The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has welcomed the Legal Services Board’s (LSB) decision to approve in full the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).

The SQE will be introduced from 1 September 2021, with the intention that the public and employers will have greater confidence that qualifying solicitors have all met the same standard.

The first sittings for SQE1 will take place in November 2021 with the first SQE2 sittings in April 2022.

The LSB’s decision follows a nine-year process of consultation by the SRA on solicitors’ training. In the last 18 months, the SRA has worked with its assessment provider Kaplan to refine the detail of the assessments through piloting, engagement, expert input and independent review.

This has involved 26,000 interactions with interested parties, including around 200 meetings, events and webinars with a wide range of stakeholders.

The SRA’s reports that its focus is now on preparing to run the first assessments, working closely with Kaplan and all stakeholders.

In the coming weeks, the SRA will publish more resources, including further information on assessment logistics, guidance on qualifying work experience and sample questions for SQE2. It will also publish a timeline of what information will be made available to help everyone understand the new assessments.

The SRA will also be running a one-day SQE virtual conference, targeted at training providers, on 15 December, and an SQE session for law firms during its compliance conference.

SRA chair Anna Bradley said: “We welcome the LSB’s decision. The SQE will provide assurance that all aspiring solicitors meet consistent, high standards at point of entry to the profession. It will also open up new and diverse routes to qualification.

“Our application and the decision notice itself show just how much work over very many years has gone into making sure the SQE is a world class, rigorous assessment.”

Those who qualify under the SQE will need to:

  • Have a degree in any subject (or equivalent qualification or experience).
  • Meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.
  • Gain two years' qualifying work experience.
  • Pass two stages of SQE assessment; SQE1 will test candidates' functioning legal knowledge of the law of England and Wales, while SQE2 will test a combination of practical legal skills and knowledge.

A transitional period will enable people who have begun the process of qualifying under the current Legal Practice Course training route to finish under that route, or choose to take the SQE.

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