To become an English solicitor, you must pass a centralised series of assessments – the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (“SQE”).
The SRA will introduce the SQE exams in 2021 to ensure that all aspiring solicitors meet the same high standard of competence before they can apply for admission as an English solicitor, regardless of the path they have taken to before sitting the SQE and the solicitor training programme they have selected.
Kaplan, a global education and assessment organisation, has been appointed by the SRA to design, develop and deliver the SQE.
The SQE requires all intending solicitors to demonstrate a high level of legal knowledge and practical skills, as well as intellectual and analytical ability. UK candidates must also complete a pre-qualification qualifying work experience requirement of a minimum of two years (foreign lawyers are exempt). This qualifying work experience requirement is more flexible than the training contract requirement as to where, when, and how candidates secure that work experience.
The SQE facilitates the development of more flexible pathways to qualification than before, for those who are able to meet the robust standards of the assessment, without diluting the standard of legal and practical skills expected of members of one of the world’s most prestigious professions.
The SQE assessments comprise two stages: SQE1 (which tests candidates’ ability to use their legal knowledge to address clients’ problems or within legal transactions) and SQE2 (which tests the legal skills of client interviewing, advocacy, case and matter analysis, legal writing, drafting, and legal research).
One of the major changes of the SQE is that candidates do not need to take anymore the Legal Practice Course (LPC) at an additional cost of up to £15,000, which is the mandatory vocational stage of the domestic route for solicitor training under the traditional route, and a significant financial obstacle for many. Candidates without a qualifying law degree do not need to complete the Graduate Diploma in law (GDL) either.
As a result, new pathways to solicitor training have been introduced alongside the traditional routes, opening up the legal profession to applicants from varied backgrounds and qualifications.
The more common ways to qualify as solicitors following the introduction of the SQE are people with various backgrounds. To learn more, select the option below which most accurately describes your background group: