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Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)... One year on.

Sarah Sharp

26th October 2022

The introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) from 2022 is the biggest shake-up to the training of the legal profession seen for nearly 30 years, taking over from the Legal Practice Course and training contract element of the professional training of solicitors.

Formerly solicitors qualified after completing a qualifying LLB Law degree or Graduate Diploma in Law, followed by the Legal Practice Course and a training contract gaining experience in different areas of the law in a firm, before being admitted as a Solicitor.

The SQE does not require an entrant to have completed a qualifying Law degree or Graduate Diploma in Law. However, they must of course have knowledge in the law, although this widens the scope to have gained this knowledge from previous work experience and it was hoped to open the profession to more. The SQE is split into two parts, the SQE 1 and SQE 2. SQE 1 is then sub-divided into two exams, where over one day students will face 180 multiple choice questions over 5 hours. This will test areas of the law such as business law, civil litigation, criminal law and litigation, property law, contract, tort and trusts and estates. This can be very demanding as all answers will often be plausible and students are asked to select the single best answer, so a thorough working knowledge and understanding of the breadth of the law is needed.

SQE2 assesses more professional skills in face-to-face oral assessments for advocacy and interviewing and online written assessment in legal writing, drafting and research.

The on-the-job training and experience of the law in the SQE is satisfied by two years of Qualifying Work Experience which can be carried out before, after or during the completion of the SQE assessments. This can be across up to four places of work in up to four sessions, providing greater flexibility to those wishing to enter the profession. This also attempts to combat the problem many faced after self-funding their LPC and then failing to find a training contract.

However, a year after the introduction of the SQE exams, pass rates do not reflect this opening of up the profession to a more diverse range, as statistics show that for the latest set of SQE1 assessments in July 2021 63% of White candidates passed compared to only 23% of those from Black or Black/British backgrounds. This was similarly reflected in the results of the SQE2, published in August 2022, with a 39% gap in achievement between White and Black or Black British candidates.

There are transitional arrangements in place for those who may have started the LPC before 2022 but your students will have to follow this new route.

Questions for the classroom

  • What are students thoughts on the changes following the introduction of SQE?
  • Does this route provide a more diverse range of solicitors entering the profession?
  • What concerns do students have about the training routes to qualify as a solicitor?
  • It must be noted that whilst this has changed, there have not been any changes to way barristers are trained. What are students thoughts on this?

Sarah Sharp

Sarah is an experienced A-Level and BTEC Law teacher and examiner. Sarah is Subject Lead for Law at tutor2u, leading the team developing online and print resources for A-Level and BTEC Law courses.

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