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Getting ready for the SQE
If the SQE is introduced in September 2021, the last start date on any part of the current routes to qualifying as a solicitor will be August 2021. The last academic year for the old system will be 2020/2021.
Anyone starting a qualifying law degree or GDL before 2021, or who has entered into a contractual agreement or made a non-refundable financial commitment to start a qualifying law degree or GDL before 2021, can choose to continue under the old system to 2032 or to qualify under the SQE system.
The full transitional arrangements for qualified lawyers are set out in the recently approved Authorisation of Individual Regulations.
Any foreign qualified lawyer who has already passed the multiple-choice test of the QLTS when the SQE is implemented will have 12 months to complete the second part of QLTS and apply for admission as a solicitor in the UK.
Employers can decide whether and when candidates should move over to the SQE as long as they do so before the cut-off date. Some employers have suggested that they will move all candidates over to the SQE at the same time to avoid having candidates on different pathways running side by side.
Employers will need to consider how they can meet the new requirements and ensure that they have suitable arrangements in place prior to moving to the SQE.
Information for candidates
If you are an aspiring solicitor, there is no reason why you should not continue to follow the current path of education and training.
The current routes will remain valid until the introduction of the SQE, at which point you can continue along the path you have chosen under the transitional arrangements, or alternatively move across to the new system at the next transitional stage.
However, there are no exemptions available when moving across to the SQE system. Remember that your current or future employer may have a view on this and that your decision should be based on your own personal circumstances.
Information for education providers
If you are a provider of academic legal education, you may want to consider the ways in which your offering could incorporate the competences set out in the Statement of Solicitor Competence and the knowledge set out in the Statement of Legal Knowledge.
Information for employers
If you are an employer offering or considering offering a period of recognised training, you can continue with your current arrangements until the introduction of the SQE. This is expected in late 2021.
At this point you can decide whether to continue your current arrangements under the transitional period or to swap to the SQE route.
You may wish to look at the types of experience your candidates gain in relation to the areas they will be asked to experience and be assessed on under the SQE.
The introduction of qualifying work experience will change the way training contracts are offered.
Employers can make arrangements for the qualifying work experience for their candidates as best suits their business needs, so long as candidates are given the opportunity to develop the competences set out in the Statement of Solicitor Competence.
There will be no requirement for different areas of work, or for contentious and non-contentious work. It would continue to benefit candidates to experience different areas of practice in a structured way as well as having the opportunity to interact with clients and undertake specific pieces of work.
The employer will have the right to set the contract with the candidate they employ however they choose, and the SRA will not be involved in this process.
Supervision and sign-off
Each placement must be signed off by the compliance officer for legal practice (COLP), a solicitor working at the organisation or, if neither of these is available, another solicitor willing to sign off the experience gained, who has direct experience of the candidate’s work.
The solicitor will not be required to hold a practising certificate but must be on the roll. Sign-off must confirm:
- the length of the placement
- the opportunities provided by the placement to develop the prescribed competences
- that no character or suitability issues arose during the placement
COLPs and solicitors will need to satisfy themselves that the candidate has had the opportunity to develop the competences in the Statement of Solicitor Competence.
Where the solicitor signing off the candidate is outside the organisation in which the candidate works, additional safeguards will be required: for example, undertaking a review of work done through a training diary or portfolio of work and receiving feedback from the person supervising the candidate’s work.