With the launch of a new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) in autumn 2021, we are entering a transitional period where there will be two valid routes to qualification as a solicitor in England and Wales. These routes are explained below.
Up until now anyone wishing to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales has had to follow a prescribed route, which we will call the ‘traditional’ route. This comprises two stages that applicants must complete:
The QLD, GDL/CPE and LPC cover set subjects which are specifically required by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for the courses to be validated by them. Further information about these courses can be found in Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC). If you have a law degree you should check whether or not it is a recognised qualifying law degree (QLD) which requires you to have covered certain core subjects.
The traditional route will remain valid until 2032 for those who have already started their journey to qualification in 2021.
So who is eligible to qualify under traditional route?
If before 1 September 2021, you have 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 be able to continue to qualify under the traditional route. If you have not already started on this route, your course must start on or before 31 December 2021. This route to qualification will remain valid until 2032.
Those of you eligible to take the traditional route to qualification may also choose the SQE route if you wish.
If you are a new applicant who has not applied for and deferred, enrolled on or completed a QLD, GDL/CPE by 31 December 2021, you will have to qualify under the new SQE route.
From 1 September 2021, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is introducing a new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) which will completely change how you achieve your qualification as a solicitor. Importantly, this new route offers a much more flexible journey than the traditional route allows.
Under the SQE, anyone wanting to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales, including those qualified as lawyers in other jurisdictions, will need to:
• have a degree in any subject (or equivalent qualification or work experience)
• pass both stages of the SQE assessment - SQE1 (legal knowledge) and SQE2 (practical legal skills)
• have two years' qualifying work experience
• pass the SRA character and suitability requirements
The key thing here is that there is no prescribed route for you to take; you can determine what you need to do to achieve the four requirements set out above and in whatever order you wish, although you will need to have completed SQE 1 before you can take the SQE 2 assessment and the guidance from the SRA suggests that the SQE 2 assessment will be more straightforward for those candidates who have accumulated at least some practical experience.
It will be completely up to you how you choose to pass the two SQE assessments. Unlike the QLD/CPE/GDL and LPC, which cover prescribed subjects and are validated by the SRA, universities/course providers will be free to offer SQE preparation courses as determined by them; they will not have to be validated by the SRA. You may choose to self-study, do online courses, take university courses which are eligible for government funding or take stand-alone SQE specific preparation courses. You will however, have to demonstrate through the SQE assessments that you have mastered the knowledge and competence expected of a newly qualified solicitor.
Not sure which route you should take?
Some applicants may be eligible for the GDL/LPC route and the SQE route, while others may only be eligible for the SQE route.
Please use our eligibility checker to determine which route(s) you are eligible for. To read more about which route may be best for you, see 'Should I choose to qualify under the GDL/LPC or SQE route?' in the FAQs section.