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
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What should you do as of now, if you haven’t started a Legal Practice Course (LPC) and you don’t have a training contract promised? Should you press ahead “blind” and start an LPC, and then seek 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 aren’t easy answers to those questions – but it’s worth:

  • Reminding ourselves of what the SQE involves.
  • Some facts about 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’ve 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.

  • If 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.
  • What happens when the SQE is launched?

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

    Take Stage One (SQE1) and Stage Two (SQE2) 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 constitutes suitable qualifying work experience can include:
  • Paralegal work.
  • Law apprenticeships.
  • Work placements within a legal setting.
  • Relevant volunteering, eg for a Citizens Advice Bureau.
  • N.B. The organisation with which you do legal work experience must be recognised as complying with SRA rules.

    Your two years’ legal work experience (QLE) 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 SQE1 and SQE 2.
  • 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 an LPC now.
  • The SQE route is likely to be easier 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 avail yourself 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 aim is to make the SQE cheaper than the LPC – but the latter can meet the requirements for a graduate loan whereas this is unlikely to be the case for the SQE, at least in the immediate future.