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Qualifying as a solicitor in England & Wales without a law degree
You may be surprised to find out that you can still qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales, even if you have not studied a law degree. In fact, now that the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) has been introduced, this goal is now easier than ever to achieve.
Let’s take a look at how to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales without a law degree.
If you have a degree from an overseas university
If you hold a degree from an overseas university, you should apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority for a Certificate of Academic Standing. This is the process by which The Law Society confirms your eligibility to pursue law in England and Wales, and evidence that your qualifications meet the minimum requirements for admission – usually equivalent to a lower second-class honours or above and competency in the English language. Once your eligibility has been proven you can follow the same route to becoming a solicitor as those with a degree from a UK university.
If you have a degree from a UK university
If you have a degree in any subject including law from a UK university, the route to becoming a solicitor in England and Wales is the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). Being phased in from September 2021, the SQE is the new centralised way to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales, replacing the Legal Practice Course (LPC), which is the former route to practicing law.
The SQE is a new system of exams divided into two stages – SQE1 and SQE2 – that will be introduced from September 2021, and all prospective candidates will have to pass both stages of exams to qualify as a solicitor. As well as passing both stages of the SQE, prospective candidates must complete two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) and demonstrate that they have suitable character to work in this field.
Put simply, to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales through the new SQE route you need:
SQE in more detail
The SQE has been divided into two parts – SQE1 and SQE2.
In SQE1 students need to answer two SQE1 Functioning Legal Knowledge multiple-choice assessments covering the following subject areas:
1. Business Law & Practice; Dispute Resolution; Contract; Tort; Legal System of England & Wales; Constitutional & Administrative Law; and EU Law & Legal Services.
2. Property Practice; Wills & the Administration of Estates; Solicitors Accounts; Land Law; Trusts; Criminal Law; and Practice.
In SQE1 students need to answer two papers, each consisting of 180 multiple choice questions on the above topics based on client-based scenarios. Students must pass SQE1 before they are able to sit the SQE2.
The SQE2 will test the student on their practical legal skills, including:
- Client interview and attendance note/legal analysis
- Legal research
- Legal drafting
- Legal writing
- Case & matter analysis
The practice areas in which the legal skills are assessed in the SQE2 are:
- Criminal Litigation
- Dispute Resolution
- Property Practice
- Wills, Intestacy, Probate Administration & Practice
- Business Organisations, Rules & Procedures
What is Qualifying Work Experience?
Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) can be completed at any point during the student’s qualification process and is similar to a training contract. QWE can be paid or unpaid, and includes:
- Placement during a law degree
- Work in a law clinic
- Volunteering or working at a charitable organisation such Citizen Advice Bureau
- Working as a paralegal
- Training contract
QWE can be completed with up to four different legal employers over two years or over a two-year period with a single law firm. To be counted as a step towards qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales your QWE needs to be signed off by the legal employer(s), who must be a solicitor or the compliance officer (COLP).
How do you demonstrate suitable character?
The Solicitors Regulation Authority treats a candidate’s integrity to be a solicitor as seriously as their knowledge and skills. If a candidate doesn’t meet the SRA’s requirements for character and suitability, then they will not be admitted as a solicitor even if they have past SQE1 and SQE2 and completed the QWE. The importance of protecting the public and public interest will be taken into consideration by the SRA when assessing a candidate’s suitability to be a solicitor, including any criminal conduct and any dishonest, violent, threatening or discriminatory behavior.
What has the SQE replaced?
The SQE has been phased in to replace the Legal Practice Course (LPC). The SQE differs from the LPC in that it is a series of exams rather than an actual course, as a result of this the SQE does not involve any direct education or training. New law conversion course options are being be launched alongside the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) to offer students a range of different study options to prepare for the SQE.Find your PERFECT LLM PROGRAM
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