The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) consists of the steps you need to take to qualify for the legal profession, and once it is phased in from autumn 2021 it will become the main route into the industry that all prospective solicitors are expected to take.
In order to initially qualify to take the examination, you must have completed an undergraduate degree, or any other equivalent level 6 qualification, for instance a degree apprenticeship. The subject that this qualification specialises in doesn’t necessarily have to be law-related, and does not need to include a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD).
The QLD forms the foundational legal knowledge that is expected of graduate law students, and covers a range of subjects covering various areas of law, each incorporated into law degrees. This includes LLB degrees, but not some BA Law courses which are considered as ‘non-qualifying’ and are not generally tailored towards students who intend to enter the legal profession. However, the introduction of the SQE means that this distinction is now irrelevant in terms of the route taken towards fully qualifying as a solicitor.
Under the rules which set out the current pathways, those who had not studied these foundational modules would have had to complete a conversion course. Students who had not studied a QLD were required to carry out a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) before moving on to the qualification for law graduates, the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
Nevertheless, although all candidates are assessed on the same criteria, law graduates will undoubtedly have a head start on their peers, with much of the content in the initial SQE1 exam being based on content that is studied on the undergraduate course.
As such, undertaking an undergraduate degree in law can still be of great benefit to prospective solicitors, as it will equip them with the baseline knowledge as they prepare for the SQE. When determining whether you can qualify as a solicitor, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will only take into account your SQE exam results, rather than results from your undergraduate degree.
SQE preparatory courses
The SQE, unlike its predecessors, is not a course in itself but rather a set of standalone exams, meaning those without a law background will still need to undertake a preparatory course - The University of Law will be one of the providers of training for those working towards the qualification.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the transition period to the SQE will be a long one, with transitional agreements in place for those starting a QLD in autumn 2021 as a result of the disruption caused by Covid-19.