What is the SQE?

On 1 September 2021, the route to qualifying as a solicitor changed with the introduction of the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). The SQE has replaced the GDL for non-law graduates (Graduate Diploma in Law) and LPC (Legal Practice Course). Law degrees are therefore no longer labelled as Qualifying Degrees (QLDs). Find out more about the SQELink opens in a new window.

Warwick Law School Curriculum

To recognise the opportunities afforded by this change in environment, we developed a new LLB degree (introduced in October 2022) which builds on our traditional approach to law in context using new methods of teaching and learning suitable for the future. The degree still provides a contextual, comparative and international approach to the study of law but now offers greater flexibility and more opportunities to learn skills and gain practical experience both inside and outside of the curriculum.

New core and optional modules have been introduced, as you will see from our programme pagesLink opens in a new window. This makes our law degree an excellent first step towards a legal career. The degree also encourages students to develop an in-depth understanding of the technical and doctrinal aspects of the law, and a critical awareness of the role law plays in modern society. It therefore establishes a strong basis for those who wish to become solicitors or barristers in the UK (or potentially lawyers in other jurisdictions), or follow other career paths in commerce, politics, government, the administration and pursuit of justice across government, commercial or voluntary sectors.

Future Barristers

The Law degrees at Warwick Law School still offer the areas of Law (foundations of legal knowledge subjects) that are required in order to satisfy the academic requirements for qualifying as a Barrister (further details of the requirementsLink opens in a new window). On successful completion of the degree, intending Barristers must take the Bar Course, which is a further one-year full-time postgraduate course. There then follows a one-year period of Pupillage – a form of apprenticeship in a Barrister’s chambers.

Future Solicitors

Under the new SQE pathway, candidates must:

  • Complete or hold a degree-level qualification or equivalent in any subject;
  • After the degree, pass both stages of assessment, SQE1 and SQE2 (SQE1 focuses on legal knowledge; SQE2 on practical legal skills - SQE1 must be completed before taking SQE2);
  • Complete 24 months of qualifying work experience (QWE) – also called qualifying legal experience; and
  • Satisfy the SRA’s character and suitability requirements

The SRA expects that most individuals will take SQE1 after completing a degree and before the start of the period of legal work experience and SQE2 at the end of the period of work experience.

All of our Law degrees satisfy the first requirement, and there will also be opportunities during the degree for students to develop some of the legal knowledge and skills that are relevant to the SQE.

Qualifying Degrees

Students who began their degree prior to December 2021 will still be able to complete their training under the old system (excluding Politics, Philosophy & Law), whereby a QLD exempts them from further study before entering the vocational stage of professional training.


A new system of exams that was introduced by the SRA in September 2021, which all prospective solicitors will have to pass to qualify as a solicitor (England and Wales). The level of the SQE 1 and 2 is set at that required by a newly qualified solicitor (higher standard than the previous route to qualification).

There are four things required to qualify as a solicitor through the SQE – these are:

  • have a university degree or equivalent in any subject (law or non-law);
  • pass the character and suitability assessment set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (same as the old system);
  • pass SQE1 and SQE2; and
  • have two years’ Qualifying Work Experience (QWE).

SRA infographic – SQE at a GlanceLink opens in a new window & LawCareersNet The Solicitors Qualifying ExamLink opens in a new window

SQE 1 - assesses functioning legal knowledge, the ability to apply legal knowledge and theory to real life client problems, across specific legal areas. There are 2 separate exams with 180 multiple choice questions in each. SQE 1 examination cost - £1,558 as of September 2022 (doesn’t include any preparation courses required). Those who are successful at SQE 1 can then go onto complete SQE2. The first SQE 1 assessments ran on 8 & 11 November 2021 and were delivered across 100+ tests centres in 26 countries. Of those taking the SQE 1 assessment around 53% passed (SRA update bulletin August 2022).

Example SQE 1 Questions - SRALink opens in a new window & AllAboutLaw Academy SQE1 taster course & practise examsLink opens in a new window

SQE 2 - assesses core legal skills (everyday skills of lawyering) like client interviewing and legal drafting. The exam involves 16 practical assessments (oral and written). SQE 2 examination cost - £2,422 as of September 2022 (doesn’t include any preparation courses required). The first SQE 2 assessments took place in April 2022 with 77% passing the SQE2 (SRA update bulletin August 2022).

Example SQE2 Questions - SRALink opens in a new window

Warwick Law School suggests that law students starting their law degree in 2022 who aspire to pursue a career as a solicitor (SQE route) or a career at the Bar need to take the year 1 modules plus Contract and Property in year 2. It also recommends Trusts and EU law (for the Bar) in year 3 or the final year for students on 4-year courses.

There is no SRA requirement to complete an SQE preparation course however whilst law students will already have a background in the law many won’t be used to applying it to real life client situations to resolve client issues and may need preparation to complete SQE 1 successfully. Non-law students will need to gain the functioning legal knowledge to complete SQE 1 and are likely to need a specific preparation or conversion course (similar to the old Graduate Diploma in Law) before going onto take the SQE 1 assessment. Whether and what course to take is a common query from non-law students and there is a useful series of webinars on this and other topics impacting Law students from Legal Cheek: webinars for non-law studentsLink opens in a new window.

The skills assessments within SQE 2 are at a level (newly qualified solicitor) where even applicants who have already gained significant legal experience are likely to need some form of SQE2 preparation. There are a wide range of conversion and SQE preparation courses to accommodate different needs (fulltime, part time, and distance learning). They include courses focussed exclusively on preparing candidates for SQE 1 and 2 assessments and those with a broader scope like postgraduate programmes. The significant costs of SQE assessments mean that careful consideration of the preparation and type of programme/support required is essential.

SRA – Choosing an SQE training providerLink opens in a new window & LawCareersNet-A guide to SQE preparation coursesLink opens in a new window

Lawcabs/coursefinder – SQE preparation courses (including as part of a master’s programme)Link opens in a new window

A total of 2 years QWE is required and can be gained in up to four placements at different organisations. It can include volunteering at a law clinic (e.g. whilst at university) and working in a paralegal role. It can be undertaken before, during and/or after completing SQE1 and SQE2.

Each placement must be signed off by a solicitor at the organisation, compliance officer for legal practice, or failing the first two, another solicitor outside the organisation with direct experience of the candidate’s work. There will no longer be a requirement for trainee solicitors to work in a specific number of different areas of law, or experience both contentious and non-contentious practice areas.

Many law firms have confirmed their intention to continue offering two-year training contracts. Firms are not obliged to shorten the period of training they offer if a candidate has already gained some experience, and many have well established training programmes that work well in preparing their trainees.

SRA Qualifying Work Experience for CandidatesLink opens in a new window

The SRA transitional arrangements provide options for candidates who were already on their way to becoming a solicitor when the SQE was introduced. These arrangements apply to anyone who, before 1 September 2021, had completed, started, accepted an offer of a place or paid a non-refundable deposit for one of the following:

  • the Common Professional Examination / Graduate Diploma in Law (CPE)
  • the Legal Practice Course
  • a period of recognised training (also known as a training contract)

In the case of a qualifying law degree (QLD) and exempting law degree (ELD), these arrangements apply to anyone who completes, starts, accepts an offer of a place or pays a non-refundable deposit by 21 September 2021 (inclusive). In most cases (for the QLD, ELD and CPE) the relevant course must start at the latest on or before 31 December 2021. Anyone who falls within this group will have until 31 December 2032 to qualify as a solicitor under the LPC route, providing courses still remain available. They may also choose to qualify through the SQE route or be required to follow this route by a sponsoring law firm. Some firms will be taking on a hybrid cohort, which consists of LPC and SQE applicants as part of the transition.

Further information on the transitional arrangements is set out at regulation 11Link opens in a new window of the SRA Authorisation of Individuals RegulationsLink opens in a new window.

This option is only open to those covered by the ‘transition arrangements’ (see above) and who started their law degree/ conversion course before September 2021. The choice of whether to do the LPC or SQE will to some extent depend on the individual, their circumstances and learning style/needs. Those who have been offered a training contract with a law firm may be told which route to follow or might be given the choice (less likely with larger firms who will probably want their trainees to follow the same route). Individuals who are self-financing will be able to choose which route to follow. I’ve heard of individuals opting for the LPC because they don’t want to be the ‘guinea pig’ for a new qualification and want to stick with the traditional route which is well established. This will become less of an issue as the SQE rolls out across more law firms from 2023. The SQE also offers greater flexibility to some individuals. See case study below:

Case study:
A 2021 law graduate who hadn’t secured a training contract set out to gain further commercial legal experience and gained a legal placement in-house. Finding that she really liked in-house law she undertook another one-year in-house internship as a paralegal with a major corporation and at the same time prepared for, and successfully completed, her SQE1. Concurrently she used the SQE QWE process to gain recognition for the legal experience she was gaining. Although she was unable to remain with the corporation (no vacancies) she successfully secured another in-house internship as a paralegal and started preparing for SQE2 exams in November 2022. You can read her story on the Law Careers Blog – Legal Job HuntingLink opens in a new window.

Further information and resources (LPC or SQE?):

The SQE has replaced the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme for qualified lawyers from other jurisdictions. The SRA provides guidance on its website on the process by which lawyers who have qualified and practised in other jurisdictions can apply to qualify as a solicitor (via the SQE) and practise in England and Wales. A SRA webinarLink opens in a new window sets out the process on how to do this, how to claim exemptions and the resources and support that underpin the process.

There is no easy answer to this one. Law Firms have proceeded to prepare for the SQE at different stages with relatively few coming onboard early on, more waiting to see how things play out and using the time to prepare for the move over to the SQE. Some of the larger city law firms have come together in consortia working with a specific legal education provider to plan their approach to delivering SQE preparation for their trainees.

On its webpage ‘When will law firms move over to the SQE?’Link opens in a new window BPP suggests that 2023 is likely to be the point where more firms start adopting and committing to the SQE for their trainees, with fewer LPC cohorts from 2024 onwards. They also identify some of the early law firm adopters of the SQE on this page. Slaughter and May have indicated that all trainees starting their training contract from September 2023 onwards will undertake the new SQE path to qualification. Information on when law firms will be switching across to the SQE doesn’t appear to be easily available and is most likely to be accessed via law firms’ careers website. The SRA provide information on how employers, universities and training providers or organisations are incorporating the SQE into their training and recruitment. SRA – SQE ready case studiesLink opens in a new window.