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18 March 2024

From a paralegal to a solicitor – what’s stopping you from qualifying?

Paralegals are vital to the smooth running of many law firms and being a paralegal can make for a rewarding career within the legal field. However, for some, working as a paralegal is a stepping stone to becoming a qualified lawyer.  

Although it can be difficult to take the next step, qualifying as a solicitor might be more achievable than you think. In this blog, we’re helping you break down the barriers to becoming a qualified solicitor and giving you all the information you need to take on the next part of your legal career journey. 


How can I qualify as a solicitor? 

There are lots of misconceptions about qualifying as a solicitor in the legal industry, with many stuck in traditional ways of thinking about ‘training contracts’ and the LPC route. However, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has now introduced the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), a new, flexible way to qualify as a solicitor that will take over from the LPC. 

Through this route, aspiring solicitors no longer have to battle it out for highly competitive and very rare training contracts, and instead can put themselves in the driver’s seat when it comes to qualifying. To qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales, candidates now have to satisfy four main elements: 

  • Have a degree in any subject (or equivalent Level 6 qualification or work experience) 
  • Pass both stages of the SQE assessment or be exempt 
  • Have two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE) which can be obtained before, during or after your studies 
  • Pass SRA character and suitability requirements 

If you are worried about satisfying the first element, you can find out about qualifying as a solicitor without a law degree here.


The benefits of the SQE for paralegals 

Although it might seem like a lot of work to take the next step, the SQE might actually make your route to qualification quicker if you are already working as a paralegal. 

The third requirement for the SQE is having two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE). This might sound like an extra chunk of time added to your qualification, but this work experience can be accrued before you embark on the assessments, meaning that you can likely use your paralegal experience!  

QWE is flexible and can be obtained before, during or after your studies. It can be completed at up to four places of work. 

So, if you have already worked as a paralegal for two or more years, you will likely be able to tick this requirement off the list before you even begin your studies. If you haven’t worked as a paralegal for that long, don’t worry! You can still use a range of other experiences towards your QWE, including placements during a law degree, law clinic work or voluntary work. 

Once you have completed your QWE, you will need to get it confirmed by a solicitor or compliance officer for legal practice (COLP). This can be done by a supervisor at your placement, or can be carried out by our partner, Access Law Clinic, through their QWE Review & Confirm Service. If you would like to find out more or require any guidance, please reach out to Access Law Clinic at [email protected].  

Aside from the benefits of QWE, as you are already working actively within a legal environment, you will also likely have a range of knowledge and skills that can support you in passing both your SQE1 and SQE2 assessments, supporting you throughout your preparation courses and making the process less intimidating. 


Asking your employer for support 

For many aspiring solicitors, the final hurdle often comes down to finance. However, as a working paralegal, this might be the perfect opportunity to ask your employer for financial support with your studies so that you can take the next step in your career. 

With over 700 employers sponsoring their teams through training with Law Training Centre, getting support from an employer is a well-practised route to qualifying affordably. Plus, asking your employer for support is a great way to show your commitment to your role and your aspiration for improvement and growth within the firm. 

If you would like to ask your employer for financial support but don’t know where to start, why not download our template and guide, designed to help aspiring solicitors create a strong business case for sponsorship that you can present to your manager? 

Download our SQE Career Progression Business Plan template and guide here.


So, progressing your career from a paralegal to a solicitor might not be as out of reach as you thought. If you have any questions about qualifying as a solicitor, or would like to know more about our SQE courses, please contact our friendly Student Services Team at [email protected] 

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