I want to be a solicitor

18 December 2017

This information is for people who want to be a solicitor. It will help you understand what the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) might mean for you.

Qualifying as a solicitor through the SQE

Below is an example of how a graduate could qualify

Solicitors Qualifying Examination timeline

Solicitors Qualifying Examination timescales

The SQE will be introduced in a gradual and inclusive way and will allow candidates to choose between qualifying under the current system or the SQE for a number of years.

Solicitors Qualifying Examination timeline

We know people need time to introduce new courses and recruitment processes, so we will not introduce the SQE before September 2020.

Videos

 

Gurdeep Plahe

Paralegal, Edenhouse Solutions

Talks about how he might qualify under the SQE

 

Crispin Passmore

Executive Director, Policy, SRA

How will solicitors qualify in the future

 

Mariam Ayub

Legal Associate, Squarepoint Capital

On the benefits the new wider qualifying work experience brings

 

Crispin Passmore

Executive Director, Policy, SRA

What will the SQE mean for students

Here are some factors for you to take into account in deciding what route works for you:

  1. Current system of qualification - Qualifying Law Degree/Common Professional Examination, followed by a Legal Practice Course (LPC) and period of recognised training:
    • If you get the offer of a period of recognised training, particularly if the LPC is funded by your law firm, you should probably take it because you would know that you could qualify through this system.
    • If you take the LPC, without the offer of a period of recognised training, you would have to pay for the LPC yourself and you risk not being able to qualify through the current system if you do not then go on to get a period of recognised training.
     
  2. New SQE system of qualification:
    • You would avoid the LPC costs but remember there will be some cost for sitting the SQE assessments and any training courses for the SQE. However, we expect this to cost less overall than taking the LPC (which can cost up to £15,000).
    • Through qualifying work experience, we will allow a wider range of experience in the delivery of legal services to count towards qualification. It could include time spent:
      • on placement during your law degree
      • in a student law clinic
      • working as a paralegal
      • in a traditional two-year period of recognised training.
       
    • But you can only count experience gained in a maximum of four different organisations and your experience must give you the opportunity to develop the competences you need to practise as a solicitor.
    • So, if you do not manage to get the offer of a period of recognised training by the time you graduate, the SQE may be a better route for you – it may be cheaper as you will not have to take the LPC, and it gives you more flexibility to gain relevant work experience.
     
  3. If you already have work experience, look at our qualifying work experience requirements (within our consultation response and analysis of responses) and think about whether there is anything else you need to do.
  4. Ask potential employers what they are doing to prepare for the SQE. You may want to ask:
    • Would you prefer me to have the LPC or the SQE, during the period when there is a choice of qualification systems?
    • Will you pay for me to take the LPC?
    • In relation to the SQE:
      • Are you planning to change how and when you recruit trainee solicitors?
      • Will you support paralegal staff to qualify as a solicitor?
      • Are you planning to change your approach to training?
      • Will you still require/offer a traditional two-year period of recognised training?
      • Will you take account of experience candidates may have gained during their degree or in other job roles?
      • Will you expect me to have passed SQE stage 1 before I start work as a trainee solicitor?
      • Will you pay for the SQE assessments and/or SQE training?
       
     
  5. If you are thinking about going to university, ask for information about the SQE. You may want to ask:
    • How will they help you prepare for the SQE?
    • Are they changing their law courses? If so, how? When will it happen?
    • Will I have to take additional SQE training after I have completed a law degree with you or is SQE training included as part of the law degree?
    • Do they have a student law clinic?
    • Do they work with law firms?
    • If you already have a non-law undergraduate degree, are they offering SQE training courses to replace the current Graduate Diploma in Law/Common Professional Examination?
     
  6. If you are currently on a Qualifying Law Degree, Graduate Diploma in Law or LPC, look at our proposed transitional arrangements to help you identify what you need to do and by when.
  7. If you want to qualify under the current system, think about starting a law a degree before implementation of the SQE.
  8. Join our LinkedIn reference group. It will help you stay up to date with latest developments.

Why are we introducing the SQE?

The SQE will mean everyone meets the same consistently high standards through a common assessment for all would-be-solicitors.

Videos

 

Crispin Passmore

Executive Director, Policy, SRA

An effective competence statement for solicitors

We have already published a Statement of Solicitor Competence, which sets out what solicitors need to be able to do to perform their role effectively, and which provides everyone with a clear indication of what they can expect from their solicitor.

This is supported by our Statement of Legal Knowledge and a Threshold Standard, both of which shows the standards for practising and using the title of solicitor.

What we have done

News release: SRA announces new solicitors assessment to guarantee high standards

Consultation - A new route to qualification: New regulations

Consultation - A new route to qualification: the Solicitors Qualifying Examination

Consultation - Training for Tomorrow: assessing competence

General - I want to be a solicitor

The SQE is the Solicitors Qualifying Examination, which will be brought in no earlier than September 2020.

In the future, all those wishing to qualify as a solicitor will need to pass the SQE, as well as holding a degree or equivalent qualification or experience, complete a two-year period of qualifying work experience and pass a suitability test.

SQE stage 1 primarily tests candidates' functioning legal knowledge. SQE stage 2 primarily tests practical legal skills.

No. However, to be admitted as a solicitor, you will need a degree (in any subject) or equivalent in addition to passing the SQE. ‘Equivalent’ means a qualification equivalent to a bachelor's or master's degree, such as:

  • a level 6 or 7 apprenticeship
  • a level 6 or 7 professional qualification

If you don't have an equivalent qualification, we may be able to count experience in the workplace as equivalent.

Information about the cost of the SQE assessments is not yet available. When we know what the final examinations will look like, then we will be able to offer more detailed information.

 

If training is included as part of a degree, then there will be no additional charge. However, there is likely to be an additional charge for the SQE assessments.

We anticipate that there will be training courses that are not part of a degree by the time the SQE is introduced. These have not yet been launched, so we do not know how much these will cost.

If you start a non-law undergraduate degree in or after academic year 2017-18, and then decide to qualify as a solicitor, you will need to take the SQE and qualify under the new system, assuming it is introduced in 2020.

If you have already graduated with a non-law degree and are looking to start a CPE/GDL, you will need to do this in autumn 2018 or 2019. Then you can qualify under the current system.

SQE assessments timings are not yet available. When we know what the final examinations will look like, then we will be able to offer more detailed information.

 

Sample papers are not yet available. When we know what the final examinations will look like, then we will be able to offer more detailed information.

 

We will be inviting organisations to tender for the delivery of the SQE assessments later this year, and will provide more details then.

 

We are making changes to make sure the way solicitors qualify in the future is consistent, but that does not mean solicitors who qualified under the old system are not competent.

Currently, solicitors undertake extensive and thorough training before qualifying. When qualified, they must undertake a programme of continuing professional development to make sure that they are competent to perform their job roles and provide a proper standard of service to clients.

We will publish data about the performance of all education and training providers. These will not be league tables.

 

We would be delighted if you joined our LinkedIn group. You can use this group to discuss the developing ideas around the SQE and the new routes to qualification.

Later this year, we will also be consulting on the regulations that will underpin the introduction of the SQE and our approach to the admission of overseas lawyers and non-solicitor UK lawyers.

Thinking of becoming a solicitor in the future

There is no time restriction, but candidates are only allowed to sit SQE stage 2 if they have passed stage 1. They must therefore have their stage 1 results before arranging to sit stage 2.

The SQE examination timetable may also affect the time taken between stage 1 and stage 2. The timetable will not be published until 2019/20.

Depending on when you want to qualify as a solicitor, under the new regulations you will need to:

  • have a degree or equivalent qualification or equivalent experience
  • undertake a two-year period of qualifying work experience
  • pass the SQE
  • pass a suitability test.

The target date for the new SQE will be no earlier than September 2020, so you can qualify under the new regulations from then.

We will issue a consultation on our proposed arrangements for anyone who at that date is part way through the current routes to qualification later this year. We will propose that if you have started a Qualifying Law Degree, Common Professional Examination, Graduate Diploma in Law, Legal Practice Course or Exempting Law Degree, you will be able to qualify under the current regulations for a number of years after the introduction of the SQE.

Under the new regulations, you will need qualifying work experience which:

  • comprises experience of providing legal services that gives you the opportunity to develop the prescribed competences for solicitors
  • is at least two years full time or equivalent
  • has been undertaken in no more than four organisations
  • has been confirmed by either the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) or a solicitor in the organisation or by another nominated solicitor. This confirmation must be obtained from each organisation.

A law degree will still provide legal knowledge, but the content of each degree and how closely it is aligned to the content of the SQE assessments may vary. This may also be the case for the Bar Standards Board requirements.

Although you will not need a law degree to qualify as a solicitor, you may wish to check whether your degree provider intend to incorporate SQE preparation as part of the curriculum.

Once the design of the SQE has been finalised, we expect that universities and training providers will signpost whether and how their courses will prepare candidates for the SQE.

Visit the Bar Standards Board website for more on the arrangements for barristers.

We will not specify a particular course or courses which must be taken before sitting the SQE. We anticipate that universities and other training providers will develop a range of different courses to prepare candidates for the SQE assessments. Candidates will be able to choose the type of course which best meets their personal circumstances.

As the decision to introduce the SQE has only just been announced, these courses have not yet been developed, so information on the length or likely costs of such courses is not yet available.

We will check whether you are suitable to become a solicitor when you apply to us for admission after you have passed the SQE and undertaken qualifying work experience. You will be able to get guidance on whether you are likely to pass this process of checking your suitability before you start your training to become a solicitor.

 

To be admitted as a solicitor, you will need a degree (in any subject) or equivalent, in addition to passing the SQE. 'Equivalent' means a qualification equivalent to a bachelor's or master's degree, such as:

  • a level 6 or 7 apprenticeship
  • a level 6 or 7 professional qualification

If you don't have an equivalent qualification, we may be able to count experience in the workplace as equivalent.

Period of Recognised Training (PRT)

We will issue a consultation on our proposed arrangements for anyone partway through the current routes to qualification later this year.

We will propose that if you have started a PRT when the new regulations come into force, you will still be able to qualify under the old regulations for a number of years after the introduction of the SQE.

We will issue a consultation on our proposed arrangements for anyone partway through the current routes to qualification later this year. We will propose that if you hold a Qualifying Law Degree, Common Professional Examination, Graduate Diploma in Law, Legal Practice Course or Exempting Law Degree when the new regulations come into force, you will still be able to qualify under the old regulations for a number of years after the introduction of the SQE. You will therefore have a number of years in which to complete your PRT and take the Professional Skills Course.

Alternatively, you could choose to qualify under the new regulations by passing the SQE and undertaking two years qualifying work experience. This could be carried out in up to four different organisations.

No. Qualifications required on the current routes to qualification as a solicitor only count on those routes to qualification. A Qualifying Law Degree (QLD), Common Professional Examination (CPE), Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), Legal Practice Course (LPC or Exempting Law Degree will not be a regulatory requirement under the new admission arrangements. However, degree level courses will satisfy our requirement that qualifying solicitors hold a degree or equivalent.

Therefore, candidates will not be able to bypass any stages of the SQE because they have already achieved these qualifications. However, they may help prepare candidates for the SQE.

We will issue a consultation on our proposed arrangements for anyone partway through the current routes to qualification later this year. We will propose that if you have started a QLD, CPE, GDL, LPC or Exempting Law Degree when the new regulations come into force, you will still be able to qualify under the old regulations for a number of years after the introduction of the SQE.

Qualifying work experience undertaken now could count towards admission under the new regulations, if it meets the following requirements:

  • it comprises experience of providing legal services that gives you the opportunity to develop the prescribed competences for solicitors.
  • it is at least two years full-time or equivalent.
  • it has been undertaken in no more than four organisations.
  • it has been confirmed by either the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP), a solicitor in the organisation or by another nominated solicitor. This confirmation must be obtained for each organisation.

Current law students

We will issue a consultation on our proposed arrangements for anyone partway through the current routes to qualification later this year. We will propose that if you have started a QLD, CPE, GDL, LPC or Exempting Law Degree when the new regulations come into force, you will still be able to qualify under the old regulations for a number of years after the introduction of the SQE.

Alternatively, you can choose to sit the SQE and qualify under the new regulations from 2020.

We will work with your course provider to make sure you are able to complete all assessments and are supported through the closure. If this happens to you, talk to your provider.

 


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