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SQE

About Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)

 

What Is The SQE?

The introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), a single, national licensing examination, presents the opportunity for greater flexibility of study methods, less cost and no training contract needed to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales from 1st September 2021.

The SQE provides flexibility in how you can obtain qualifying work experience and complete the necessary preparation for assessment. This will include training that makes it cheaper and more accessible for a wider range of people to qualify as solicitors.

SQE1 Prep Courses

Law Training Centre offers three flexible preparation courses for the SQE1 exam. Each of these courses are fully flexible and will help to support and prepare students to qualify as a solicitor in a way that fits around their existing work/life commitments. Students can benefit from choosing a course which best fits their needs, depending on their existing legal knowledge and experience:

  1. SQE1 Full Prep Course – Our most comprehensive course with personal academic coach and 15 months course access
  2. SQE1 Express Prep Course – Comprehensive course with 9 months course access – recommended for learners who have completed some form of prior legal qualification
  3. SQE1 Just Mocks – Ideal for learners who are confident in their legal knowledge and seeking to gain mock exam experience

 

The other available pathways to becoming a qualified solicitor are if:

  • You have first qualified as a Chartered Legal Executive with the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX), and then completed the LPC. There is no requirement for you to secure a training contract as part of this pathway
  • You have a relevant qualification from an overseas jurisdiction and completed the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme. This allows you to become a solicitor in England and Wales
  • You use the Equivalent Means route

The latest guidance by the SRA on routes to admission can be seen here along with the Transitional Arrangements here. The SQE, therefore, widens the legal market whilst providing consistency in legal education.

 

What is the SQE pathway to qualification as a Solicitor?

From 1 September 2021, to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales you will need to meet four main requirements, with the SQE being one of these key elements.

To allow flexibility in how you qualify, the SRA has not yet stated any order in which you must complete the four requirements. Therefore, you can choose when and how you complete each part to fit around your own commitments. For example, you can start to develop and collate your work experience before you start your SQE prep course, whilst other students might decide to start the work experience alongside their SQE course.

The four elements you need to have to become a solicitor are:

  • Have a degree in any subject (or equivalent qualification or work experience)
  • Pass both stages of the SQE assessment – SQE1 focuses on legal knowledge and SQE2 on practical legal skills
  • Have two years’ qualifying work experience
  • Pass SRA character and suitability requirements

There are no entry requirements for you to sit SQE1. To sit SQE2, you must have passed SQE1. However, as SQE is a high stakes assessment with a limit of three attempts in a six-year period, it is advisable that candidates undergo SQE preparation.

Whilst it is possible for a person to take the SQE1 exam before doing their degree/degree equivalent qualification, it is expected that most learners will complete their degree/degree equivalent qualification before or alongside preparing for the SQE.

 

SQE Assessment Stage – SQE1 (Functioning Legal Knowledge)

SQE1 examines your legal knowledge, and your ability to apply this knowledge, in the following areas:

  • Business Law and Practice
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Contract
  • Tort
  • Legal System of England and Wales, Constitutional and Administrative Law and EU Law and Legal Services
  • Land Law
  • Property Practice
  • Wills and the Administration of Estates
  • Trusts
  • Criminal Law and Practice
  • Solicitors
  • Accounts Ethics

The emphasis of SQE1 is on testing how candidates apply what they learn about the law to real life situations, in other words, their “functioning legal knowledge”. Assessment will take the form of multiple-choice questions.

The first SQE1 exam sitting will be in November 2021. You can read more about the SQE1 assessment  here.

 

SQE Assessment stage – SQE2 (Practical Legal Skills Assessments)

This part of the SQE examines legal skills such as:

  • Client interview and attendance note/legal analysis
  • Advocacy
  • Case and matter analysis
  • Legal research
  • Legal writing
  • Legal drafting

Students must demonstrate their ability to apply those legal skills across the following five practice areas:

  • Criminal Litigation (including advising clients at the police station)
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Property Practice
  • Wills and Intestacy, Probate Administration and Practice
  • Business organisations, rules, and procedures (including money laundering and financial services)

SQE2 will test practical skills in a range of different settings, for example, skills in advocacy, interviewing or drafting in civil or criminal law areas.

The SQE will be awarded as a pass or a failure without distinctions or commendations. City firms may ask new recruits to study additional courses or electives.

The first SQE2 exam sitting will take place in April 2021. You can read more about the SQE2 assessment  here.

 

Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)

In relation to QWE, you will need to show that you have completed two years’ work experience in total. In practice, this means that you can accrue the required appropriate work experience before, during or after completion of SQE1, offering flexibility in that work experience is accrued. You are no longer tied to one provider and can utilise up to four organisations to achieve completion of this stage.
For example, you may have worked in a paralegal role for six months. The new approach to qualification may allow for the full six months to be deducted from the two-year requirement. This would mean that you needed to complete a further one year and six-month period of work experience

What constitutes suitable qualifying work experience is likely to include:

  • Paralegal work
  • Law apprenticeships
  • Work placements
  • Volunteering

N.B. The organisation with which you complete the legal work experience must be recognised as complying with SRA rules. It is important that you clarify this point before starting any work experience.

The experience must also be signed off by one of the following:

  • Solicitor at the organisation
  • Compliance officer for legal practice
  • A solicitor outside the organisation with direct experience of the students work

An important point to note is that the solicitor signing off your QWE is confirming that you completed the relevant work experience. They are not there to confirm competency, this will be assessed by the SQE assessments.

 

Degree or equivalent

The degree or equivalent requirement for the SQE pathway has been broadened. If you have a degree (in any subject), or equivalent qualification, you can meet the SRA’s requirement. Equivalent Level 6 qualifications include apprenticeships and other forms of work experience in which learning has been completed successfully at Level 6.

For example, Law Training Centre offers the CILEx Level 6 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice. This qualification would meet the ‘degree or equivalent’ requirement.

 

Standards of character

The Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) has also clarified what they will consider when considering your suitability to work as a solicitor. This is important as the SRA expect certain standards to be met in relation to character and behaviour.

More information on this can be found  here.

 

What happens if I’m already studying for a law degree, GDL and/or LPC?

If you are studying any of the above before 1st of September 2020, you may continue to qualify through the traditional route or choose to follow the new SQE pathway.

For example, if you hold an LPC or will have started one before the 1st of September 2021, you could still qualify via the SQE by asking the SRA to recognise any qualifying work experience you have accrued and by successfully completing the SQE2. Read more about transitional arrangements  here.

 

Timings

Following a successful completion of SQE1, you have six years to complete the necessary two years’ QWE and pass SQE2. You can re-sit the SQE twice during that six-year period.