What is the new SQE? (Solicitors Qualifying Examination)

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is a brand-new set of exams which is scheduled to be introduced from 2021 that aspiring solicitors will need to complete.

The SQE is intended to become the common assessment for all those wishing to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. It is set to become the biggest change to legal education for decades – replacing the current Graduate Diploma in Law, Legal Practice Course and traditional training contract requirement.

After 2021 there will be a new path to qualify as a solicitor, namely candidates will have to:

  1. Have an undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification (i.e. a degree level apprenticeship) in any subject.
  2. Complete Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination.
    1. SQE Stage 1 deals with general legal knowledge via multiple-choice assessments.
    2. SQE Stage 2 focuses on evaluating practical legal skills.
  3. Have completed two years’ suitable qualifying legal work experience.
  4. Pass the current character and suitability requirements.
  5. Apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

What is the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination?

How is the SQE different to the current process?

To recap, currently a qualifying law degree such as a ‘Law LLB (Hons)’, or a degree in another subject followed by the Diploma in Law (GDL) conversion course, is required as a prerequisite before being able to start the Legal Practice Course (LPC).

On completion of the LPC, aspiring solicitors must complete a two-year training contract. The Professional Skills Course (PSC) must be completed during the training contract. Once the LPC, training contract and PSC have been completed a trainee solicitor can apply to be admitted as a solicitor.

Under the new SQE regime candidates can have any undergraduate degree (or equivalent qualification). They will need to pass SQE 1 and 2 exams but there won’t be a specific course they must follow. And the two-year training contract will be replaced with a two-year period of qualifying work experience (QWE). This can be completed before, during or after the solicitors qualifying exams and with up to four different organisations. The QWE can include periods of unpaid work such as working in student law clinics or working for Citizens Advice.

When is the SQE coming in?

The current SQE launch date is estimated to be in September 2021. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is currently piloting the key components of the exams, with the SQE1 pilot being completed in July 2019 and SQE2 pilot in December 2019.

Once the SRA has gathered feedback from candidates, they intend to publish their findings and update the launch date as needed.

When the SQE is launched it is also anticipated that there will be a period of transition. Students who have already started on the current qualification path will be able to choose to continue on this route. This includes anyone who has accepted an offer to start a law degree or the GDL by the time the SQE is introduced. New entrants will follow the SQE regime.

Preparing for the SQE

As further specific information on the Solicitors Qualifying Examination programme is confirmed, Kinch Robinson are preparing extensive training and learning materials to support individual candidates and law firm training programmes.

So make sure you follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook for the latest developments and our course announcements.

Should your law firm be in the early stages of planning for the SQE for your lawyers, please feel free to contact us on how we can assist.

Posted by News Desk