SQE Update – July 2020

This bulletin covers the publication of the final SQE2 Assessment Specification, the fees for taking the SQE, and an update to the transitional arrangements for those taking law degrees or the Common Professional Examination. There is also a range of materials on diversity, including our final equality, diversity and inclusion risk assessment, the independent Bridge Group report, and a blog by our Director of Education and Training, Julie Brannan.

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Final SQE2 Assessment Specification

Testing practical legal skills and knowledge, SQE2 candidates will take 16 written and oral tasks. In response to feedback on the recent draft, we have updated details of how and when negotiation will be assessed. Read the final SQE2 Assessment Specification to get the details. We will also publish sample questions and guidance later this year.

SQE fees now agreed

The total fee for taking both SQE assessments will be £3,980. When it is introduced in September 2021, these fees will cover:

  • SQE1 - with a fee of £1,558 for the two examinations consisting of 180 questions each testing candidates’ functioning legal knowledge.
  • SQE2 - with a fee of £2,422 for the written and oral tasks testing both practical legal knowledge and skills, which includes advocacy, client interviewing (with written attendance note/legal analysis), legal research, legal writing, legal drafting and case and matter analysis.
Ethics and professional conduct will be tested throughout.

The fees do not include training costs, which will vary depending on a candidate’s choices.

Update to transitional arrangements

We have announced that, in light of the impacts of Covid-19, we are giving greater flexibility for universities and students around transition to the new assessment. The change will provide greater flexibility for those planning on taking law degrees or the Common Professional Examination in the academic year 2021/22. Read our press release and updated guidance to learn more.

New qualifying work experience guidance

We’ve published guidance to help aspiring solicitors understand how to gain and record their work experience. Replacing a period of recognised training from September 2021, qualifying work experience offers a more flexible approach to gaining the skills and experience needed to be a solicitor. This guidance tells aspiring solicitors how they can use experience from a previous or current role and what they need to record; offering a useful template to help with this. Read the guidance to learn more

Final SQE equality, diversity and inclusion risk assessment now published

Our final SQE equality, diversity and inclusion risk assessment is now available, updating the previous May 2020 draft. This incorporates feedback from thousands of stakeholders, including the recent independent analysis of the Bridge Group. It concludes that the potential EDI benefits of the SQE outweigh the risks, while also proposing a range of mitigations to manage these risks. Read it now

Bridge Group report on the SQE’s diversity impact

The Bridge Group – research experts on diversity and social equality – has published an independent report into the diversity implications of the SQE. In this it concludes that the assessment design is fair and overall the SQE has ‘powerful potential’ to help address diversity issues in the legal profession, while emphasising there is more for us to do to achieve this. Read the report

SQE information – improvements on our website

Over recent months we have worked to improve how we offer different audiences information relating to the SQE on our website. This work includes moving information for aspiring solicitors into our Student and Trainee sections so they can more easily find key topics such as the SQE assessments and qualifying work experience.

In our Policy section, we have the core content relating to the assessment, such as the SQE assessment specifications, findings from the two pilots and background documents.

We welcome feedback and will continue to improve our SQE web content over the coming months.

Career in Law hits 2,000+ followers

Almost two years ago we launched a Facebook page – Career in Law – to provide information to prospective students about how to qualify as a solicitor in the future: from the potential costs of qualifying to different options available to students. We now have more than 2,400 followers. We have also responded to around 70 direct questions giving people answers on topics such as qualifying work experience and what sitting the SQE assessment will involve.

Take a look at Career in Law and tell any aspiring solicitors to follow us. They can also watch our series of live video streams on topics such as busting SQE myths and what the new assessments means if you’re already studying law.

Get involved

Did you know we have a range of SQE videos on our YouTube channel?

These include our latest webinars on SQE final design and SQE2 Assessment Specification and another on the opportunities SQE could bring for smaller businesses. Take a look

SQE LinkedIn group

Join our LinkedIn group help you keep up to date with the latest SQE developments and opportunities to get involved in our surveys and events.

How the SQE provides a better foundation for a diverse profession

By Julie Brannan, Director of Education and Training

Most people can agree that a more diverse, inclusive legal profession is a stronger legal profession. It is important we can attract the best people from all backgrounds and that the profession reflects the communities it serves, which helps to improve access to legal services.

The profession is slowly getting more diverse, but there is still much to do: certain groups are still under-represented, particularly at senior levels in larger firms.

The reasons for this are complex. The journey to qualification is just one part of the diversity picture, but it can create problems.

For example, currently people take an expensive up-front gamble - up to £17,000 for an Legal Practice Course (LPC) - on whether they can get one of a limited number of training contracts. That’s unfair - it means talented people who could make good solicitors get stuck in the system, while others are put off even trying to qualify.

And of course even before you contemplate an LPC, or try for that elusive training contract, there are lots of costly steps to take and limited flexibility or opportunities to earn as you learn.

The SQE aims not only to make sure everyone can have greater confidence that aspiring solicitors meet the high consistent standards we all expect, but also gives us the opportunity to tackle some of these unnecessary barriers.

Our new qualifying work experience arrangements will help to break the training contract bottleneck and remove that LPC gamble. By giving candidates more choice about how and where they train - with more opportunities to earn-as-you-learn, or to learn through flexible, online programmes - we hope to enable more talented people to have a fair shot at qualifying.

The Bridge Group - experts in the field of social equality - agreed that the SQE has powerful potential to make a positive difference. This includes addressing the problem of a lack of dependable data in the current fragmented system. The standardised data from the SQE could help the sector better understand diversity issues and inform potential solutions.

Our analysis in our EDI Risk Assessment is that the diversity benefits of the SQE outweigh any concerns, but we are not complacent. We have set out our plans to make sure we realise those benefits: from publishing information to help candidates make informed choices to ongoing quality assurance; getting continued expert feedback on our approach to reasonable adjustments; to publishing data on the exam results and in-depth evaluation.

Of course the SQE will not resolve all the diversity issues that the sector faces. We don’t have all the answers and this is a shared challenge for everyone. But we do think it’s a step in the right direction and the insights we gain through a single standardised assessment will help us all work together to tackle this problem.

Other ways to get involved

Join our LinkedIn reference group. It will help you keep up to date with the latest SQE developments and opportunities to get involved in our surveys and events.

If you are thinking about taking the SQE, or know someone who is, please follow Career in Law for the latest information aimed at aspiring solicitors.

If you have any questions, or want more information on how you can get involved, contact us.

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