How will the Solicitors Qualifying Examination benefit the legal sector?

By Crispin Passmore, Executive Director of Policy & Education, 3 October 2016

What are we proposing?

Launched today, our latest consultation offers a fuller picture of how the solicitors of the future might qualify. It explains what the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) might look like and our overall requirements for qualifying as a solicitor:

  • Having a degree, or equivalent qualification.
  • Passing the SQE.
  • Completing a substantial period of workplace training.
  • Satisfying our character and suitability requirements.

The SQE is designed to assure high standards of practice through an assessment which is rigorous, fair, transparent and consistent.

Over the past few months we have listened to the feedback on our original proposals and worked hard to refine and develop our plans.

What's new in this consultation?

  • The SQE will be an independently set, thorough assessment of a candidate’s ability:
    • to use their legal knowledge in transactions or litigation
    • to research and analyse legal issues, interview clients, undertake advocacy and draft legal documents.
  • We would not specify the courses students must take to prepare for the SQE. Education and training providers could use their expertise to develop the training needed - offering students more flexibility and choice.
  • We would publish education and training providers’ SQE success rates so students could use this when choosing where to train.
  • We would publish guidance for students about the main routes to qualification, including:
    • Case studies.
    • How to choose the route which suits them best.
    • Suggested questions to ask prospective providers.
  • Pre-qualification legal work experience is essential for all prospective solicitors. Therefore we would continue to require a substantial period of workplace training, probably 24 months - certainly no less than 18 months.
  • Workplace training could include experience in a student law clinic, a sandwich degree placement, as a paralegal, or under a formal training contract.

How will introducing the SQE improve things?

Our proposals will provide a robust qualification which will show solicitors have the skills to compete in a global market. It will underpin the reputation and standing of the profession.

Polling has shown that four in five people believe everyone should pass the same final exam to become a solicitor. A similar proportion (76%) said that they would have more confidence in their solicitor if they all passed the same exam.

We want to promote fairer access to the profession for people from all backgrounds by making sure there are consistent standards, costs are kept down, and that there are a variety of routes to qualification.

Get involved

Read our consultation. We value your opinion and would urge you to let us have your views on our proposals.