SQE explained – a new way to qualify as a solicitor - Law Training Centre

SQE explained – a new way to qualify as a solicitor

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Your guide to the forthcoming Solicitor’s Qualifying Examination (SQE). It will transform the way you can become a solicitor.

Do you want to practice as a solicitor? With the SQE, there will be lots more ways in which it can happen. This will include through training that makes it cheaper and more accessible for a wider range of people to do the job. But these new ways will be just as thorough and professional as their predecessors.

The SQE will take effect from 2021 – learn about it now: you will need to prepare.

What happens now?

At the moment, aspiring solicitors must have:

  • A law degree – or a non-law degree plus a postgraduate conversion course called Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). These provide the basics of legal knowledge.

  • Plus

  • A legal practice course (LPC – a vocational qualification). This provides further legal knowledge and training in practical legal skills such as drafting legal documents and advocacy.
  • Completed a training contract – two years of work experience with one legal employer.

  • Currently, the only other available paths 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 completing the LPC with no need to secure a training contract.
  • You have a relevant qualification from an overseas jurisdiction and have then taken the Qualified Transfer Test. This allows you to be a solicitor in England and Wales.

  • The SQE widens the legal market whilst providing consistency in legal education.

    What happens when the SQE is launched?

    From then on, if you want to be a solicitor, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Take Stage One and Stage Two of the SQE. These will cover similar areas to the GDL and LPC, respectively;
  • Complete two years of Qualifying Legal Experience (QLE) – but it needn’t be through a training contract. What qualifies are wider categories of work experience – see below.

  • You do not need to have a University degree to sit the examsso long as your prior academic work is at Level 6, i.e. to degree standard but not necessarily gained through taking a degree. Other, relevant Level 6 qualifications include apprenticeships and other forms of work experience in which learning has been completed at Level 6.

    Standards of character

    The Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) is the driving force behind the SQE. Before people can practice as solicitors it will also expect them to meet standards of certain character and behaviour. What these will be is yet to be announced.

    Stage One SQE

    Examines your ability to apply legal knowledge. It includes a practical examination on legal research and writing, and tests of legal knowledge on:

  • Principles of Professional Conduct, Public and Administrative law and the Legal Systems of England and Wales.
  • Dispute Resolution in Contract or Tort.
  • Property Law and Practice.
  • Commercial and Corporate Law and Practice.
  • Will and Administration of Estates and Trusts.
  • Criminal Law and Practice.

  • The emphasis is on testing how candidates apply what they learn about the law to real life situations, in other words their “functioning legal knowledge”. Assessment is by 360-scenario-based, multiple-choice question plus written tasks (e.g., writing a legal letter). All examinations need to occur within a short space of time.

    Stage Two SQE

    This part of the SQE examines legal skills such as advocacy, client interviewing and drafting legal documents – as well as testing legal knowledge. Students must demonstrate their ability to apply those legal skills across the following five practice areas:

  • Criminal Practice.
  • Dispute Resolution.
  • Property.
  • Wills and Administration of Estates and Trusts.
  • Commercial and Corporate Practice.

  • For example, student must demonstrate ability in skills in advocacy, interviewing or drafting in Property plus the other four areas. Some SQE2 exams will be online; others involve role playing in the form of mock interviews with actors playing clients.

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

    Qualifying Legal Experience (QLE)

    Your two years’ legal work experience (QLE) can occur before, during or after completing SQE 1 and 2 – even though the SRA thinks the majority will do most of their work experience post SQE 1.

    There is flexibility: for example, two-months’ pre-SQE 1 paralegal work experience may be deducted from the mandatory 24 months’ total, leaving 22 months’ work experience.

    What constitutes suitable qualifying work experience has yet to be fully decided but is likely to include:

  • Paralegal work.
  • Law apprenticeships.
  • Work placements.
  • Volunteering.

  • N.B. The organisation with which you do legal work experience must be recognised as complying with SRA rules. The experience must also be validated by one of the following:

  • Solicitor at the organisation.
  • Compliance officer for legal practice.
  • A solicitor outside the organisation with direct experience of the student’s work.

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

    If you are studying for those before September 2021 you may continue with this route.


    After passing SQE stage one, you have six years to complete the two years’ QLE and pass SQE2. You can re-sit the SQE twice during that six-year period. In other words, you can study it for a maximum of three times.

    Widening access to the profession

    The SQE will allow law firms to plan more flexible career paths for their staff. It’s part of a pattern in which some workers study only for specific legal areas but who then become more widely qualified and potentially head for partnerships as and when they aspire and when the business requires. It should give greater “career-power” to those who want to earn and learn, for example someone on the following path:

  • Being in possession of a level 6 qualification. The subject for which may be non-legal or it could be legal as part of a non-degree, such as Level 6 qualification route offered by an educator such as Law Training Centre. . Having those qualifications will satisfy the degree part for taking the SQE exams, as degrees are assessed at Level 6. They also make it more likely you have some qualifying work experience – but please check. AND
  • Studying an SQE1 preparation course and pass the SQE1 exams. THEN
  • Studying an SQE2 preparation course and pass the SQE2 exams. AND
  • Completing two years’ QLE. WHILE
  • Satisfying the SRA of your suitability to practice and your character.

  • Costs

    The SRA estimates that the total cost of the SQE will be between £3,000 and £4,500 broken down into between £1,100 and £1,650 for SQE stage one and between £1,900 and £2,850 for the second stage.

    The Law Training Centre (LTC) will provide preparatory courses and Level 6 qualifications for the SQE. LTC is listed on the SRA website as an SQE training and materials provider.

    For more information on our SQE courses, please email info@ltckent.co.uk