Education and training

We set the education and training standards for solicitors to make sure the people we allow into the profession are competent. This is so that people who use legal services get a proper standard of service from their solicitor.

We want everyone who joins the profession to meet the same high professional standards. September 2021 marked the introduction of a single rigorous assessment, the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). This replaced the LPC routes to qualification as a solicitor. It gives both the public and the profession confidence in legal services and encourages more flexibility and choice in training. The flexibility, which includes 'earn as you learn' options, will also help to encourage a diverse profession, attracting the brightest and the best from every community.

The charts below set out information on the routes into, and numbers entering, the solicitor profession, as well as those holding Higher Rights of Audience. Detail on our wider work in education and training, continuing competence, and information on how to qualify through the SQE route can be found on the website. A glossary of terms can be found at the end of this page.

Please note, our business year is 1 November to 31 October. Unless otherwise stated, these figures are as of the October in the latter year – ie, the figures for 2020/21 are as at 31 October 2021.

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Solicitors currently enter the profession through a range of routes. These are:

  • Taking the SQE (as this started in September 2021, there are no admission figures yet).
  • Taking a traditional law degree or a non-law degree and the common professional examination, followed by the legal practice course (LPC) and then a period of recognised training (PRT).
  • Qualifying as a solicitor under the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS).
  • Applying as a registered European lawyer (conditions apply). Following the UK's exit from the EU in 2020, only Swiss lawyers have been able to qualify through this route from January 2021.
  • Applying as a solicitor already admitted in Northern Ireland or Ireland.
  • Qualifying as a Chartered Legal Executive and then going on to take the LPC.
  • Applying as an assistant justice's clerk (conditions apply).
  • Equivalent means. This allows individuals to qualify by showing they have met our requirements for a particular stage of training by demonstrating that they have equivalent experience.

The table below shows the number of individuals that joined the profession from each route from 2013 to 2021. The total number of new solicitors entering the profession has remained steady over the past five years, at around 6,800 per year. The number of RELs is higher this year than previous years, due to Brexit and the deadline of 31 December 2020 for eligible RELs to apply to be admitted to the roll.

2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
LPC then PRT 5,320 5,304 5,501 5,513 5,575 5,744 5,475 5,725
QLTS 251 346 421 541 603 521 606 691
CILEX and assistant justices' clerks 137 204 240 251 323 343 323 352
Republic of Ireland 158 134 148 136 131 188 124 149
Northern Ireland 27 32 31 17 28 35 31 41
EQM (from 2014/15) - 8 66 71 85 88 99 109
REL 20 32 29 53 34 76 60 100
QLTT 498 51 24 24 7 8 5 9
Other - - - 1 - - 0 -
Total 6,411 6,111 6,460 6,607 6,786 7,003 6,723 7,176

Please note:

  • The Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (QLTT) was a precursor to, and has now been largely phased out and was replaced by, the QLTS. A small number of individuals still enter the profession by this route.
  • Other can mean the individual was admitted via a Morgenbesser exemption application (for those who are part qualified under an EU qualification).
  • Some of these figures differ slightly with what we have reported in previous years. We are now collecting this information in a new way and have reviewed past data. This new approach allows for greater clarity on what route an applicant has taken, with more routes identified in the chart above, and we have corrected any past data errors.

Organisations carrying out a period of recognised training (PRT)

Under the LPC route, we authorise organisations to provide a PRT, the work-based part of a solicitor's training. Around three-quarters of these are law firms, and the rest are in-house legal teams or law centres.

The increasing number of organisations authorised to carry out a PRT reflects a growing demand from firms to develop talent and train aspiring solicitors within their own business.

2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
4,482 4,881 5,163 5,497 5,746 5,877 6,219 6,339

Qualifying through the solicitor apprenticeship offers an opportunity to earn-as-you-learn on the job, while removing the expense of training and the cost of taking exams. It encourages people from all types of backgrounds to become solicitors. We developed the Trailblazer apprenticeship in law with employers to make sure it provides the training they need and want.

We are pleased to see that the number of solicitor apprenticeships continues to increase. All solicitor apprentices will qualify through taking the SQE.

The figures below show the new September starts each year.

2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
30 107 170 242 208

Please note that, due to a data error, we previously misreported the number of solicitor apprenticeships. The figures shown now are correct.

We assess whether candidates for admission as a solicitor are fit to enter the profession through our character and suitability test. The questions we ask include whether the applicant has been convicted of any criminal offence, whether they have been subject to any enforcement action by another regulator and whether they have ever been declared bankrupt. In making our decisions, we consider all the information applicants give to us and, where there are potential concerns as to their suitability, any evidence to show they have taken steps to reform their character.

Individuals refused entry to the profession 2013–2021

Each year, we refuse a handful of applicants. The reasons are, generally, that the applicant has failed to disclose an important piece of information relating to their character or suitability, or they have failed to meet our requirements. The refusals we make each year are limited in number as some people withdraw their applications when they cannot meet our requirements.

The spike in refusals in 2013/14 relates to an influx of individuals applying for admission under the QLTT scheme before it was replaced with the QLTS. Many individuals were unable to show they had the necessary work experience needed to transfer under the scheme and were therefore not eligible to apply for admission.

2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
31 13 2 5 4 3 3 7

Please note, due to a data error, we misreported the number of individuals refused in our 2015/16 Annual Review and 2017/18 Annual Review. The figures shown now are correct.

A higher rights of audience qualification allows solicitors to act as an advocate in the higher courts. These are the Crown Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in England and Wales. The number of solicitors we regulate that have higher rights of audience can be seen below.

There has been a gradual increase in the number of solicitors with a higher rights of audience qualification over the past seven years. This rise is driven by increases in those with a qualification to appear in civil cases, while there has been a slight drop in those who have rights for criminal cases or both.

The percentages represent a proportion of how many individuals have rights to appear in civil cases, criminal cases, or both for the year shown on the left.

Civil Criminal Both Total
2013/14 1,613 (25%) 3,372 (52%) 1,556 (24%) 6,541
2014/15 1,797 (27%) 3,363 (50%) 1,528 (23%) 6,688
2015/16 1,947 (29%) 3,305 (49%) 1,483 (22%) 6,735
2016/17 2,131 (31%) 3,272 (48%) 1,464 (21%) 6,867
2017/18 2,279 (33%) 3,200 (46%) 1,437 (21%) 6,916
2018/19 2,439 (35%) 3,153 (45%) 1,417 (20%) 7,009
2019/20 2,533 (35%) 3,160 (44%) 1,444 (20%) 7,137
2020/21 2,714 (38%) 3,087 (43%) 1,408 (20%) 7,209

Please note that these numbers previously reflect the numbers at the beginning of each review period, rather than the end. The new table has been updated to show the figures for all years at the year end.

Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx)
Provides training to become a legal executive.
Common Professional Examination (CPE)
A postgraduate law course taken by non-law graduates who wish to become a solicitor or barrister in England and Wales. Also known as the Graduate Diploma in Law.
Equivalent means (EQM)
A route to admission as a solicitor which allows individuals to show they have met our requirements for a particular stage of training by demonstrating that they have equivalent experience.
Legal Practice Course (LPC)
A compulsory vocational training course usually taken just before the PRT. It combines academic and practical training, to prepare students for work in a law firm.
Period of recognised training (PRT)
Compulsory work-based learning, typically in a law firm, which forms part of the vocational stage in the route to qualifying as a solicitor.
Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS)
The scheme involves assessments that people must take if they are already qualified as a lawyer in another jurisdiction and want to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. Barristers practising in England and Wales and who wish to cross-qualify as a solicitor will also qualify through this route. 
Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (QLTT)
This test performs the same role as the QLTS. It has now been largely phased out and replaced by the QLTS. A small number of individuals still enter the profession by this route.
Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)
A single rigorous assessment which was introduced in September 2021 that all new aspiring solicitors will need to take to qualify as a solicitor. It is split into two parts, SQE1 and SQE2, and assesses practical legal knowledge and practical legal skills.