The SQE is the new assessment for people aspiring to qualify as a solicitor of England and Wales. The purpose of this new route to qualification is to assure consistent, high standards for all qualifying solicitors.
As of 1 September 2021, to qualify as a solicitor you require all the following:
- a degree in any subject (or equivalent qualification or work experience),
- pass both stages of the SQE assessment – SQE1 focuses on functioning legal knowledge and SQE2 on practical legal skills and knowledge,
- two years’ Qualifying Work Experience, and
- meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.
It is no longer necessary to have a Qualifying Law Degree (LLB) or complete a Conversion Course (GDL) if you do not have an LLB. The vocational Legal Practice Course (LPC) is also being phased out but if you have already started the LLB or GDL there are transitional arrangements in place until 31 December 2032 so you can still qualify as a solicitor under the LPC route until then.
Elizabeth Sam’s story
The SQE route appealed to me because it means I can qualify quicker than if I were to complete a two-year training contract as I already have two years’ qualifying work experience. I also do not need to pass the SQE1 examinations as I have already completed the LPC.
I began studying for the SQE2 in January 2023 where I attended face-to-face workshops on an SQE2 preparation course at The University of Law, 3 times a week for 5 weeks. On the 2 days I was not attending class, I continued with my fee earning work. It was not easy switching between work and study mode every few days, and I was one of few students working at the same time as studying so it meant that I spent my weekends studying too.
The course itself is more difficult than the LPC, the difference being that the LPC prepares you for your role as a trainee solicitor whereas the SQE standard is a “Day-One Solicitor”. As challenging and intense the preparation course was, I enjoyed course and look forward to qualifying as a well-rounded solicitor.
My team and supervising partner were incredibly supportive during the 5 weeks I worked part-time, from the covering of my work to checking in on my mental health. I would not have got through those weeks without their support.
I sit 16 exams over a period of 5 days at the end of July 2023 with results to be released in November 2023. If I am successful and meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements, I will be admitted as a solicitor in December 2023. Wish me luck!