lawyer training

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is due to replace the current Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the Legal Practice Course (LPC) lawyer training modules in September 2021. The SQE is the biggest change that the legal sector education system has seen in decades. Here’s everything you need to know about the new system.

Why is SQE being introduced?

The purpose of the new exam system is to provide alternative routes for people who wish to pursue a career as a solicitor and to focus on ensuring solicitors are sufficiently prepared for practice.

The SQE will make sure that every trainee solicitor can consistently meet the high standards required before becoming a qualified solicitor.

What you need to qualify as a solicitor once SQE is introduced

Announced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the SQE is a new set of exams that trainee solicitors must pass to qualify. The SQE is aligned to the SRA’s Statement of Legal Knowledge and determines the level of knowledge, standard of ethics and legal skills required to qualify.

The exams are split into two parts:

Stage one: legal knowledge

This stage is split into two exams comprising 180 multiple-choice questions that will test your knowledge of the law and how you would apply it to real-life scenarios.

Stage two – practical skills

Stage two focuses on your ability to apply essential solicitor skills such as producing contracts and interviewing clients. Assessment methods include mock interviews and research briefs.

In addition, prospective solicitors will need a university degree in any subject, two years of qualifying work experience and to pass a character and suitability assessment, which is part of the old system.

How does it differ from the old process?

Under the new process, a qualifying law degree, GDL and LPC lawyer training are no longer required. The formal training contract will also no longer be necessary.

Unlike the old system, SQE provides flexibility for trainees as the required two years’ work experience can be completed before, during or after the SQE. Volunteering roles and placements completed during university will also count towards the total work experience.

Current process:

  1. Qualifying law degree
  2. LPC/GDL
  3. Training contract
  4. Application to the SRA to become a solicitor
  5. Become a qualified solicitor

New process:

  1. Undergraduate degree in any subject
  2. SQE stage one
  3. SQE stage two
  4. Two years’ work experience
  5. Application to the SRA to become a solicitor
  6. Become a qualified solicitor

Assessments will take place at a Pearson’s test centres across England and Wales on set dates. There will be a cost associated with the new method of lawyer training, however the exact amount is yet to be announced.

How will the SQE affect people already undertaking lawyer training?

If you are studying a law degree, LPC or GDL, the new SQE will not affect you. However, if you are due to start a law degree in September 2020 or 2021, you might be required to take the new SQE. The new and old systems are expected to run alongside each other for some years before the old system becomes redundant.

Once the SQE goes live, current students will be given the option to switch to the new system if they prefer.

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