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Solicitors Qualifying Examination
The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is being phased in as the new centralised way to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. The introduction of the SQE will mean that everyone who becomes a lawyer will undergo the exact same process and meet the same high standards. It will eventually replace the previous route to practice as a solicitor – the Legal Practice Course (LPC) – which you can still continue with in certain circumstances.
4 steps to becoming a solicitor
The SQE forms part of a new, four-step route to becoming a solicitor in England and Wales:
- Degree or equivalent qualification in any subject
- Pass SQE1 and SQE2 assessments.
- Minimum of two years' Qualifying Work Experience (QWE).
- Demonstrate your suitability.
What are the SQE assessments?
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 interviewing (with written 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
Tuition fees and exam costs
The tuition fees to study towards the SQE will depend on the law school – for example, check with legal education experts the University of Law (ULaw) to see what their learning provisions and tuition fees are. ULaw has a wide range of SQE courses and routes to suit all kinds of learners, including law graduates and non-law graduates, as well as options to study full time, part time, on campus or online. In addition to tuition fees, students will need to pay exam fees directly to the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the total cost for taking both of the SQE assessments is £3,980.
SQE1: £1,558 for the two multiple choice examinations.
SQE2: £2,422 for all of the practical legal skills assessments, including written and oral tasks, testing both practical legal knowledge and skills, including advocacy, client interviewing (with written attendance note/legal analysis), legal research, legal writing, legal drafting, and case and matter analysis.
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
Your 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).
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The new SQE route to becoming a solicitor versus the old one
This table illustrates the steps involved in the LPC route to qualifying as a solicitor in the UK versus the new SQE route. As you can see there are some similarities in the overall qualifying process, however it is thought that the introduction of the SQE will make the route to qualifying as a solicitor more standardised across the board and a fairer system for everyone.
Old route to becoming a solicitor
New SQE route
Law/legal degree or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)
Degree or equivalent qualification in ANY subject
Legal Practice Course (LPC)
Pass SQE1 and SQE2 assessments
Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)
Professional Skills Course
Demonstrate suitable character
Demonstrate suitable character
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