If you’re looking to pursue a career as a solicitor after graduating, you’ll know that previously you will have had to undertake a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) on finishing your non-law degree, a conversion course before moving on to the Legal Practice Course (LPC). However, the new Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE) has introduced a new way of qualifying for the legal profession, which will give you several options as a graduate.
Do I need to complete the GDL before doing SQE?
The SQE aims to standardise the route to qualifying for everyone, regardless of academic background, meaning a conversion course won’t be necessary beforehand. The content covered by the GDL will instead be integrated into the first set of exams under the new specification, known as SQE1.
Nevertheless, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has implemented a transition period, running until 2032, in which graduates can qualify via either route as long as they’ve begun a training contract or the GDL.
Should I take an SQE prep course?
Although the new specification has effectively blurred the distinction between non-law and law degrees - as everyone will eventually take the same exam - it’s nevertheless highly recommended that you undertake a preparation course at one of the providers, such as the University of Law.
These will replace the GDL and LPC courses, although they will not be a compulsory part of the SQE, which in itself only consists of the standalone exams rather than the course itself.
Do I need to do SQE if I have a training contract?
If you’ve secured a training contract once you graduate, the decision will likely already be made for you - although there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus among law firms with regards to their preferred route, so you’ll need to check with the firm you’re with.
Can I get work experience other than a training contract?
If you don’t have a training contract, fear not: the SRA have also made changes to the way in which you get work experience before qualifying, loosening the requirements with regards to legal placements. This means that aside from studying for one of the two exam routes, obtaining work experience straight away is another option available to you, especially if you do decide to wait for the SQE to come into effect at the start of next year.
It’s no longer necessary to undertake a training contract with a law firm, as the SRA now allows you to spread out your work experience over up to four roles at different organisations, although you’ll still need to accrue 24 months’ worth before qualifying.
This is known as Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) and allows you to be more flexible about the way in which you qualify, with the SRA setting out a wider variety of positions and sectors in which you can carry this out.