Solicitors Qualifying Examination | Requirements and cost
Requirements and cost
- complete both stages of assessment, SQE1 and SQE2
- complete a degree-level qualification or equivalent
- complete two years of qualifying work experience (QWE)
- satisfy the SRA’s character and suitability requirements
While the other required elements of the SQE can be completed in any order, candidates must complete the SQE1 assessments before they can sit the SQE2 assessments.
SQE1 consists of two examinations of 180 questions.
It tests ‘functioning legal knowledge’ (FLK) through single best answer, multiple-choice questions.
It’s likely that many candidates will take SQE1 at the same time as, or slightly after, they complete their academic education.
SQE2 is a single, uniform assessment for all candidates, consisting of 15 to 18 exercises (‘stations’) which sample across the skills and practice areas. Candidates will not be able to choose the practice area for their skills assessment.
It tests candidates’ legal skills through written and oral simulations of the tasks a newly qualified solicitor might undertake in practice, across the five contexts of:
- criminal litigation
- dispute resolution
- property practice
- wills and intestacy, probate administration and practice
- business organisations, rules and procedures
It’s likely candidates will take SQE2 near the end of their qualifying work experience (QWE).
QWE replaces the current period of recognised training as the work-based learning element of the route to qualification. However, some employers may require their employees to complete the SQE2 at an earlier point.
The SRA does not require the elements to be taken in a certain order, other than passing SQE1 before sitting SQE2.
Degree-level qualification or equivalent
To become a solicitor, candidates must hold a degree level qualification or an equivalent, for example:
- an undergraduate degree
- a Level 6 apprenticeship
- a Level 6 CILEx qualification
- equivalent experience
The degree level qualification does not have to be in law, but practically speaking candidates will need an education of some kind in law to pass the SQE assessments.
Many candidates may still choose to take a law degree, but this is no longer be mandatory.
Some universities will incorporate preparation for the SQE1 assessments into their undergraduate or master’s law programmes.
In addition, many current providers of legal education will offer courses which prepare both law and non-law graduates for the SQE1 (and later SQE2) assessments.
Two years of qualifying work experience
All candidates will need to complete at least two years full-time (or equivalent) qualifying work experience (QWE).
What QWE covers
QWE aims to be a more flexible approach than the current period of recognised training, commonly referred to as a ‘training contract’.
QWE gives candidates the opportunity to:
- interact with clients
- see how solicitors work in practice
- consider ethical challenges
- develop competences set out in the Statement of Solicitor Competence
There are no longer requirements:
- for contentious or non-contentious work
- to work in a specific number of legal areas
Confirmation that a candidate has undertaken QWE will need to be provided by the relevant organisation(s) that it was completed with.
QWE will not be assessed by the SRA. The SQE assessments will determine whether a candidate meets the required standard for entry to the profession.
However, it is important to undertake the best quality qualifying work experience, as this will put candidates in the best possible position for newly qualified roles.
Where QWE can be done and timeframes
QWE can be done at a maximum of four separate organisations, including:
- legal clinics in academic institutions
- law centres
- other appropriate organisations
There is no minimum length of time for placements.
Organisations are encouraged to take a common-sense approach when deciding how long a placement should be. Candidates should consider whether a placement will give them enough time to develop the necessary competencies they will be seeking to have confirmed and signed off.
Candidates do not have to complete QWE in one block directly before qualifying as a solicitor, as most candidates currently do. A candidate can gain experience as they progress through their education, and this experience could include summer work placements or work as a paralegal so long as it’s signed off.
Employers and QWE
It’s likely that many employers will continue to take on trainees for a two-year period as is current practice.
Employers may have their own expectations of what good qualifying work experience looks like. They are free to set and manage their own training arrangements, so long as they meet the SRA’s minimum requirements.
Signing off QWE placements
Placements must be signed off by one of the following:
- the compliance officer for legal practice (COLP) within the firm, if the organisation has one
- a solicitor working at the organisation (who does not need to hold a practising certificate), or
- (if neither of these is available) a nominated solicitor working outside the organisation who is willing to sign off the experience gained and who has direct experience of the candidate’s work
The total cost of the SQE assessments is £3,980.
This will break down as:
- SQE1 – £1,558
- SQE2 – £2,422
While the cost of the SQE assessments is more affordable than the fees for the current legal practice course (LPC), it is still significant.
Some universities may incorporate preparation for the SQE1 assessments into their undergraduate or master’s law programmes which should attract student loan funding.
At present, there is no equivalent funding for freestanding SQE preparation courses that are not part of an undergraduate or master’s degree. We’re lobbying government to ensure that some form of loan or funding is available for those who need it to meet the costs of the assessments.