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Black letter laws: Do I need them for the SQE solicitor route?

You may have heard the expression black letter laws being used and how important they are for legal education. The SQE pathway to becoming a solicitor is changing the way people qualify, so are black letter laws still important? We take a look at black letter laws, what they mean and if you still need to know them to be a successful solicitor.

By Cara Fielder. Published 15 February 2023.

What are black letter laws? 

Black letter laws (BLLs) are the well-established legal rules and case law which are no longer subject to reasonable dispute. To become a successful solicitor having a good knowledge of BLLs are imperative. BLLs consist of the core legal principles of the law in England and Wales and a thorough knowledge of BLLs is an essential part of the SQE assessment regime.

Are black letter laws in the SQE? 

Yes, the SQE exams assess functioning legal knowledge which are the core legal principles and rules a candidate will be asked to apply to a number of different subject areas. To pass successfully a candidate should be able to apply these fundamental legal principles and rules appropriately and effectively at the level required of a competent newly qualified solicitor in practice, to realistic client-based and ethical problems and situations. BLLs are goIng to be essential knowledge for anyone wishing to pass SQE1 and 2 successfully.

When do solicitors use BLLs? 

In a solicitor’s working life, they will use many different areas of BLL depending upon their area of practice. This will be the case whether they are a criminal practitioner, a real estate specialist, a corporate lawyer or a general practitioner.

BLLs are highly relevant to people’s everyday lives, as they set out the key principles upon which legal decisions are made and how legal transactions can progress.  Almost every aspect of your life is regulated by law, and understanding how this works is vital, not just for a lawyer, but any professional. Even if you end up in a different sector, this foundational legal knowledge will stand you in good stead. 

Are BLLs taught on the LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2) course? 

We teach BLLs in all the vocational subject areas typically not covered in a law degree or on a law conversion course. But we do assume that all candidates joining the LLM Legal Practice will have an understanding of the BLLs in the academic law subjects of crime, equity, tort, contract, constitutional and administrative law, land and legal system. The LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2) does provide students with an opportunity to revise all of these academic law subjects using our SQE focussed revision app and by providing students with a structured academic law revision plan and access to excellent additional resources.   

Our LLM Legal Practice master’s programme focusses on preparing students for SQE1 and 2 as well as developing knowledge and skills in additional practice areas beyond the SQE syllabus.  All of this is done in the context of our virtual law firm ULaw LLP using realistic client based scenarios which will support your preparation for the SQE exams as well as getting you ready for practice. In particular we have focussed on the skills and knowledge that employers are seeking so that you can enhance your career prospects whilst preparing for SQE1 and 2.

In addition, you’ll receive four weeks of guaranteed Qualifying Work Experience within our Legal Advice Clinics. This master’s programme will ensure you’re fully prepared for your career as a solicitor, as well as success in the SQE exams.


Find out more about our LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2)