Qualification as a solicitor: The Solicitors Qualification Exam
In 2017 the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced that it was introducing a new centralised qualifying exam – the Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE). The SQE is now in force and it will eventually replace the standard pathway to become a solicitor.
This old standard pathway required students to gain a qualifying law degree (or a degree in another subject followed by an accelerated law degree or a graduate diploma in law) before moving on to do the Legal Practice Course (LPC). Following this there is then a two-year period of training within a firm, called a training contract.
What might the SQE mean for you?
If you do not intend to become a solicitor, then the introduction of the SQE will have little impact on you at all – this includes those of you who intend to practise as a barrister. Even though SQE has been introduced there is a period whereby students who have already started their legal studies (by 31 August 2021) will be able to choose whether to qualify though the new route (the SQE) or the traditional one (via the LPC). If a student has already started their law degree there are transitional arrangements in place until 31 December 2032 which mean you can still qualify under either the LPC or SQE pathways.
The SQE removes the need for a qualifying law degree. Instead you will need to:
- Hold a degree (or equivalent qualification/experience)
- Successfully complete both parts of the SQE (the SQE has two parts: SQE 1 focuses on legal knowledge and SQE 2 on practical legal skills)
- Have 2 years' qualifying work experience
Nonetheless, an LLB Law Degree is an excellent first-step to becoming a solicitor: The SQE will require you to demonstrate knowledge of a wide-range of legal subjects, including those currently required to be taught as part of a qualifying law degree.
You can find out more about the SQE, including information around estimated costs, on the Solicitors Regulation Authority website.
Qualification as a barrister: The Future Bar Training Programme
In 2019 changes to the rules around qualification as a barrister were approved, enabling the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to implement a scheme of reform called Future Bar Training. At the moment, the standard pathway to become a barrister requires students to gain a qualifying law degree (or a degree in another subject followed by an accelerated law degree or a graduate diploma in law) before moving on to do the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT). Following this you join an Inn of Court and complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). You will also then complete a period of pupillage (a 12 month training period usually spent in a barristers’ chambers).
Under Future Bar Training those three broad elements will remain:
- Academic learning (knowledge of the Law itself);
- vocational learning (developing core skills such as advocacy) and
- pupillage (learning to be a barrister).
There will be, however, more flexibility in how prospective barristers complete these components with four approved training pathways.
What might Future Bar Training mean for you?
If you do not intend to become a barrister, then the introduction of Future Bar Training will have little impact on you at all – this includes those of you who intend to practise as a solicitor. For those of you who intend to practise as a barrister, the BSB have confirmed that the new training pathways will replace the BPTC from September 2020. Students starting an LL.B Degree in September 2019 will, therefore, qualify under one of the Future Bar Training pathways.
This will not, however, have a significant impact on the academic component of your training. The BSB has confirmed that this must continue to contain the existing seven legal foundation subjects and the skills associated with graduate legal work, such as legal research. An LL.B Law Degree remains, therefore, an excellent first-step to becoming a barrister.
You can find out more information about the implementation of Future Bar Training on The Bar Standards Board website.
What does this mean for the School of Law and Social Justice?
Law has a long tradition at the University of Liverpool, having been taught to undergraduate students for over 100 years! As always, we will continue to monitor developments around legal training, the SQE, and the Bar Future Training pathways closely. Many important details have not yet been confirmed, and we are, of course, committed to keeping all of our students informed. You can expect regular updates over the next year.
Whatever your professional aspirations, preparing you for the job market is a very important aspect of what we do. We are currently undertaking a Curriculum Review to ensure that our undergraduate provision continues to prepare all of our students for life after your Law degree and, together with our colleagues in the University Careers and Employability Service we will continue to offer all of our students guidance and advice to empower you to pursue your professional aspirations.
Director of Education in Law (School of Law and Social Justice)
Last updated 6 June 2023.
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