Q&A

April 2021

For people qualifying via the SQE after autumn 2021

General

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It is a single, rigorous assessment for all aspiring solicitors.

In the future, all those wishing to qualify as a solicitor will need to pass the SQE, as well as holding a degree or equivalent qualification or experience, complete a two-year period of qualifying work experience and meet our suitability requirements.

SQE1 primarily tests candidates' functioning legal knowledge, while SQE2 tests practical legal skills.

No. However, to be admitted as a solicitor, you will need a degree (in any subject) or equivalent in addition to passing the SQE. 'Equivalent' means a qualification equivalent to a bachelor's or master's degree, such as:

  • a level 6 or 7 apprenticeship
  • a level 6 or 7 professional qualification

If you don't have an equivalent qualification, we may be able to count experience in the workplace as equivalent.

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

  • SQE1 - £1,558 for ten hours of examinations testing candidates' functioning legal knowledge.
  • SQE2 - £2,422 for 14 hours of written and oral tasks testing both practical legal knowledge and skills, such as advocacy, legal research and case and matter analysis.

Ethics and professional conduct are tested throughout both SQE1 and 2.

The fees do not include training costs, which will vary depending on a candidate's choices. Find out more about SQE training providers.

If training is included as part of a degree, then there will be no additional charge.

We have a list of training providers you can contact directly for more information about training courses and costs.

The SQE will be introduced from 1 September 2021 and initially there will be two sittings of each exam per year. Please remember you can only take SQE2 after passing SQE1.

The planned dates for 2021 and 2022 are available on our SQE assessment page.

Kaplan have been appointed as the assessment provider for the SQE. 

We are making changes to make sure the way solicitors qualify in the future is consistent, but that does not mean solicitors who qualified under the old system are not competent.

Currently, solicitors undertake extensive and thorough training before qualifying. When qualified, they must undertake a programme of continuing professional development to make sure that they are competent to perform their job roles and provide a proper standard of service to clients.

We will publish data about the performance of all education and training providers. These will not be league tables.

We would be delighted if you joined our LinkedIn group. You can use this group to discuss the developing ideas around the SQE and the new routes to qualification.

The one sitting is primarily a quirk of how the sittings fall around the calendar year - there will actually be three SQE1 sittings in the space of 15 months (Nov 2021, July 2022, Jan 2023).

The reason only one falls is the calendar year is that 2021 and 2022 are transitional years, before we move to a consistent timetable with sittings in January and July. Stakeholders consistently told us that it is really important that we move to a regular pattern of SQE sittings as soon as we can. And the overall preference was for sittings around January and July.

We aim to allow some time following the publication of SQE1 results for candidates to book on to the next SQE2 assessment, although this may only be a few days. We are looking at our processes to try to maximise this window for candidates that want to follow this path. Candidates can of course book on to a later SQE2 sittings if that is more suitable for them.

The pass mark for each sitting of the SQE will be set by the Assessment Board in accordance with the SQE Marking and Standard Setting Policy. There is not one fixed pass mark for the assessment. The pass mark for both SQE1 and SQE2 can vary to make sure that the passing standard of the assessment remains consistently at the correct level from one sitting to the next. The pass mark will be published after each Assessment Board and will also be included with the candidate's results. Please read the policy for further details.

We have previously said that we will aim for assessment dates that are within the same weeks of the same months, as far as possible. However, there are a number of factors to balance in selecting these dates, including ensuring that we have the best possible test centre coverage and seat availability as possible. To assist stakeholders in their planning, the weeks we are aiming to start assessments for each relevant assessment window is as follows:

  • SQE1: third week of the month
  • SQE2: final week of the month

However, these are indicative only. Specific dates will be published at least 12 months before the relevant assessment, or sooner if possible.

Assessments can take place in the Pearson Professional Centres or in other centres in the Pearson VUE test centre network. Not all centres deliver all exams at all times but Kaplan will work closely with Pearson VUE to make sure there is sufficient capacity available.

When the SQE website launches, candidates will be able to see available centres in the booking site, search by postcode, town etc and compare availability at the centres nearest to them.

In the meantime, Pearson VUE run many other licensing exams at their centres, so you might find it helpful to look at their website to see how this search works.

Thinking of becoming a solicitor in the future

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Yes, you can. Our transitional arrangements are designed to give candidates who, by 1 September 2021, are already on their way to becoming a solicitor as much choice as possible.

This means someone already studying or training can continue to qualify through the existing routes or choose to do the SQE.

Our transitional arrangements cover anyone who, before 1 September 2021, has completed, started, accepted an offer of a place to start or paid a non-refundable deposit for one of the following:

  • a qualifying law degree
  • the Common Professional Examination / Graduate Diploma in Law
  • the Legal Practice Course
  • a period of recognised training (also known as a training contract).

To fall within the transition, in most cases the courses must actually start on or before 31 December 2021. Full details are set out in our transitional arrangements, including further details of the different arrangements for students who have deferred their place from 2020 to 2021, or who were offered a training contract on or before 31 August 2021.

The SQE will be introduced from 1 September 2021 and initially there will be two sittings of each exam per year. The planned dates for 2021 and 2022 are available on our SQE assessment page.

The introductory date for the new SQE is 1 September 2021, so if you start you degree or training after then, you’ll need to take the SQE.

To qualify as a solicitor under the new regulations you will need to:

  • have a degree or equivalent qualification or equivalent experience
  • pass the SQE
  • done two years' full-time qualifying work experience
  • meet our suitability requirements.

The current route to qualification will also remain open until 31 December 2032 for any candidate who, as at 1 September 2021, has completed, started, accepted an offer to start or paid a non-refundable deposit for one of the following:

a qualifying law degree

  • the Common Professional Examination / Graduate Diploma in Law
  • the Legal Practice Course
  • a period of recognised training (also known as a training contract).

Under the new regulations, you will need qualifying work experience which:

  • is experience of providing legal services that gives you the opportunity to develop the prescribed competences for solicitors
  • is at least two years’ full time or equivalent
  • has been done in no more than four organisations
  • has been confirmed by either the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) or a solicitor in the organisation or by another nominated solicitor. This confirmation must be obtained from each organisation.

A law degree will still provide legal knowledge, but the content of each degree and how closely it is aligned to the content of the SQE assessments may vary. This may also be the case for the Bar Standards Board requirements.

Although you will not need a law degree to qualify as a solicitor, you may wish to check whether your degree provider intend to incorporate SQE preparation as part of the curriculum.

Once the design of the SQE has been finalised, we expect that universities and training providers will signpost whether and how their courses will prepare candidates for the SQE.

Visit the Bar Standards Board website for more on the arrangements for barristers.

The change will not affect you, we will check whether you are suitable to become a solicitor when you apply to us for admission after you have passed the SQE and undertaken qualifying work experience. You will be able to get guidance on whether you are likely to pass this process of checking your suitability before you start your training to become a solicitor.

To be admitted as a solicitor, you will need a degree (in any subject) or equivalent, in addition to passing the SQE. 'Equivalent' means a qualification equivalent to a bachelor's or master's degree, such as:

  • a level 6 or 7 apprenticeship
  • a level 6 or 7 professional qualification

If you don't have an equivalent qualification, we may be able to count experience in the workplace as equivalent.

Period of Recognised Training (PRT)

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If you started a period of recognised training (also known as a training contract) before 1 September 2021, then you can qualify as a solicitor through the current route.

To qualify this way, by 31 December 2032, you'll also need to:

If you are unable to complete a period of recognised training , you can chose to qualify through the SQE.

We will accept experience equivalent of the new qualifying work experience as a PRT, so long as you have successfully completed the SQE2 assessment as well.

If you do secure a PRT, you will have until 31 December 2032 to qualify through the current route.

Yes, you can qualify through the SQE. You will need to successfully pass SQE1 and SQE2 and complete a two-year period of qualifying work experience.

If you have completed an LPC, all you have left under the old route is to complete the Period of Recognised Training and the Professional Skills Course. You could choose to do that. Alternatively, under the Equivalent Means route, you could also ask us to recognise the combination of qualifying work experience and successfully passing SQE2 as equivalent to the period of recognised training. Please be aware that the first sitting of SQE2 will be April 2022.

Yes, qualifying work experience undertaken now could count towards admission under the new regulations, if it meets the following requirements:

  • it is experience of providing legal services that gives you the opportunity to develop the prescribed competences for solicitors.
  • it is at least two years’ full-time or equivalent.
  • it has been done in no more than four organisations.
  • it has been confirmed by either the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP), a solicitor in the organisation or by another nominated solicitor. This confirmation must be obtained for each organisation.

Current law students

No, if you started a qualifying law degree, the Common Professional Examination / Graduate Diploma in Law, the Legal Practice Course or an Exempting Law Degree, before 1 September 2021 you will still be able to qualify under the old regulations under our transitional arrangements until 31 December 2032. See the circumstances in which we will recognise QLD and CPE courses which start after 1 September 2021.

Solicitor apprenticeships

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The solicitor apprenticeship standard describes the skills, knowledge, and behaviours required to qualify as a solicitor.

The solicitor apprenticeship standard is based on the Statement of Solicitor Competence. It is set out in full on the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education website, alongside the associated assessment plan.

Your employer will make sure you meet the requirements of the solicitor apprenticeship standard. We are responsible for ensuring standards at the point of qualification through the SQE.

Employment skills and apprenticeship policy is a devolved matter and the Welsh government has not adopted the Trailblazer approach.

The end-point assessment for the solicitor apprenticeship is SQE2, which assesses practical legal skills and knowledge. Candidates must sit SQE2 at the end of the solicitor apprenticeship programme once the employer and the training provider have confirmed to the end point assessment organisation that the apprentice has met all gateway requirements.

However, as with all aspiring solicitors from September 2021, solicitor apprentices must complete all the elements of the SQE to qualify as a solicitor. They need:

  • a degree or equivalent - an apprentice who has successfully completed the solicitor apprenticeship, which is a level 7 qualification, will have met this requirement.
  • to pass SQE1 and SQE2 – SQE1 will form part of the on-programme assessment in the apprenticeship and SQE2 is the end-point assessment.
  • two years' qualifying work experience – an apprentice who has successfully completed the solicitor apprenticeship will have met this requirement'.
  • to meet our character and suitability

The first SQE1 sitting will be in November 2021. The first SQE2 sitting will follow in April 2022.

There is no time limit between completing the apprenticeship and applying for admission as a solicitor.

Entry requirements, such as previous qualifications, are set by individual employers. The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education recommends minimum entry requirements for the solicitor apprenticeship.

Welsh Government approved a Level 7 Higher Apprenticeship framework leading to qualification as a solicitor in March 2015. More information on apprenticeships in Wales can be found on the Welsh Government website.

Apprentices are employees and therefore earn as they learn. There is a minimum apprenticeship salary but employers can exceed this.

We do not have oversight of employers or training providers for the solicitor apprenticeship. If an apprentice solicitor is unhappy with any aspect of their apprenticeship, they should raise this with their employer and training provider. If after this the apprentice does not feel that their complaint is being addressed, they should contact the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

No, apprentices do not need to be registered with us nor do we need to be told they have started their apprenticeship. Apprentices will only register with us when they have successfully completed their solicitor apprenticeship and are ready to apply for admission as a solicitor.

Apprentices will need to complete the registration process on the SQE website to book their assessments (available from spring 2021).

No, we do not authorise or validate universities or training providers for the solicitor apprenticeship. Neither do we specify what training a solicitor apprentice should receive.

In England, the authorisation of apprenticeship training providers is undertaken by Department for Education, through the Education and Skills Funding Agency, who admit training providers to their Register of Training Organisations.

No, employers or firms do not need to be authorised by or registered with the SRA to recruit apprentices.

You can find out more about employing an apprentice in England on the GOV.UK website.

The GOV.UK website also explains what level of government funding is available for each apprenticeship.