One of the main changes to the route to becoming a legal professional brought about by the SQE is the drastic reduction in the cost of taking the exam.
What are the current costs associated with becoming a solicitor?
Currently, the Legal Practice Course (LPC) is the only recognised exam that allows trainees to fully qualify as a solicitor with the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Its costs can reach £17,300, even if there are scholarships and bursaries in place.
On top of that, graduates from non-legal academic backgrounds - more specifically, those who have not completed a Qualifying Law Degree - must also complete a conversion course beforehand. This is known as the Graduate Law Diploma, and would itself cost up to £12,050.
It’s true, this is expensive when considering that there is no guarantee of becoming a solicitor even after passing the exams, as you would also need to get onto a training contract and complete a two-year placement subsequently.
With the introduction of the SQE starting from autumn 2021, all graduates will take the same streamlined route, whatever the subject of their undergraduate degree.
How much cheaper is the SQE?
You’ll only need to initially pay the cost of taking the SQE1 examinations, which will amount to £1,558. Once you’ve passed this first round of assessments, taking the SQE2 will cost £2,422, taking the total for the entire assessment to £3,980.
This decrease in entry fees will alleviate the financial burden that’s put on many trainee solicitors, who will have already been racked with the student debt from their undergraduate degree as a result of university fees reaching £9,250 a year.
The SRA has sought to make the route into the legal profession the same for all applicants, and to make it a more financially viable and accessible option through this decrease in fees.
However, you should also bear in mind that these costs only cover the entrance fee for the exams - the SQE assessments are not integrated on a course in the same way past qualifications are. Instead, those looking to prepare for the exams should enrol on one of the preparatory courses offered by a range of institutions, such as the University of Law.