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SQE V LLM what should I pick?
18 January 2024

LLM or SQE Prep which one is right for me?

Published on 18 January 2024

At the College, we have regular discussions with students who are considering whether to take a full LLM in Legal Practice or just the SQE preparation courses. With so many options available now it can be hard to find out which route is the best for you. And the answer – well a very lawyerly answer, is as you would expect – it depends!

This blog dives into some of the key differentiators between our LLM in Legal Practice or our standalone SQE prep course to help you decide on the pathway right for you. If you are still unsure by the end of the blog, please get in touch and we can help! Psst. You can visit our SQE hub for more information on the SQE.

Firstly, what is the LLM in Legal Practice?

The College’s LLM in Legal Practice is a Masters in Law programme, that gives you a full Masters qualification. You study two core SQE preparation modules, a choice of elective skills modules and submit a business research project (like a dissertation). You can study full-time for one year or part-time for two years.

How long are the College’s SQE prep courses in comparison?

The College’s two preparation courses for SQE1 and SQE2 are two core modules in the LLM in Legal Practice. They can be taken full-time for 10 (SQE2), 13 weeks (SQE1), 20 weeks or 40 weeks. Every course requires a different number of hours of learning a week, so it is worth considering how much time you can dedicate to studying given your work and personal commitments.

Which route prepares you best for the SQE assessments?

The SQE preparation training you receive on the courses and in the LLM is exactly the same. In fact, the student cohorts for the LLM and SQE prep course enrol on the same module, with the resources giving you all the functioning legal knowledge you need, group and individual supervision and practice MCQs. 

One thing to be aware of, is that the LLM in Legal Practice has a fixed timeframe for the SQE1 and SQE2 preparation modules. So the LLM structure will propose which SQE assessments you should take, and assume that you take SQE1 after the SQE1 prep module and then SQE2 after completing the SQE2 prep module.

If you are either not wishing to take SQE1 straight after the prep module, or you don’t pass it first time, then you might find yourself taking the SQE1 assessment whilst continuing your LLM study on other modules, putting pressure on your study time which could be difficult to manage. 

How does the content differ?

The SQE prep modules have exactly the same content and learning experience when taken as part of the LLM as when they are taken separately. The LLM in Legal Practice offers you additional elective modules in specific practice areas, so you can develop your specialist knowledge which could help you progress your career. The capstone module will also help you explore a specific business question which could be helpful to your employer and career prospects, and of course one of the key differentiators you get a Masters qualification. 

Which one takes longer?

The SQE preparation modules are certainly shorter in length than a full LLM in Legal Practice, and if you want to start your study for SQE2 as soon as you have your results for SQE1, you could pass SQE2 three months quicker with the standalone full-time courses than the full LLM in Legal Practice. 

Alternatively, if you are very busy, you might want to study for the SQE more slowly, so our 40-week courses would take you longer than the full-time LLM in Legal Practice to complete both SQE1 and SQE2.

What is the difference in costs?

The SQE assessment fees are the same for each pathway, although they do go up slightly every year so do check the SRAs website. The LLM in Legal Practice course fee with the College stands at £6,900 for 2023-24, whereas the SQE1 preparation module costs £1,800 and the SQE2 preparation module costs £2.300. If you are looking around the course fees vary significantly.

How can I fund my SQE costs?

One of the major benefits of taking the LLM in Legal Practice is that you may be able to apply for a Masters Loan. This government-backed postgraduate loan is paid to you directly and you can choose how much you apply for and what you want to spend it on. If you are living in England, Wales or Northern Ireland the criteria differs, but you can receive a loan of over £12,000 over the one or two years you study.

If you apply for the full loan amount, it will cover both the LLM course fees (currently £6,900) and the SQE assessment fees (currently £4,564). The timing of payments will not fully align with the SQE assessment timing, but across the programme and the two SQE assessments, all your costs are covered. 

Which route is more flexible?

The SQE preparation courses are the more flexible option, as there are more course timeframes to choose from, for example the 40-week courses are proving particularly popular with those working full-time. Additionally, you can wait to decide on your SQE2 preparation course until you pass SQE1 and take a break from study if you wish to build up your qualifying work experience. The SQE2 runs every three months, so there are lots of opportunities to prepare when and how it suits you.

Which one do firms think is the most valuable route to qualification?

Traditionally, many firms expected their trainees to take the LLM offered alongside the LPC, however we are not seeing this trend continue. The firms we work with at The College of Legal Practice often don’t require an LLM in Legal Practice - passing the SQE is the critical progress that they are looking for in terms of legal education, and then it is more about your legal work experience and skills. However, that said, the elective modules will help you develop your legal skills and understanding of specific practice areas that will benefit your practice and client service. 

We hope this article helps you make the right choice for you. Whether it's the LLM or SQE preparation courses, both routes can be trusted to take you safely through the SQE and you will have excellent support along the way.

Please get in touch if you would like any more information about the College’s SQE options.


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