A Career in Law - what you need to know about the new solicitor's qualification (SQE)
If you have been following news and developments in the law sector the last few years, you will have noticed that there are recent developments with regards to qualifying as a solicitor that will affect you in the near future. Here is a brief update and guide to everything SQE including links and resources. All of the information given below are from excellent resources provided from Lawcareers.net, AllaboutLaw, Chambers Student and the University of Law.
Be aware that exact implementation date and changes are still being discussed. You are highly advised to keep up to date by using the links provided in this blog entry.
What is SQE?
The new date of implementing this new scheme is September 2021 at the earliest (indicating that it may be delayed further). However, both the old/new qualification schemes will run alongside each other for a transition period and anyone starting their legal training before 2021 will be able to choose what scheme is correct for them.
How is it different from GDL - Graduate Diploma of Law, and LPC?
It is a very different process. Now you need to study courses of study to pass the GDL and LPC. However, the SQE1 (legal knowledge) and SQE2 (practical knowledge) are a set of exams that does not take into account where or what students study as an undergraduate degree, just that you have a degree or equivalent. The SQE exam results are all the SRA need to decide whether you have the skills to be a solicitor.
The University of Law has some great pages detailing and comparing the old and new qualification process as a solicitor: https://www.law.ac.uk/postgraduate/sqe/ and there are even more details on the Law Society or ChamberStudent webpages.
How will this affect me as a non-law student?
If you are a final year now in 2019, it is still two more years before the SQE is implemented and you can follow the old route.
If you are a penultimate year student and will graduate in 2020, you can also follow the old route, but you may want to keep up to date on SQE developments, as if the SQE starts in 2021, you may want to decide to take a year out (maybe working in a legal setting or looking at SQE1 prep courses) before doing the SQE1 exams. You may also want to look at the costs overall for both pathways.
If you are a first year or a 2nd year graduating in 2021, it is important that you keep up to date with the SQE developments, as most likely you will have to follow the new route in 2021. It should be much clearer what the changes and developments are before you graduate.
There will most likely be several SQE prep courses available to prepare you for the SQE1 exams and you should familiarise yourself with these courses and the cost of them, and the cost overall of the new qualification process.
Be aware that both law schools and law firms are working to find out what these changes will mean and how the transition will work.
Is there anything I need to do now?
No, at time of writing this blog entry, there is nothing you can do except gaining that very important legal experience. The new scheme will not be implemented before 2021, at the earliest, and before this you can choose the old path, if you choose to do so.
However, you will need to stay up to date and stay informed so that you are aware of what is happening, in addition talk to employers, law firms and law schools to gain first hand information about what they are doing. Make sure to join the Law Society at the University of Bath to share information, network and the chance to meet legal employers.