SQE - separating fact from fiction

By Colette Best, Policy Associate, 19 May 2017

From 2020, we will be introducing an independent assessment called the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). This is to make sure all solicitors meet consistent, high standards at the point of entry to the profession.

Our recent decision announcement gained a lot of attention, and inevitably there have been some misunderstandings. Below we set the record straight about some of the misconceptions.

It's just the old Law Society Finals"

Fact: The SQE will be a centralised exam like the old Law Society Finals but it is also more extensive. It will test legal knowledge and practical legal skills - not just a recall of facts.

To do this the SQE will use:

  • written tests
  • computer-based assessments
  • role plays
  • mock client interview.
The degree equivalent can be 2 years of legal work experience"

Fact: To qualify after 2020 you will need to have:

  • Passed stages 1 and 2 of the SQE.
  • A degree (in any subject) or equivalent qualification.
  • At least 2 years of work experience.
  • Met the character and suitability requirements.

However there may be times when someone has significant relevant work experience but not a degree. Where this is the case, we may consider this experience a degree equivalent. However two years qualifying work experience would not normally be enough to count except in unusual circumstances.

Law graduates will be exempt from the SQE stage 1"

Fact: Law graduates will not get any exemptions as all candidates have to be assessed to the same standard.

Non-law graduates will have to do a conversion course"

Fact: All candidates will need to gain the knowledge to sit SQE stage 1. It is up to them what preparation best suits them as we will not be specifying any courses.

There will be a required prep course for SQE stage 2"

Fact: We will not be specifying any courses or training. Candidates will need to make sure they have all the legal skills set out in the statement of solicitor competence in order to pass SQE 2.

It is likely that most people will gain these skills through qualifying work experience. However some people may choose to do a prep course but we are leaving it to individuals to choose what is best for them.

If I do not finish the current route to qualification by 2020 I will have to do the SQE"

Fact: If you have started a Qualifying Law Degree, Common Professional Examination, Graduate Diploma in Law or Legal Practice Course (LPC) before September 2020, you will be able to qualify on your existing route. However, you could also choose to qualify via the SQE if you wish.