Previously the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) established two different pathways for prospective solicitors to follow once they’d graduated. Notably, those from a non-law academic background - who hadn’t completed a Qualifying Law Degree - would have to undertake a postgraduate conversion course known as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) before moving on to the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
With the introduction of the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), however, all graduates will now undertake the same set of exams and be subject to the same requirements, regardless of whether they’ve studied a law-based subject before. This will consist of two sets of standalone exams, as opposed to a full or part-time course in the case of the GDL and LPC, which you’ll be expected to prepare for by undertaking a separate course with one of the various providers, such as The University of Law.
Do I need to do a GDL before SQE?
There’s no requirement to undertake GDL now that the SQE has been implemented, as much of the content covered under GDL - known as Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK) - is covered under the components of SQE1, the first set of exams you’ll take.
The SRA has implemented a transition period running until 2032 in which graduates can qualify via either route - however, this is only valid for those who have already begun studying, or are about to start, the GDL or LPC.
Will I need to switch to do a GDL if I have a training contract?
As part of the transitional arrangements set out by the SRA, graduates who have embarked on a training contract - currently the only recognised period of work experience to qualify - will also be able to qualify via the GDL and LPC during this period. This will only apply to those who have already begun their contract or have accepted an offer by the start of next year.
This means that the law firm with which you are undertaking your training period will decide whether you qualify through the current pathway or through the new route.
In addition, as part of the new SQE format, the SRA has broadened the scope of the two years’ worth of work experience needed to qualify. This means that if you haven’t clinched a training contract, you can undergo your training in a wider range of roles and at up to four different organisations. This is known as Qualifying Work Experience, and includes pro bono work as well as paralegal placements.