In autumn 2021, a new route to qualifying as a solicitor of England and Wales will be introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA): The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
Dates: The first assessment for the SQE1 will be offered from November 2021
What is the SQE?
Currently, to become a solicitor, you need to have a qualifying law degree either via the LLB law degree, or a law conversion course such as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) or the Graduate Entry LLB (GE LLB).
This is followed by completion of the required skills training - the Legal Practice Course (LPC), the Professional Skills Course (PSC) and the two-year training contract with your chosen law firm.
The new SQE route no longer requires you to have a qualifying law degree – rather you are to hold a degree or equivalent qualification.
The LPC will no longer be a pre-requisite, with candidates being able to undertake preparatory courses, to prepare them for the SQE assessments, as well as what will be known as Qualifying Work Experience.
There will be no set order in which to qualify, meaning that you have the flexibility to undertake your work experience even before undertaking the actual SQE assessments if you so wished.
What does this mean for the LPC?
When the first SQE1 exam is offered in November 2021, there will be an official transition period for candidates who would have already started on the current route, or have accepted a place on an existing qualifying law degree or conversion law programme.
You will of course be able to continue to qualify as a solicitor in the traditional way.
This only applies to courses that begin up to and including 31 December 2021, so long as the student has accepted the offer by 31 August 2021 (inclusive).
The SRA will continue to approve the LPC as a valid route to qualification as a solicitor until 2032. Candidates can still undertake the LPC if providers continue to make it available.
What will City, University of London provide?
City and The City Law School will be offering the SQE in the near future and continue to provide the extensive legal skills training via the LPC.
It is important to everyone at The City Law School to develop a programme that will suit the needs of prospective students, and still deliver a programme that will be recognised and highly regarded by law firms.
Any programme we offer will continue to provide students with the support to confidently undertake the SQE assessments, and still prepare students for success as fully qualified solicitors.
Therefore, from circa 2023, The City Law School will look to start offering the following:
- a focused SQE preparatory course for both SQE 1 and 2 – preparing students ready to confidently undertake the assessments.
- an extended Diploma and LLM option, incorporating the SQE assessment preparation, alongside vocational modules that will provide the legal skills and knowledge foundations that employers are looking for.
Both options will offer the necessary online and analytic support that will be essential in preparation for the SQE. Delivery will be a mix of traditional classroom based teaching and online learning. (To be confirmed).
To be kept informed about developments of The City Law School’s offering for SQE preparation, please follow the below link and complete the short form.
How will assessment take place under the new SQE route?
The SQE Assessments will be in two parts: SQE1 and SQE2.
- The SQE1 will include two functioning legal knowledge (FLK) assessments, consisting of 180 multiple-choice questions.
- The SQE2 Assessment is divided into two parts: the oral assessment consisting of four oral legal skills assessments, and the 12 written legal skills assessment.
- Candidates must pass SQE1 in its entirety before they can take SQE2.
The SRA appointed Kaplan as the only assessment provider for the SQE. Therefore, Kaplan will not be able to offer any form of training/preparatory course for the SQE. In partnership with Pearson VUE test centres, Kaplan will provide assessment centres for written and computer-based assessments. There will also be a smaller number of centres for oral skills assessments.
Do you have to do the SQE?
If you are already studying your LLB or GDL, or accept an offer to study either the GDL or LLB before 31st August 2021 (inclusive) then you have the option to take the LPC or the SQE. You still have a choice.
Only those students that have accepted an offer to study either the LLB or GDL after 1 September 2021 will be required to take the SQE.
Please note: the LPC will still be a valid route to qualification as a solicitor up to 2032.
If you have deferred you place on the LPC course until 2022 at City, you will still be able to study here and follow the traditional route to qualifying as a solicitor if providers are still offering the LPC. The City Law School will still be teaching the LPC in 2022.
The LLB programme will remain a credible and valuable part of a student’s journey to a career in law and give you the legal skills and knowledge still required by many law firms. In the third year of the LLB, Introduction to the Solicitor's Professional Qualification and Legal Skills are two of the elective modules students can choose to study.
If you're an aspiring solicitor, there is no reason why you should not continue to follow the current LLB path of education and training.
Non-Law graduates undertaking the GDL
The GDL will give you the core legal knowledge that will be valuable in pursuing a career in law. The City GDL still remains a highly renowned programme amongst employers in the legal sector and will help to demonstrate your knowledge of and dedication to law.
If you're an aspiring solicitor, there is no reason why you should not continue to follow the current path of education and training.
Successfully passing the SQE assessments, will require a lot of preparation, so undertaking a course is advisable. A preparatory course will provide you with the knowledge needed to answer the multiple-choice questions, and the legal skills required for the oral and written assessments of SQE2.