The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has announced that there would be a transition period from when the SQE is phased in at the start of the 2021/22 academic year, which will allow you to qualify through the current route until 2032.
If you’re graduating from a law degree over the next few years, you’ll have some flexibility in the steps you decide to take afterwards, if you want to apply to become a fully qualified solicitor in the future.
Can I still take the LPC after graduating?
This means that if you’ve already embarked on a law degree, you’ll still be able to take the LPC after you graduate, for the time being.
If you’ve secured a training contract, it’s likely that this decision will be made for you anyway, and the law firm that’s accepted you on a future placement will require you to take a course with a provider they’ve selected, whether that’s for the GDL, LPC or the new SQE.
What are my options if I don’t have a training contract?
If you haven’t got a training contract lined up, it’s recommended that you take a preparation course from one of the various providers - such as The University of Law - before taking the SQE exams.
This can be an alternative to the old route, although it will take longer than the old LPC to qualify. Nevertheless, one advantage of waiting for the SQE exams to be introduced is that they will cost significantly less - at just under £4,000 for SQE1 and SQE2 put together, although this excludes the fees for any preparation course you might take.
Should I build up work experience before taking the SQE?
It might also be a good idea to embark on a year out from education to get some work experience, especially as under the new SQE regulations your two years’ worth of legal placements no longer needs to be a training contract - instead, it can be taken in a wide range of other legal positions and companies, as long as you can get it signed off by another solicitor.
You can build up work experience over different roles, which means you could accrue a number of placements before you move on to taking SQE1 so that you have some Qualifying Work Experience time in the bank that will contribute towards your 24 month requirement.
This new requirement has been implemented by the SRA to make qualifying more flexible, and help if you’re then unable to find a training contract.
Does the SQE take longer to complete than the LPC?
It’s also a good idea to consider the length of time that either qualification will take to complete - the LPC would be a year-long course building up to a set of examinations, whereas the SQE itself simply consists of the exam component, with various opportunities to sit the tests throughout the year.
You should also bear in mind that these exams will only begin in autumn 2021, so if you’re in the final year of your law degree it would be a good idea to start looking into preparation courses.