There are four different requirements you need to satisfy before qualifying as a solicitor:
- an undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification
- you must pass both SQE assessment 1 and 2
- qualified work experience
- character and suitability assessment
An undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification
In addition to passing the SQE, to be admitted as a solicitor you will need a degree or equivalent, this can be in any subject. “Equivalent” meaning a qualification/experience equivalent to a bachelor's or master's degree, such as:
- a level 6 or 7 apprenticeship
- a level 6 or 7 professional qualification
You must pass both SQE assessment 1 and 2
The SQE will be split into two stages - SQE1 and SQE2, and will be assessed on a pass/fail basis.
SQE1 should be taken after your degree. It tests functioning legal knowledge in two exams, each 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.
This first stage of examinations will be taken on a computer, in one assessment window - meaning they must all be taken together, within the same sitting. SQE1 must be passed in its entirety before attempting SQE2.
The two years qualifying work experience can be taken at any point throughout the SQE, but the SRA expect that the majority of graduates will pass SQE1 before embarking on their main period of work experience.
SQE2 tests practical legal skills. The assessment is taken over five days and is comprised of 16 practical exercises involving both written and oral tasks. Ethics and professional conduct are assessed throughout. SQE2 assesses the following skills:
- client interview and attendance note/legal analysis
- case matter analysis
- legal research
- legal writing
- legal drafting.
The practice contexts are:
- criminal litigation
- dispute resolution
- property practice
- wills and intestacy, probate administration and practice
- business organisations rules and procedures.
As far as resitting the exams go (SQE1 and SQE2), you'll only be allowed three attempts at the assessments and these must be taken within six years.
Qualifying work experience
Under the new system you will be required to undertake a minimum of two years of qualifying work experience (QWE), which:
- is experience of providing legal services that gives you the opportunity to develop the prescribed competences for solicitors
- is at least two years’ full time or equivalent
- has been done in no more than four organisations
- has been signed off by either the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) or a solicitor in the organisation or by another nominated solicitor.
Previously you were required to apply for a training contract, which is two years of work-based training at a single law firm. With QWE, you can gain work experience in a maximum of four periods and at up to four different organisations, giving you greater flexibility and a better opportunity at widening your knowledge and skills as a solicitor.
Character and suitability assessment
The SRA treats your integrity to be a solicitor as seriously as your knowledge and skills. If you do not meet their requirements for character and suitability, then they will not admit you as a solicitor.
These rules apply to anyone looking to qualify as a solicitor, whether it is through the current routes or the SQE once it is introduced in September 2021.
You can check what is required by reading the SRA rules.
Everyone applying for their character and suitability assessment will need to complete the screening process which involves a check by the Disclosure and Barring Service, before submitting their application. This costs £39.
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