I want to be a solicitor

25 April 2019

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.

What is the SQE?

A single, national licensing examination that all prospective solicitors will take before qualifying. From autumn 2021, to qualify you will need to:

  • have a degree in any subject (or equivalent qualification or work experience)
  • pass both stages of the SQE assessment – SQE 1 focuses on legal knowledge and SQE 2 on practical legal skills
  • have 2 years' qualifying work experience
  • pass our character and suitability requirements.

The assessments

SQE 1 (Functioning Legal Knowledge and Practical Legal Skills Assessments)

You will be tested on:

  • substantive and procedural law and cover core subjects currently taught on LLB and LPC courses
  • application of fundamental legal principles
  • legal research and writing skills.

SQE 2 (Practical Legal Skills Assessments)

You will be tested on:

  • client interviewing
  • advocacy
  • case and matter analysis
  • legal research and written advice
  • legal drafting.


The SQE will be introduced in autumn 2021 and initially there will be two exam sittings per year. The first sitting for SQE 1 is likely to be in November 2021.

You will only be able to take SQE 2 after passing SQE 1.

Sitting the SQE

The SQE will be available to sit in England and Wales, as well as some international locations (SQE 1 only).

SQE 1 includes three exams that are either multiple choice or written tests. You must sit all three together. This will available to take across a wide geographic area at Pearson VUE centres.

For SQE 2, you will do role plays, as well as written work. There will be a more limited choice of centres for this assessment.

Cost / fees

Current estimates are that it will cost between £3,000 - £4,500 to sit the SQE. This breaks down as:

  • SQE 1: £1,100 – £1,650
  • SQE 2: £1,900 - £2,850

These are not finalised yet and the eventual fee may be inside or outside this range.  This does not include any additional training you might need.


You will only be allowed three attempts at the assessment. These have to be taken within six years.

Already studying or got a law degree?

If you are already on your way to becoming a solicitor, you can choose to qualify through the existing routes (up until 2032) or through the SQE.

This includes anyone who has started, completed or accepted an offer for the Common Professional Examination, Qualifying Law Degree or a training contract by the time the SQE is introduced in autumn 2021.

If you are not getting a degree, you might  be able to meet our equivalent qualification or work experience requirements

Keep up to date

Follow Career in Law to get the latest information for aspiring solicitors

SQE update 2019: Julie Brannan and Paul Carter

Should I do the LPC or wait for the SQE?

This could help you when deciding what qualification route is best for you.

Have you done the Legal Practice Course (LPC)?

What is qualifying work experience?

All candidates will need to complete at least two-years full-time (or equivalent) qualifying work experience. This is the work experience part of qualifying as a solicitor after autumn 2021.

What counts?

Qualifying work experience is any experience of providing legal services that offers the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge needed practice as a solicitor.

It can be gained in one block of time or in stages, so long as it is in no more than four organisations. It can be paid or unpaid work and could include time spent:

  • on placement during a law degree
  • on a vacation scheme
  • in a student law clinic
  • working for Citizen Advice
  • working as a paralegal
  • on a training contract.

Candidates can gain experience during or after they sit the SQE assessments. However, it must be completed by the time they apply for admission. They could even start gaining it now and 'banking' it for when SQE comes in autumn 2021.

Demonstrating work experience

Qualifying work experience must be signed off by one of the following:

  • the compliance officer for legal practice (COLP) or a solicitor in a law firm
  • a solicitor working in the organisation you work for
  • another solicitor willing to sign off the experience, who has direct experience of the candidate's work.

The solicitor does not have to hold a practising certificate.

If you plan to use your current experience, you should start to think about how you will record it and who will sign it off.

For each placement, the following must be signed off:

  • the details of the work experience carried out
  • that it provided the opportunity to develop some or all of the prescribed competences for solicitors
  • that no issues arose during the work experience that raise questions over the candidate's character and suitability to be admitted as a solicitor.

The solicitor signing off your qualifying work experience is not deciding whether you have met the prescribed competences for solicitors. SQE assesses whether meet our standards.

Tips for candidates

Tips for candidates

  • Taking advantage of the new flexibility about how and where you can gain work experience – using this to demonstrate you have had opportunity to develop some or all of the prescribed competences for solicitors.
  • Talk to your current or prospective employer about what training and opportunities are in place for you to develop some or all the competencies in the Statement of Solicitor Competence.
  • Talk regularly to the solicitor who will sign off your record and resolve any issues with during your work experience. We cannot accept records that have not been signed by an appropriate person.

General - I want to be a solicitor

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