SQE exemptions

Find out if your legal background and qualifications mean you’re exempt from any part of the SQE process

SQE recap

The SQE assessment is the one route to qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales. Candidates from both the UK and abroad need to complete the SQE exams and meet a set of requirements before qualifying:

However, there are some exceptions. Depending on your legal background and professional qualifications, you might be entitled to an exemption from one or more of the SQE exams.

Exemptions from SQE1

You can only apply for an exemption for the whole of SQE1 FLK1 or SQE1 FLK2. To be granted an exemption you must prove that:

  • Your qualifications and/or experience cover the areas of law that are assessed in SQE1, FLK1 and/or FLK2; and
  • The law you’re qualified in/have practised in isn’t substantially different from the law of England and Wales in these areas

Very few people are given exemptions from SQE1 as there is a high threshold of knowledge and experience needed.

Exemptions from SQE2

If you’ve got the same practice rights as a solicitor of England and Wales and at least two years of professional legal work experience (gained either as part of your qualification or post-qualification) you could be exempt from the whole of the SQE2 exam.

You’ll need to have one or more of these practising rights:

  • Criminal litigation
  • Civil litigation (also referred to as dispute resolution)
  • Property practice
  • Wills and intestacy, probate administration and practice
  • Business organisation rules and procedures

Who can apply for SQE exemptions?

Lawyers who are qualified outside of the UK can apply for an exemption for either part of SQE1 (FLK1 or FLK2) or from SQE2 (or a combination). The reason being that their training, experience or qualifications act as an equivalent for SQE.

Generally, aspiring solicitors from the UK (with the exception of Scottish solicitors) cannot apply for any exemptions.

Pre-agreed exemptions and indvidual exemptions

Lawyers who are qualified in certain jurisdictions and have at least two years of work experience are entitled to pre-agree exemptions and/or may apply for an individual exemption from SQE2, which will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Jurisdiction Qualification SQE2
Austria Rechtsanwalt* Yes
Argentina Abogado** Yes
Australia Solicitor and/or Barrister (Australian legal practitioner)** Yes
Bangladesh Advocate** Yes
Belarus Advocate/Lawyer** Yes
Belgium (the Flemish Bar) Advocaat* Yes
Brazil Advogado* Yes
Bulgaria Advocate* Yes
Croatia Odvjetnik* Yes
Cameron Solicitor** Yes
Canada (British Columbia) Lawyer** Yes
Canada (Ontario) Lawyer** Yes
Canada (Quebec) Lawyer** Yes
Canada (Saskatchewan) Lawyer** Yes
Columbia Abogado** Yes
Chile Abogado** Yes
Czech Republic Advokat* Yes
Cyprus Advocate** Yes
Denmark, Faroe Islands and Greenland Advokat* Yes
Dominican Republic Abogado** Yes
England and Wales Barrister No
England and Wales CILEx Practitioner No
England and Wales Chartered Legal Executive No
Egypt Mohamy/Lawyer** Yes
Fiji Legal Practitioner** Yes
France Avocat** Yes
Germany Rechtsanwalt* Yes
Greece Dikigoros** Yes
Hong Kong Solicitor* Yes
Hungary Ugyved* Yes
Hungary Attorney** Yes
Indonesia Advokat* Yes
India (Assam) Advocate** Yes
India (Delhi) Advocate** Yes
India (Goa) Advocate** Yes
India (West Bengal) Advocate** Yes
Iran Attorney** Yes
Israel Advocate** Yes
Italy Avvocato** Yes
Japan Bengoshi (Attorney in Law)** Yes
Jersey Advocate* Yes
Jordan Lawyer** Yes
Kazakhstan Legal Consultant* Yes
Kenya Advocate** Yes
Korea Attorney at Law** Yes
Lebanon Lawyer** Yes
Luxembourg Avocat à la Cour* Yes
Macau SAR, China Lawyer** Yes
Malaysia Advocate and Solicitor** Yes
Malta Advocate** Yes
Moldova Lawyer** Yes
Montenegro Odvjetnik* Yes
Netherlands Advocaat* Yes
New Zealand Barrister and Solicitor** Yes
Nigeria Barrister and Solicitor** Yes
Norway Advokat* Yes
Pakistan Advocate** Yes
Philippines Attorney** Yes
Poland Adwokat* Yes
Portugal Advogado** Yes
Romania Adwokat* Yes
Russia Advocate** Yes
Rwanda Advocate** Yes
Saudi Arabia Lawyer** Yes
Scotland Solicitor* Yes
Singapore Advocate and Solicitor of the Supreme Court** Yes
Slovakia Advokat* Yes
Slovenia Odvetnik* Yes
South Africa Attorney** Yes
Spain Abogado** Yes
Sri Lanka Attorney at Law** Yes
Sweden Advokat* Yes
The People’s Republic of China Lawyer** Yes
Trinidad and Tobago Attorney at Law** Yes
Turkey Avukat** Yes
Ukraine Advocate* Yes
USA all states Attorney** Yes
Uruguay Abogado* Yes
Venezuela Abogados** Yes
Zimbabwe Legal Practitioner** Yes

* Applicants have an agreed exemption for SQE2 and meet the SRA criteria for pre-qualification experience.

** Applicants meet all the SRA criteria for an exemption from SQE2, except the pre-qualification work experience requirement. This means they can apply for an individual SQE2 exemption if they have at least two years’ legal work experience gained either as part of their qualification or after it (or a combination of these).

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All other foreign-qualified lawyers

Even if your jurisdiction isn’t listed, you can still apply for an SQE exemption if your qualifications and personal experience could be seen as equivalent. To be granted an exemption, you must prove that your qualification/experience is equivalent to a whole part of the SQE assessment:

  • SQE1 FLK1
  • SQE1 FLK2
  • SQE2

You’ll need to show that you don’t have any gaps in the legal qualification content of England and Wales which would mean you couldn’t practise safely.

Legal Practice Course (LPC) Graduates

The SQE has been designed to gradually phase out the LPC as a route to qualifications. During the transition period, LPC graduates are entitled to special arrangements.

As an alternative to completing the training contract, candidates who have completed the LPC may ask the SRA to recognise experience equivalent to the qualifying work experience (QWE) as a period of recognised training.

The request should be made on the My SRA account. This will then inform Kaplan that you do not need to sit SQE1 and you can book on to SQE2. You will then be exempt from SQE1 and need to successfully pass the SQE2 assessment. You will also be exempt from sitting the Professional Skills Course. You would then need to have proof of your LPC and two years of confirmed QWE when you apply for admission.

If you are not sure whether to complete the traditional LPC route or take SQE2 in combination with QWE, check out our article to help you decide which is right for you.

How to apply for SQE exemptions

The SRA is the only body that can grant exemptions.

You need to apply for your exemptions through the SRA website before you book your SQE assessments. Each application is assessed individually and it can take several months to be processed. It’s best to apply for exemptions as soon as you start preparing for your SQE exams.

You’ll need first to open an account with the SRA before you can apply for an exemption, register to sit the exam and book your SQE exam dates with Kaplan.

SQE2 exemption advice service

Some candidates may require assistance and guidance when preparing their application for an SQE2 exemption. Learn more about how you can receive advice from a specialist in this area who will help you through the process.

Preparing for the SQE

You can start preparing for SQE1 (if you’re a foreign lawyer) or SQE2 (if you’re an LPC graduate) and at the same apply for your exemption.

With more than a decade of experience helping foreign lawyers qualify through the QLTS exams, which have been the model for the SQE, we’re here to support you with a range of courses to help you pass your exam first time.

preparing for sqe
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Request a free consultationFind out more
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