The SQE: Why is it controversial and what’s the alternative?

The SQE: Why is it controversial and what’s the alternative?

Written by: Dr Jessica Guth, Leeds Law School, Leeds Beckett University

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is changing the way solicitors qualify by introducing the Solicitors Qualify Examination (SQE). This means instead of doing a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD) or conversion course, like the Graduate Diploma in Law followed by the Legal Practice Course and a Training Contract, there will instead be a four-stage process. This brief piece provides some information on what we know about the SQE so far and why it is potentially problematic. It then seeks to offer some thoughts on a possible alternative.

What do we know?

As the cornerstone of a new pathway towards qualifying the SQE is due to launch in 2021. The examination will be part of a four-stage process of qualification as a solicitor. The SQE itself forms one of those stages with SQE 1 testing legal knowledge and its application, and SQE 2 testing more practical lawyering skills. The other stages involve passing the SRA’s character and suitability requirement, and having a degree or equivalent level qualification (in any subject) and finally undertaking a period of supervised work experience. The SRA maintain that the four stages can be taken in any order though that seems logically implausible—most likely, people will have a degree first, then take SQE 1, then a period of work experience and then SQE 2 with the character and suitability requirement being signed off during the process.  

We also know that Kaplan are the approved provider for the administration of the test and that there will be several test centres across the nation where the SQE 1 can be taken, which entails a series of Multiple Choice tests, with a smaller number of venues available for SQE 2 as it is more logistically challenging because of its practical nature. The knowledge to be tested in SQE 1 is that covered in the Statement of Legal Knowledge published by the SRA and essentially covers: company/commercial law, dispute

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