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What is the SQE?

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What is the SQE? Key information for those Considering a Law Training Contract

The SQE, the Solicitors Qualifying Examination, was introduced in September 2021. It was the result of a change announced in 2017, which saw the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) announce that in future solicitors would train in a different way. The SRA was concerned that current methods of training were too different to one another, and that policing them and maintaining the same high standards throughout the country was too difficult. The SQE is designed to bring together all aspiring lawyers, and ensure that everyone reaches the same standard. The SRA describes the move as giving lawyers the chance to demonstrate a ‘level of intellect and analytical ability at least equivalent to that of a graduate.’  The SRA acknowledged the fact that there were a number of different paths to qualification, and thus a number of different forms of assessment, leading to some being seen as superior to others when this may not have been the case.

The SQE is standardised, and its goal is to bring fairness to the profession. However, for many it may be seen as a further barrier or form of complexity. To qualify as a solicitor now, all candidates will need to either hold a degree or have gained equivalent experience, and have the legal knowledge to pass the SQE (through an LLB or GDL, for example). They will then need to pass the SQE, and need to have completed two years’ legal work experience. This experience could be through paralegal work, for example, or through the traditional training contract route.

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How is the SQE designed? Will it affect Training Contracts?

The SQE is split into two parts. The first part tests the candidate’s ability to apply their legal knowledge, while the second part tests their legal skills. Part one consists of multiple choice or single best answer questions primarily. You will be able to sit the exam three times only, within the space of six years at most. You can then move onto part two. Expect to sit two sets of 180 question assessments, for a total of 10 hours of examination time. Your ethics will be tested throughout.

The SQE1 is technically referred to as the Functioning Legal Knowledge Assessment. You will be tested on the following areas:
– Business law and practice
– Dispute resolution
– Tort
– Contract

– Legal system of England and Wales
– Public Law
– Legal Services
– Property Law and practice
– Wills and admin of estates
– Solicitors accounts
– Land law
– Trust
– Criminal law and practice

The second part of the SQE is technically referred to as the Practical Legal Skills Assessment. You will sit 16 written and oral tasks, which will take a total of 14 hours. The tasks are designed to simulate tasks that a real solicitor would face. Your ethics will be tested throughout. You will be assessed on six skills: client interviewing and attendance note, advocacy, case and matter analysis, legal research, legal writing, and legal drafting. You will be assessed across five contexts: criminal litigation; dispute resolution; property practice;  wills and intestacy, probate administration and practice; and business organisation rules and procedures .

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Work Based Learning

As well as sitting the SQE, you will need to take on a period of work based learning. This will have to be at least 24 months. The learning must take place in a law firm or an organisation approved by the SRA. You may sit Part 2 of the SQA only at the end of the work based learning period. Work based learning can be a placement during a law degree, paralegal work, student law clinics, or training contracts, amongst other possibilities.

How expensive is the SQQ?

Your SQE will be covered by the firm that you are working at if you take the traditional training contract route. If not, then you will pay £3,980 in total for both assessments. This is made up of costs of £1,558 for SQE1, which covers 10 hours’ examination, and £2,422 for SQE2 which covers 14 hours’ written and oral tasks to simulate legal practice.

Does this mean training contracts are a thing of the past?

Training contracts will likely continue to be the main route into practice. They are likely to offer a simpler route for many than the alternative, and given the fact that firms will pay for your exams as well as covering your training, they will still appeal to most looking to enter the profession.

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