Start the LPC now or wait for the SQE? - Law Training Centre
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Start the LPC now or wait for the SQE?

BY EVE DULLABH
What should you do as of now, if you haven’t started the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and you do not have a training contract in place? Should you press ahead “blind” and start the Legal Practice Course before seeking a two-year training contract with a law firm?
Or should you delay, obtain some (hopefully paid) qualifying work experience, and wait for the new regime of legal education and qualification that will be ushered in by the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), starting in 2021? Would that process be any less “blind”?
There is no easy answer to these questions – but it is worth taking a minute to think about the value of:
  • Understanding and reminding ourselves of what the SQE involves.
  • Reflecting on the current changes and facts in relation to the legal recruitment market.
  • 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).
  • Plus
  • Completed the Legal Practice Course (LPC – a vocational qualification).
  • Completed a training contract – involving two years of work experience with one legal employer.
  • The exceptions are if:
  • You have first qualified as a Chartered Legal Executive with the Chartered Legal Executive (CILEx), and then completed the LPC with no need to secure a training contract.
  • If you have a relevant qualification from an overseas jurisdiction and have then successfully completed the Qualified Lawyer Transfer Test. This allows you to be a solicitor in England and Wales.
  • What happens when the SQE is launched?

    From 2021, if you want to be a solicitor, you’ll need to do the following:

    1) Complete Stage One (SQE1) and Stage Two (SQE2) of the SQE. These will cover similar areas to the GDL and LPC, respectively.

    2) Complete two years of qualifying legal work experience (QWE) – this does not need to be achieved through the traditional training contract. What constitutes suitable qualifying work experience is varied and now includes:
  • Paralegal work.
  • Law apprenticeships.
  • Work placements within a legal setting.
  • Relevant legal volunteering, e.g. for a Citizens Advice Bureau.
  • N.B. The organisation with which you do legal work experience must be recognised as complying with SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) rules.

    Your two years of qualifying legal work experience (QWE) can occur before, during or after completing SQE Stage 1 and 2.

    Transition rules – if you’ve started your LPC:

  • You can qualify through the existing routes or the SQE.
  • You have 11 years after the SQE is introduced to qualify in this way.
  • If you cannot find a training contract, the SRA will also accept recognised experience equivalent to the new qualifying work experience so long as you have successfully completed the LPC and the SQE2
  • Options and considerations

  • SQE courses are shorter – so, in theory, doing them takes less time. But – as SQE has not been launched – the overall qualification period for taking them may be longer than if you start the LPC now.
  • The SQE route is more accessible for qualifying as a solicitor if you have legal work experience than trying to secure a training contract.
  • In the run-up to taking your exams, you can familiarise yourself and take advantage of the various types of qualifying work experience, the variety of which is likely to diversify in time (with more apprenticeship schemes for graduates).
  • The SQE 1 exam will cost £1,558.00 and the SQE 2 exam £2,422.00, with preparation courses starting from £1,200 (SQE 1) and £1,900.00 (SQE 2), making it considerably cheaper than the LPC. But the latter can meet the requirements for a graduate loan while this is unlikely to be the case for the SQE, at least in the immediate future.
  • If you have already completed the LPC or will do by the time the SQE launches in 2021, you can still switch to the SQE stream and complete the qualifying work experience element and pass the SQE 2.
    It is important that you make the choice that works for you. The team at Law Training Centre are here to help you at any stage of your career. We offer a range of courses for anyone interested in entering or progressing further in the legal profession. Call the team at 0330 088 8495 for more information about our courses.