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Applying for Solicitors Qualifying Exam Preparation Courses

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SQE map

Who should take the SQE route?

The SQE is for anyone who wants to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales who has not yet embarked on either a qualifying law degree (QLD), GDL or LPC or is already qualified as lawyer in another jurisdiction.

The SQE will be formally launched on 1 September 2021 and will eventually replace the curent LPC route to qualification as a solicitor. This means that if by 1 September 2021 you have not completed, started, accepted an offer of a place or paid a non-refundable deposit for:

• a qualifying law degree (QLD)
• the Common Professional Examination / Graduate Diploma in Law (CPE)
• exempting law degree (ELD)
• the Legal Practice Course
• a period of recognised training (also known as a training contract).

...then you will need to qualify through the SQE route.

There is no prescribed route to follow under the SQE, however, to reach the point where you can qualify as a solicitor you must:

• have a degree in any subject or equivalent qualification or work experience
• pass both stages of the SQE assessments - SQE1 (legal knowledge) and SQE2 (practical legal skills)
• have two years' qualifying work experience
• pass the SRA character and suitability requirements

The SRA has created infographics to illustrate what the route to qualification as a solicitor in England and Wales will look like after 1 September 2021, which you might find helpful.

During the transition period, there will be some who are eligible to take either the current GDL/LPC route or the new SQE route to qualification. If you are not sure which route to take, please use our eligibility tracker. You may also find it helpful to read 'Should I choose to qualify under the GDL/LPC or SQE route?' in the FAQs section.

The steps to qualification on the SQE route are set out below.

Undergraduate degree or equivalent

An UK undergraduate degree (or equivalent) must be held before a candidate completes the qualification route as a solicitor and makes an application to be admitted onto the roll of solicitors.

This criteria can be satisfied in a number of alternative ways, such as:

  • a degree awarded by a non-UK institution which has been certified as equivalent through a UK NARIC Statement of Comparability
  • a regulated apprenticeship in England and Wales rated at level 6 (or above)
  • an accredited qualification rated at level 6 (or above) of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications
  • or demonstrate work experience equivalent to a UK degree

Exact details of this requirement are set out by the SRA here.

SQE assessments

Full details of the assessment topics for SQE1 and SQE2 are on the SRA's dedicated SQE website but we have provided outline information below. The SQE website also gives the costs of the SQE assessments and a useful webinar for candidates about the SQE assessments.

All those wanting to sit the SQE assessments will need to register online with the SRA SQE site prior to booking the assessments - registration and bookings for the assessments open in July 2021.

SQE1

The SQE1 assessment tests candidates on their functioning legal knowledge. It covers the breadth and depth of the law of England and Wales which is currently taught on the Qualifying Law Degree and the Graduate Diploma in Law (both detailed above). The assessment is split into two and includes the following disciplines:

  1. Business Law and Practice; Dispute Resolution; Contract; Tort; Legal System of England and Wales; Constitutional and Administrative Law and EU Law and Legal Services.

  2. Property Practice; Wills and the Administration of Estates; Solicitors Accounts; Land Law; Trusts; Criminal Law and Practice.

The SQE 1 will take the form of two 5 hour assessments, split over two days (6 1/2 hours each day). Booking for the first SQE1 assessment, which will take place in November, will be open from July 2021 and close by 26 September 2021.

Further timings of the assessments can be found on the SRA SQE site.

SQE2

The SQE2 assessment is concerned with testing legal skills and draws upon knowledge covered under the SQE1. It is most comparable to the LPC qualification and is more vocationally orientated than the SQE1. You can only book and sit SQE2 after passing SQE1, or if you have been granted an exemption by the SRA for the whole of the SQE1.

The SQE2 will examine the candidate on client interview and attendance note/legal analysis, advocacy, case and matter analysis, legal research, legal writing, legal drafting, and negotiation in the following practice areas: Criminal Litigation, Dispute Resolution, Property Practice, Wills and Intestacy, Probate Administration and Practice, Business organisations, rules and procedures.

The SQE2 assessment is approximately 14 hours and taken over five half days. The first SQE2 assessment will take place in April 2022. Booking dates for the first SQE2 assessment are pending but locations are confirmed.

Further timings of the assessments can be found on the SRA SQE site.

You are likely to find it helpful to undertake a course to prepare you for the SQE1 and SQE2 assessment. The FAQs at the end of this section will help you determine which type of course will best meet your needs.

Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)

Qualifying work experience is any experience of providing legal services that offers a candidate the opportunity to develop some or all of the competences needed to practise as a solicitor. Work experience can be obtained in England or Wales or overseas, but it must be signed off by a qualified solicitor:

It can be gained in one block of time or in stages, so long as it is in no more than four organisations. It can be paid or unpaid work and could include:

  • on placement during a law degree
  • working in a law clinic
  • at a voluntary or charitable organisation such Citizen Advice or a law centre
  • working as a paralegal
  • on a training contract.

The aim is offer more flexibility to the candidate than is presently available under the LPC route. The SRA have produced an infographic highlighting its versatility.

To help aspiring solicitors record their work experience and demonstrate that it meets the required competencies, the SRA has developed a useful template which you can find here.

There are no requirements about when to undertake QWE. You can do it before, during or after taking your SQE assessments.

You must register your completed blocks of QWE with the SRA and you must have completed your QWE before you apply for admission to the roll of solicitors.

Read our further guidance on gaining QWE in our FAQ below.