Changes to the Solicitor's Qualifying Examination
To become a qualified solicitor (in England and Wales) you must complete qualifications governed by the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA). The SRA is changing the solicitor qualification process from 2020.
The new route to qualification
The current system requires solicitors to complete the following:
- a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD) or equivalent (the GDL/CPE) and
- the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and
- a two-year training contract at a law firm.
The new route to qualification requires completion of three core components:
- having a degree or equivalent
- two stages of the Solicitor's Qualifying Examination (SQE) assessment
- having a two-year period of work experience.
In addition, as now, all students will have to meet the character and suitability requirements to become a solicitor.
Two key points are important to note about the new system:
- The required degree does not have to be a law degree, although students will need to have studied law in depth to be able to pass the legal knowledge elements of the SQE (see below). A law degree will continue to be one means of obtaining much of the legal knowledge and understanding required before undertaking the SQE.
- The two-year period of work experience does not have to be in one continuous block, nor even at a law firm, although it will have to demonstrate the acquisition of a set of required professional skills for the practice of law. It is likely that some firms, particularly the larger corporate/commercial firms, may still recruit to a two-year period of work experience at that firm.
The SQE assessment
The SQE assessment will consist of two assessments, SQE1 and SQE2. The assessments will comprise several different components and will be set and administered by an external provider, so the SQE will not be run by your university and will take place separately from your degree. In broad terms, SQE1 will test the application of legal knowledge in transactions and litigation, while SQE2 will test professional skills.
When will the changes take place?
The SRA has stated that the earliest that the SQE will begin is in late 2020. For students starting their LLB studies before that time, nothing will change, in that the traditional route to qualification will remain available to them. However, as soon as the SQE is ready, it will be available as an alternative option for those who wish to qualify through that route.
It is envisaged that once the SQE is underway, it will eventually become the only route to qualification. The SRA is currently proposing that students who start a QLD or equivalent (GDL/CPE) before the SQE is introduced will have a choice about whether to qualify under the old or new systems for a number of years after the SQE comes in.
Will the route to training as a barrister be changing in the same way?
The Bar Standards Board (BSB), the equivalent body to the SRA for barristers, is undertaking a review of qualification routes and will be making changes to the process in the future.
Once the changes have been finalised, we will be advise all our students. In the meantime you can find out the latest information on the Bar Standards Board website.
Where can I get more information?
We will continue to monitor developments and update you when we have further information. In addition, both our academic and our King’s Careers & Employability teams are here to provide you with support and advice during your student journey at King’s.
The information above is an overview of what we know of the SRA’s plans for now, but it is clear that much is still to be confirmed, not least in relation to the timing and roll-out of the SQE qualification route.
For more details and the latest information please visit the SRA’s ‘Training for Tomorrow’ website.