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Qualifying as a Solicitor in England and Wales

What steps do you need to take?

LPC Route

LPC Route Map

There are two entry points to the LPC route - either via a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD) or through a law conversion course, commonly known as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). The GDL route is gradually being phased out in favour of a new route based on the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) coming into effect in 2021. Preparatory courses for the SQE will be available from the 1st of October 2020 and the route is outlined in further detail below.

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A qualifying law degree is an undergraduate degree awarded by a UK university and validated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Its purpose is to allow candidates to proceed along the LPC pathway to qualification as a solicitor (or as the academic stage in the qualification journey to become a barrister) and so the degree itself must cover certain foundational areas of legal knowledge alongside other restrictions such as only allowing a certain number of re-sits. Not all law degrees are QLDs. Your university will be able to confirm details about the law degrees which they offer and whether these count as a QLD.

The SRA maintains an up-to-date list of qualifying law degree providers.

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The GDL/CPE route is for those applicants who have an undergraduate degree but it is not in law (or it is not a qualifying law degree awarded by a UK university). The GDL/CPE is an intensive course built around the core curriculum and assessment requirements of a qualifying law degree. It aims to condense the knowledge and skills acquired in a graduate course which can bring non-law graduates up to the same standard as law graduates before they go onto the vocational stage of qualifying as a solicitor (i.e. the LPC) or as a barrister (i.e. Bar training courses).

The GDL course can also be extended in duration to satisfy the requirements of a MA. Such courses are available on LawCAB.

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The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is part of the vocational stage of training to be a solicitor - and it can be studied full or part time with an authorised LPC provider (LawCAB only hosts applications for full time courses; you must contact your chosen provider directly to apply for a part time course). The aim of the LPC is to prepare students for work-based learning and to provide a general foundation for practice. Generally, it comprises a first stage that focuses on core practice areas and skills, and a second stage containing three vocational electives. Many providers also bundle their LPC into the postgraduate degree LLM. These courses tend to be longer in duration and involve a module requiring an independent research project.

Providers arrange their LPC in different ways and so you will need to check directly with each institution to confirm how they deliver their programme.

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This is a 2 year period of recognised training which must be completed post-LPC; it is commonly referred to as the 'training contract'. Individuals are given supervised experience in legal practice in order to refine professional skills essential to practicing as a solicitor, including: advocacy, client care, drafting, commercial and financial awareness, and experience in specific areas of practice.

After all the above have been completed, the final requirements include the Professional Skills Courses (PSC) and the SRA Assessment of Character and Suitability and once these have been ticked off then, congratulations, you're ready to be admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales.

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SQE map

From 2021 - preparatory courses will be available on LawCab before this point see here for further details - there will be a new way to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. This new route is called the Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE) and it will gradually replace the LPC route outlined above. The exact transition period is slighly complex so we'd advise that you use our eligibility checker to ensure that you start down the route which is available to you.

A major difference from the LPC route is that the SQE route separates the SQE exam itself from the SQE preparatory courses/programmes. The SQE1 and SQE2 examinations are centrally administered by Kaplan, whereas LawCAB hosts courses and programmes which will prepare you to sit these examinations.

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

degree

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 Preparatory Courses/Programmes/Degrees

Preparation for the SQE is now separate from the SQE exam itself. You will need to pass the exam after the course has been taken. No doubt many providers will seamlessly attach the SQE exam to their programme of preparation, but this is something which you should confirm. Preparation for the SQE can take a number of forms and it may be a standalone course or bundled into an undergraduate/postgraduate qualification, amongst other options. See here for further details on SQE preparatory courses.

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.

SQE2

The SQE2 is concerned with testing legal skills and draws upon knowledge covered under the SQE1. It is most comparable to the LPC qualification (outlined above) and is more vocationally orientated than 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.

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.

After all the above have been completed, the final requirements include the Professional Skills Courses (PSC) and the SRA Assessment of Character and Suitability and once these have been ticked off then, congratulations, you're ready to be admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales.