The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has today (1 September) launched the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), a new route into the profession for aspiring solicitors.

Aspiring solicitors may currently either complete a law degree and the Legal Practice Course (LPC), or a non-law degree and the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), followed by a training contract (two years of work-based training).

However, from today, the SQE will replace this regime. Students will now be required to obtain a degree level qualification (or equivalent), complete two years of qualifying work experience (QWE) and take two sets of centralised assessments, known as SQE1 and SQE2. They must also satisfy the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.

Law Society president, I. Stephanie Boyce, commented: “This new system has the potential to further the legal sector’s desire to widen diversity and inclusion and positively affect social mobility. We must hear from different voices and reflect the diverse jurisdiction we are living in. I strongly encourage the profession to engage positively with the changes. 

“Paralegals who may have struggled to qualify due to the limited number of training contracts now have a more accessible route into the profession”. 

Boyce explained there is “greater flexibility” around what constitutes QWE: “[QWE] can be completed over an extended period, at up to four separate placements, with no minimum length of time for each placement”. 

She added: “The Law Society and its Lawyers with Disabilities Division continue to work with the SRA to ensure that the SQE is accessible for disabled candidates, including through the use of assistive technology”. 

Transitional arrangements will be in place over the coming years to “give educational institutions and employers time to adjust their offering”, said Boyce. She added: “Anyone who falls under the arrangements will have until 31 December 2032 to qualify as a solicitor under the existing routes”. 

Boyce said the Law Society will monitor the implementation of the SQE and will “continue to support the profession with QWE and employment considerations arising from the changes”. 

She added: “We will also be continuing to ensure that those seeking to enter the profession are able to do so, by lobbying the UK government to ensure there is sufficient funding in place for all, that reasonable adjustments are available and there is fair treatment and opportunity for those who wish to practise the law.” 

To undertake the SQE assessments, aspiring solicitors will be required to pay a total of £3,980 (£1,558 for SQE1 and £2,422 for SQE2). This does not include any additional preparatory costs. 

The government has not committed to make funding available for freestanding SQE preparation courses or to cover the cost of the SQE assessments; however, some course providers have made arrangements with private loan providers. 

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