What is the SQE pathway to qualification as a Solicitor?
From 1 September 2021, to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales you will need to meet four main requirements, with the SQE being one of these key elements.
To allow flexibility in how you qualify, the SRA has not yet stated any order in which you must complete the four requirements. Therefore, you can choose when and how you complete each part to fit around your own commitments. For example, you can start to develop and collate your work experience before you start your SQE prep course, whilst other students might decide to start the work experience alongside their SQE course.
The four elements you need to have to become a solicitor are:
Have a degree in any subject (or equivalent qualification or work experience)
Pass both stages of the SQE assessment – SQE1 focuses on legal knowledge and SQE2 on practical legal skills
Have two years’ qualifying work experience
Pass SRA character and suitability requirements
There are no entry requirements for you to sit SQE1. To sit SQE2, you must have passed SQE1. However, as SQE is a high stakes assessment with a limit of three attempts in a six-year period, it is advisable that candidates undergo SQE preparation.
Whilst it is possible for a person to take the SQE1 exam before doing their degree/degree equivalent qualification, it is expected that most learners will complete their degree/degree equivalent qualification before or alongside preparing for the SQE.
SQE Assessment Stage – SQE1 (Functioning Legal Knowledge)
SQE1 examines your legal knowledge, and your ability to apply this knowledge, in the following areas:
The emphasis of SQE1 is on testing how candidates apply what they learn about the law to real life situations, in other words, their “functioning legal knowledge”. Assessment will take the form of multiple-choice questions.
The first SQE1 exam sitting will be in November 2021. You can read more about the SQE1 assessment here.
SQE Assessment stage – SQE2 (Practical Legal Skills Assessments)
This part of the SQE examines legal skills such as:
Client interview and attendance note/legal analysis
Students must demonstrate their ability to apply those legal skills across the following five practice areas:
SQE2 will test practical skills in a range of different settings, for example, skills in advocacy, interviewing or drafting in civil or criminal law areas.
The SQE will be awarded as a pass or a failure without distinctions or commendations. City firms may ask new recruits to study additional courses or electives.
The first SQE2 exam sitting will take place in April 2021. You can read more about the SQE2 assessment here.
Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)
In relation to QWE, you will need to show that you have completed two years’ work experience in total. In practice, this means that you can accrue the required appropriate work experience before, during or after completion of SQE1, offering flexibility in that work experience is accrued. You are no longer tied to one provider and can utilise up to four organisations to achieve completion of this stage.
Have a degree in any subject (or equivalent qualification or work experience).