From September 2021, the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) will be phased in to become the new centralised way to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales.
It will eventually replace the current route to practice – the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).
The replacement of the GDL is still up for debate, but it appears that SQE1 will cover the core modules as found in the GDL.
The SQE is a single, rigorous assessment for all aspiring solicitors. To qualify students will need to:
- have a degree in any subject or a qualification or experience that is equivalent to a degree, such as a solicitor apprenticeship which combines on the job experience and training
- pass both stages of the SQE assessment – SQE1 focuses on legal knowledge and SQE2 on practical legal skills and knowledge
- two years’ full-time (or equivalent) qualifying work experience’
- pass the SRA character and suitability requirements.
The SQE has been divided into two parts – SQE1 and SQE2.
In SQE1, students will be tested on ‘functioning legal knowledge’ which tests their application of law based on realistic client-based scenarios in multiple choice questions. The assessments will cover subjects they will have studied on a law degree or a conversion course, as well as the vocational practice areas in stage 1 of the LPC. There will be two lengthy multiple-choice papers of 180 questions each, covering all aspects of the SQE1 syllabus. Students must pass SQE1 before being eligible to sit the SQE2 assessments.
In SQE2 students will be tested on the practical legal skills required for practice.
The SQE starts this year, with its first ever SQE1 exams being held this Autumn. There will be three SQE1 sittings in the space of 15 months (Nov 2021, July 2022, Jan 2023).
The total fee for taking both SQE assessments will be £3,980. When it is introduced in September 2021, these fees will cover:
- SQE1 – with a fee of £1,558 for the two examinations consisting of 180 questions each testing candidates’ functioning legal knowledge.
- SQE2 – with a fee of £2,422 for the written and oral tasks testing both practical legal knowledge and skills, which includes advocacy, client interviewing (with written attendance note/legal analysis), legal research, legal writing, legal drafting and case and matter analysis.
Ethics and professional conduct are tested throughout both SQE1 and 2. The fees do not include training costs, which will vary depending on a candidate’s choices.
Not only does the SQE allow for a wider range of students to become a solicitor, but it also cuts GDL/LPC costs. Research shows a disproportionate numbers of solicitors and barristers attended private schools, this was highlighted in a recent BBC article which sheds a light on the lack of confidence young Welsh aspiring lawyers have on their future legal careers.
At Capital, we’re committed to making the journey of becoming a lawyer as accessible to all as possible, regardless of your background.