Once it begins to be phased in from autumn 2021, the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) will change the way in which prospective solicitors qualify for their profession. This includes the academic section of the training, which mandates that students no longer need to complete an undergraduate degree in a law-related subject, and can instead pursue other qualifications of the same level.
Previously, those who had studied a law degree - the main one offered by universities in the UK is the LLB - could move on to studying the Legal Practice Course (LPC) after graduation. These degrees are known as Qualifying Law Degrees, and are recognised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority as they provide the foundational knowledge that is expected of trainee solicitors, in a range of different practice areas and subjects.
On the other hand, those coming from non-law related academic backgrounds would have needed to firstly complete a conversion course known as the Graduate Diploma in Law before being admitted onto the LPC.
With the introduction of the SQE, no distinction will be made between a QLD and another level 6 qualification, whether that be a university degree in another academic subject or a degree apprenticeship.
This means that you won’t have needed to study a law degree when working towards the SQE, although you will have had to graduate in a qualification of the same level. Ultimately, this will have no bearing on the SRA’s decision to add you to the roll of solicitors, as academic performance is not taken into consideration, and all candidates are judged on the same criteria - their SQE1 and SQE2 results, their professional work experience, and the test of character and suitability.
Can I do a preparatory course for the SQE exams?
If you haven’t studied a law degree, it would also be a good idea to enrol onto a preparatory course for the first SQE exams, as you’ll be coming from a non-law background. This is especially the case as many of the areas covered in SQE1 will have formed part of the law degree, as the crucial ‘black letter’ law technical knowledge. For instance, the University of Law offers courses for the different exams that make up the qualification.