When does it come in?
First things first. The SQE is scheduled to be introduced in August 2020 so nothing will be changing until then. That means that if you’re currently studying or due to start studying for the GDL or LPC in the next two years, nothing will change for you. And when August 2020 does arrive, we understand that it will still be possible to choose the old route to becoming a solicitor (degree + GDL + LPC). This transition period is likely to last until September 2019, when all prospective solicitors will be expected to follow the SQE route.
Why is it being introduced?
The SRA believes that having a more flexible route to qualification will improve access to the legal profession. Beyond the traditional university degree followed by the GDL and LPC route, new pathways to qualifying as a solicitor have gained traction in recent years. These include apprenticeships and the ‘equivalent means’ route whereby individuals with paralegal or other legal experience can use it to qualify as a solicitor. The SRA is concerned that these routes will be viewed less favourably than the traditional route, so the SQE is designed to ensure that all solicitors will meet the same high standards in a consistent way.
How will it work?
Under the new system, these are the four things you will need to qualify as a solicitor:
1. Hold a degree or equivalent qualification in any subject;
2. Pass stages 1 and 2 of the SQE;
3. Have a substantial period of work experience; and
4. Meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.
All elements apart from passing the SQE are already essential steps in the route to becoming a solicitor. However, under the new system, the work experience requirement will not necessarily need to be undertaken with one employer. That is to say that work experience at different organisations, including placements undertaken at university and paralegal experience, can count towards the ‘substantial period of work experience’.
Here is a map of the possible routes candidates will be able to take to qualify as a solicitor under the new system, as designed by the SRA:
And according to the SRA, the SQE will be broken down as follows:
We will update you on the progress of the SQE plans as and when information is made available.