The SQE and its implications

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

So what is the SQE?

The SQE abbreviated for the “Solicitors Qualification exam” will change how solicitors will qualify in England and Wales from September 2021. It is arguably the most radical change to qualifying into the profession to date as it will replace both the traditional route of the LPC and GDL and introduce instead a set of compulsory exams before qualifying.

So what will this look like for students?

1. Firstly, students will in the same way be required to complete the three-year qualifying law degree at University.

2. After university, a student wishing to pursue a career as a solicitor will need to sit the SQE stage 1 exam which will consist of six multiple-choice questions to test legal knowledge and practice. There will also be an addition of a written examination to test legal research and writing skills.

3. After this is completed, the student will then progress to the SQE stage 2 examination which will be centred around the legal skills of a solicitor such as legal drafting, interviewing and negotiation skills. This will be split across 5 assessments and will consist of some role plays.

4. Student will then need to gain qualifying work experience (QWE) which could be at a law firm but not solely restricted to this. Any relevant work such as pro bono work, can also count toward QWE. It is expected that the student will normally have completed some qualifying work experience before sitting the SQE stage 2 examinations to gain some practical experience of these legal skills.

So what is the main idea behind this change?

The rationale for the SQE is to have one “super exam” that all wishing to qualify as a solicitor will need to sit rather than having different qualifying routes into the profession.

It will arguably be more cost-effective; the LPC comes with a price tag of £15,000 plus, whereas the SQE will range from £3000- £4500 in total. This however does not include the cost for the courses which will prepare you for the SQE exams.

On a whole, how the new reforms will pan out in practice will be made more apparent once the new assessments come into play and how law firms integrate this idea into their current recruitment processes. However, it will be said that the time it takes to qualify as a solicitor may significantly shorten and become cheaper which is always a plus!