Do I need a degree to sit the SQE1 and SQE2?
No. However, to be admitted as a solicitor, you will need a degree (in any subject) or equivalent, in addition to passing the SQE and meeting the other requirements.
Equivalent means a qualification equivalent to a bachelor's or master's degree, such as:
- a level 6 or 7 apprenticeship
- a level 6 or 7 professional qualification
If you don't have an equivalent qualification, you may be able to count work experience as equivalent.
Will the SQE be cheaper?
Yes! Aside from any course or preparation fees, the total cost to complete both SQE examinations is £3,980. This is obviously very different to the conventional LPC route, which can cost up to £17,000 with no guarantee of a training contract.
Prep courses and studying options for the SQE are available, and BARBRI are offering prep courses for graduates at a cost of £2,999.
What will the SQE1 and SQE2 examinations test me on?
SQE1 is designed to test your “functional” legal knowledge. It will consist of two multiple-choice tests dealing with broad legal rules and principles.
SQE2 is designed to test your “practical” legal skills, and can only be attempted once you have passed the SQE1. More specifically, it will be a mixture of written examinations and oral role-plays, and will test six key skill areas: client interview and legal analysis, advocacy, case and matter analysis, legal research, legal writing, and legal drafting.
Can I still qualify via the existing routes?
If you are hoping to qualify via the LPC route, you can still do this as long as you meet certain criteria. By the 21st of September 2021, you must have completed, started, accepted an offer on, or paid a non-refundable deposit for one of the following:
- A Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) / the Common Professional Examination.
- The Legal Practice Course (LPC).
- A period of recognised training (also known as a training contract).
- A qualifying law degree or an exempting law degree.
Anyone who falls within this group will have until 31 December 2032 to qualify as a solicitor under the current routes, as long as courses still remain available.
Where can I study for the SQE?
Preparation courses for the SQE are not compulsory. However, preparation courses will help prepare you for the examinations, and will increase your chances of passing.
There are a range of postgraduate SQE1 and SQE2 preparation course available. BARBRI, The University of Law, The College of Legal Practice and BPP, are all offering full time and part time preparation course options. Additionally, some undergraduate law courses will now likely include SQE1 preparation as part of the degree.
How many times can the SQE be taken?
Can I still do the SQE if I already have the GDL / LPC?
Yes. If you have completed the GDL, you are able to qualify through the full SQE route. You will just need to pass SQE1, SQE2, and your 2 years of QWE.
If you have completed the LPC, you can change course and qualify via the SQE. You will only have to complete SQE2, and your two years of QWE.
How will the SQE change the qualification process for lawyers?
The new system is designed to make the standard of qualification consistent – all aspiring solicitors, no matter which route they take, will sit the SQE stages one and two. The SRA hopes that this new route will make qualification more accessible by lowering the cost of study compared to the current graduate diploma in law (GDL) and legal practice course (LPC). The total fee for taking both SQE assessments is expected to be £3,980 (£1,558 for stage one and £2,422 for stage two), although this does not include training costs.
What are the requirements for qualifying as a solicitor via the SQE?
To be able to qualify as a solicitor via the SQE route, individuals will need to:
- hold an undergraduate degree in any subject or have completed an equivalent qualification such as a legal apprenticeship
- have completed two years' qualifying work experience, in up to four organisations. There is no minimum time individuals will need to have spent in these organisations and the experience does not need to be of equal length
- meet certain character and suitability requirements.
What is a degree equivalent qualification?
A UK qualification can be considered equivalent if it is:
- An accredited qualification at level 6 (or above) of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications, awarded by the recognised degree-awarding body; or
- A regulated qualification at level 6 (or above) of the Regulated Qualifications Framework (England, Wales, and Northern Ireland); or
- An apprenticeship at level 6 or above, approved by the government departments of England, Wales, or Northern Ireland; or
- A qualification or apprenticeship at level 9 or above of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).
The degree can be in any subject, and doesn't have to be in law.
What is Qualifying Work Experience?
The SQE requires that you are able to evidence that you have completed 2 years of work experience in an appropriate legal setting. It is important that you have understood what is expected or permitted to make sure that you don’t waste your time completing work experience that is not considered suitable.
The two years' qualifying work experience can be in up to four organisations. There is no minimum time individuals will need to have spent in these organisations and the experience does not need to be of equal length.
Can anyone sign off the work experience?
The work experience has to be signed off by a solicitor that holds a practising certificate. They do not need to be practising, but do need to hold the qualification. They also need to be able to confirm that you have completed the QWE – they will not be asked to sign off your competency, rather that you completed the two year QWE.
How is QWE recorded?
QWE must be recorded by the candidate so that it can be confirmed by a solicitor. The SRA first advises candidates to check with the organisation offering QWE what systems or processes are in place to help them record their experience, if any. This could be a training diary, learning development record or work portfolio.
If nothing is available, candidates should use the SRA’s QWE training template to record their work experience. The template enables candidates to record physical evidence (eg, copies of documents) as well as descriptions of how the candidate feels they have met the competences in the Statement of Solicitor Competence. Candidates should regularly check in with their confirming solicitor to ensure that they are both clear about how the competences are being evidenced. This could be done in a regular meeting or appraisal.
How is QWE confirmed?
QWE must be signed off by a solicitor who is qualified in England and Wales, but the solicitor does not need to have a practising certificate. This means that, for example, law lecturers who are qualified solicitors and are involved in university law clinics can confirm QWE.
A solicitor can confirm QWE without directly supervising a candidate’s work, but they must have reviewed the candidate’s work during the relevant period of work experience and they must have received feedback from the person/people who supervised the candidate. The confirming solicitor can either work within the organisation in which the candidate did the work experience, or outside the organisation. However, if the confirming solicitor works outside the relevant organisation, they must have direct experience of the candidate’s work.
A barrister cannot confirm QWE unless they are also qualified as a solicitor.
The confirming solicitor does not decide whether the candidate is competent or suitable to practise as a solicitor – this is assessed by the SQE and the character and suitability threshold. Instead, the solicitor must confirm:
- the length of work experience completed;
- that the placement provided the opportunity to develop some or all of the competences outlined in the Statement of Solicitor Competence; and
- that no issues arose during the work experience that raise questions over the individual's character and suitability.
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