Changes to qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales (SQE)

As you may be aware, the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority (SRA) is introducing a new method of assessment for qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales, to be known as the Solicitors Qualifying Examination or “SQE”. The following statement sets out LSE Law’s understanding of the current timeline for the implementation of the new qualification. You may find it helpful if you are thinking about qualifying as a solicitor.

The first, important point is that anyone who is currently registered as an LLB student at the LSE will be able to continue to qualify as a solicitor through the existing qualification routes. At present to qualify as a solicitor it is first necessary to gain a ‘qualifying law degree’, followed by completing the vocational training comprising the Legal Practice Course and a two-year period of work-based training. A qualifying law degree is one that includes seven core legal subjects. The LSE LLB includes those seven core subjects and counts as a qualifying law degree (providing that optional courses in Property and EU law are taken as part of the degree). It is our understanding that this route will continue to be available to any student who enrols on our LLB degree on or before the academic year starting in September 2021. It is also important to bear in mind that the assessments necessary to qualifying as a barrister in England & Wales have not changed and the changes discussed here have no application to the Bar (for further guidance on qualifying for the Bar see https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/qualifying-as-a-barrister/current-requirements/).

However students who begin their legal studies after September 2021 will need to take the new route. Under the new route there will be no need to have a qualifying law degree or to undertake the Legal Practice Course in order to qualify as a solicitor. Instead solicitors will need to have any degree or equivalent qualification, have passed the SQE and undertaken a period of work-based training. The SRA has decided that the new SQE assessment will have two stages, with the first being focused on legal knowledge, broadly similar to that supplied in law degrees at present, and the second on practical vocational skills. The result of the change will be that while a law degree or diploma will no longer be necessary to the process of qualifying, a law degree is likely to remain the most effective and reputable way of acquiring the knowledge that is required to complete the first stage of the SQE.

The precise nature and arrangements for the SQE have not yet been settled by the SRA. While the SRA has published the broad legal areas that will be covered by the SQE examination, we understand that the detail of the content and the ways in which it will be assessed will be worked out during a development and testing phase to take place in 2019. Only then will detailed information be offered to educational institutions like LSE Law and other interested parties in time for a planned launch in 2021.  We therefore hope to be able to make details of the SQE assessment and any effects that it may have on the LSE LLB available during the course of 2019.  The LSE, like other universities, is not in control of this timeline and we understand that it might change but, as mentioned above, the important point for current students is that the existing routes to qualification remain available to them for the present.

We plan to hold events to discuss the implications of the reforms once we have more detail from the development stage.  In the meantime, information will be released on the SRA  website: https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitorexam/

   

page last edited: 6 December 2018