19 February 2018
Last year the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)
announced their decision to reform solicitor qualification in England and Wales
by introducing the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). The SRA have been
consulting on reforms since 2015, and their proposals have been controversial
with firms and universities alike. Now that they’ve decided how they want to
proceed, students looking to qualify as a solicitor are asking about what the
changes might mean.
Here at The University of Law we’ve been looking closely at
the SRA’s plans as they’ve developed over the last few years, and now bring you
this FAQ of what you need to know about the SQE proposals.
WHEN WILL THE SQE START?
The SRA have said that the SQE regime will not be introduced
until September 2020 at the earliest. As this language suggests, it could be
delayed – it’s a very significant change, so it’s important the SRA get the
Even if it does come in for September 2020, it will not be a
‘big bang’ change, but the new and current systems will run alongside each
other for some years. The SRA have just consulted on the transitional
provisions (the rules that will apply as they move from one regime to another),
and we’re waiting to see the outcome. However, they’re proposing that anyone
who starts their legal education before the SQE is introduced will be allowed
to follow their choice of the new or current process, as long as those using
the current process complete it by 2031.
HOW WILL THE SQE CHANGE THE PROCESS TO BECOME A SOLICITOR?
To give you a clear understanding of how the SQE is going to
change things, we’ll start with a quick overview of the current process which
most students follow to become a qualified solicitor and then go through the
new process that will be introduced with the SQE. (Different rules can apply,
for instance if you are on a solicitor apprenticeship, or if you are already a
qualified lawyer in a different jurisdiction).
The current process
The new process
HOW DOES THE SQE
DIFFER FROM THE QLD/GDL and LPC?
The QLD, GDL, and LPC, are all courses of study. Each has to
include certain prescribed subjects, but the details of the courses and the
assessments are set by the course provider.
The SQE is fundamentally different, as it is just a set of
exams. These exams will be set by just one body (not yet known), and all
students will sit the same SQE exams no matter where or how they did their
studies. Any degree or other qualifications/exam results will be irrelevant
under the new regime, except to show you have a degree or equivalent in some
subject – the SRA will only use your SQE result to check you have the knowledge
and skills to become a solicitor.
Of course, you’ll still need to study law and legal practice
to get ready for the SQE. The University of Law will have a full range of
programmes to prepare you not just for the SQE, but to give you the wider
skills you need to stand out and succeed in the workplace.
BUT WHAT IF I HAVE A
LAW DEGREE? SURELY PASSING ALL THOSE UNIVERSITY LAW EXAMS WILL COUNT?
Unfortunately not. The SRA have decided not to allow any
exemptions from the SQE (except for some lawyers who are already qualified in
other jurisdictions). If you’ve done a law degree, you’ll have picked up at
least some essential knowledge to help you prepare for the SQE but you will
still have to sit all the SQE exams in addition to completing your degree. The
University of Law’s LLB will include options and exercises to help prepare you
as fully as possible for the SQE.
WHAT IF I’M PART WAY
THROUGH MY TRAINING WHEN THE SQE STARTS?
Because it’s going to be a long transition, the SRA are
proposing a period of eleven years from when the SQE starts for anyone who has already
started their training to be able to qualify under the current process. So if
the SQE starts in 2020 as planned, current students will have until at least
2031 to continue on either route to becoming a solicitor. The details aren’t
finalised yet, so keep an eye out for any announcements, but you really don’t
need to worry – as long as your law degree or GDL started before the SQE does,
the SRA have said they will permit you a reasonable period to complete and
On the up-side, once the SQE does begin, anyone who wants to
switch to that new route to qualification can do. So if you’ve started your
legal studies before the SQE comes in, you can choose to sit the SQE and do QWE
instead of a training contract. This means you can wait to see what the SQE
looks like before making your mind up as to which route to follow – as long as
you’ve started before the SQE is launched.
WHAT WILL THE SQE
LOOK LIKE AND COVER?
At this stage, nobody knows. The SRA have not yet appointed
an assessment provider, and there are no specimen exams or sample questions to
look at. Even issues such as the number of exams, the topics they will cover,
and when/how often the exams will take place, are still uncertain and subject
However, the SRA have published some proposals, and we do
expect that the SQE will have the following key features:
IS THERE ANYTHING I
NEED TO DO NOW BECAUSE OF THE PROPOSED SQE?
The good news is that there is nothing you need to do at
this stage. Exactly when the SQE will be introduced, and what it will involve,
are still uncertain. We do know that it will not be until 2020 at the earliest
before it comes in, and that once it does anyone who starts their studies
beforehand will be able to choose which route they follow.
What’s most important will be to keep yourself updated as things
develop so you can make decisions when the time is right, and be knowledgeable
and informed about the SRA’s proposals when talking to potential employers.
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to make sure you never
miss any of our posts about this important topic.
29 January 2018
Training contract assessment centres might seem like a rather daunting concept, but they don’t have to be. We sat down with The University of Law’s Employability Director, John Watkins, to find out more about what assessment centres are, where they came from and to get some top tips on ensuring you make the most of your opportunity to impress.
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