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The SQE or LPC?
Thinking of becoming a solicitor? Is the SQE or LPC right for you?
The route to qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales has changed. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has introduced the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) which will eventually replace the current Legal Practice Course (LPC).
On this page, we have highlighted some of the things you need to consider and common questions around the SQE to ensure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision about which path to qualification is best for you.
Can I choose to take the SQE or the LPC?
You can now decide to qualify under the new SQE route or take an LPC.
However, you will only be able to pursue the existing LPC and Training Contract route if you have already commenced a law degree, Graduate Diploma in Law or LPC. The cut off for starting these programmes was 31 August 2021. You will then have until 2032 to qualify as a solicitor before the LPC and Training Contract route is turned off. Even if you have commenced one of the above, you may still decide to take the SQE if you wish.
What is the SQE?
The SQE is the new qualification examination for aspiring solicitors in England and Wales.
Unlike the LPC, the SQE is not a course or study programme, but two sets of examinations.
Do I need anything else to qualify as a solicitor via the SQE?
There are four things you will need to qualify as a solicitor:
The LPC or SQE? Things to consider
Are you already a qualified lawyer?
If you are a qualified lawyer, the SRA will recognise your previous experience, so you won’t need to complete any qualifying work experience (QWE). You also may be exempt from the SQE2 assessment, it is worth checking the SRA’s website to see whether you can apply for exemptions that mean you only need to take SQE1.
Do you have a qualifying law degree?
If you do, you can choose the LPC or SQE route. For both routes you will need a period of training, either as a training contract or qualifying work experience. If you don’t have a law degree or haven’t started a law degree by August 21, or equivalent, you will need to qualify via the SQE.
Do you have any legal services experience?
This could be voluntary or paid-for experience. If you do, you can check with the SRA whether your experience counts as qualifying work experience, which will help you on the SQE route to qualification.
When do you want to qualify?
The LPC route will take 1 or 2 years plus 2 years of a training contract. The SQE route can take from eight months, if you already have work experience, to up to six years. There is more flexibility with the SQE route to qualification in times of how long you take to qualify.
How much time do you have to study?
The LPC can be taken part-time or full-time. The SQE can be taken step-by-step. You can study part-time or full-time for either SQE assessment, but you don’t need to decide about SQE2 until you have passed SQE1. The part-time options for the SQE study start with as little as 8-10 hours of learning per week.
What kind of learning are you looking for?
You can study online, receiving individual tuition or study as part of a group on campus. There are lots of opportunities for you to find the best learning environment that fits with your individual circumstances.
Where do you want to study?
Think about whether you would like to study on campus or online. There are options for both routes. There are more online options, like The College of Legal Practice for SQE preparation. If you are looking to work alongside your studies, or save on accommodation and travel expense then the SQE route online may be worth considering. You may work better in a classroom environment, but it is worth checking how much individual tuition you receive with each provider.
What can you afford?
There is a wide range of LPCs and SQE prep courses on the market. The average cost for an LPC is higher than most of the combined costs of SQE prep courses and SRA exam fees, but it depends on the institution. You can complete Masters Programmes that incorporate either LPCs or SQE preparation with accredited providers, that are eligible for government Masters Loan funding. You can also fund the SQE assessments and preparation courses separately, spreading out the cost of your payments.
Which firms do you want to work for?
Every firm has a different approach to qualification, and it is changing. Many organisations are now offering the choice of studying for the LPC or the SQE within their training contracts. Do your research and work out for the type of law that you are looking for and the type of firm you want to work for, what organisations are proposing as training for their future trainees.
The SRA have a decision tree which could help you determine which route you can take.
What is the SQE?
Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)
Prepare for the SQE
If I choose the SQE - How can I best prepare for the assessments?
Do not be mistaken in thinking that the SQE is easy!
Even with a law degree, the SQE assessments will be difficult. It is not only about legal knowledge, but the ability to identify issues and apply legal knowledge throughout the assessments. This may be the first time you will experience complex multiple-choice and oral examinations, so you will need to prepare well in both legal knowledge and examination technique.
Preparation courses are not mandatory, and you can prepare yourself for the SQE examinations if you feel confident and comfortable to do so. If you want a little help preparing for success, we offer a series of part-time and full-time courses which will provide you with the legal knowledge, examination technique and opportunities to practice your interview and advocacy skills before the assessments. You’ll have significant 1-2-1 supervision from both a personal tutor and subject matter experts to get you ready for the assessments and to set you up for a successful start to your career as a solicitor.
We’re so confident in our preparation courses that you can take the course again free of charge if you are not successful in passing the SQE assessment.