferred your place on a QLD or conversion course that was due to start in 2020, as a result of COVID-19, you may start that course at any time in the 2021/22 academic year, up to and including 31 August 2022.
If you are on your way to becoming a solicitor you have until 2032 to qualify via the current route. You must have started the LPC by no later than 31 August 2026.
Alternatively, even if you have started, you may opt to switch onto the new route. In practice, your options may become more limited as the transitional period progresses, as these current programmes may be phased out and replaced by programmes more focused on the SQE.
If, at the point the SQE comes in, you have not started on your route to qualification, you will have to qualify under the SQE.
Costs and fees
SQE Stage 1 Centralised Assessments £1,558
SQE Stage 2 Centralised Assessments £2,422
SQE 1 and 2 Centralised Assessments £3,980
These costs do not include the cost of SQE prep courses.
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