The SQE will have two stages of assessments, SQE1 and SQE2.
SQE1 assessments must be completed before candidates can sit SQE2 assessments.
SQE1 will be a series of written, mainly multiple-choice exams.
It will test Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK) and practical legal skills.
It’s likely that SQE1 will be taken at the same time as candidates complete their academic education.
SQE2 will be a series of practical assessments of skills.
It will include assessments on client interviewing and giving advice.
It’s likely SQE2 will be taken when candidates near the end of their qualifying work experience (QWE), currently known as the period of recognised training.
As well as passing the SQE assessments, candidates must:
- complete a degree-level qualification or equivalent
- complete two years of QWE
- Satisfy the SRA’s character and suitability requirements
Degree-level qualification or equivalent
To become a solicitor, candidates must hold a degree level qualification or an equivalent, for example:
- a Level 6 apprenticeship
- a Level 6 CILEx qualification
- equivalent experience
The degree level qualification does not have to be in law, but practically speaking candidates will need an education in law to pass the SQE assessments.
Many candidates will still choose to take a qualifying law degree (LLB or GDL), but this will longer be mandatory.
It’s likely that there will be a conversion course like the GDL that can be taken to transfer to law from a degree in a non-law subject.
Two years of Qualified Work Experience (QWE)
All candidates will need to complete at least two years of QWE.
What QWE will cover
QWE aims to be a more flexible approach than the current period of recognised training, often called a “training contract”. QWE will give candidates the opportunity to:
- interact with clients
- see how solicitors work in practice
- consider ethical challenges
- develop competences set out in the Statement of Solicitor Competence
There will no longer be requirements:
- for contentious or non-contentious work
- to work in a specific number of legal areas
The QWE will not be assessed by the SRA. The SQE2 assessment will determine whether a candidate meets the required standard for entry to the profession.
Where QWE can be done and timeframes
QWE can be done at a maximum of four separate employers, including firms, legal clinics in academic institutions or other appropriate organisations. There will be no minimum length of time for placements. Organisations can take a common-sense approach when deciding how long a placement should be.
QWE will not have to be completed in one period of time just after qualifying as a solicitor, as is normal now. This means that experience can be gained as a candidate progresses through their education, and this experience can include summer work placements or work as a paralegal.
Employers and QWE
It’s likely that many employers will continue to take on trainees for a two-year period as is current practise.
Employers may have their own expectations of what good qualifying work experience looks like. They are free to set and manage their own training arrangements, as long as they meet the SRA’s minimum requirements.
Signing off QWE placements
Placements will need to be signed off by:
- the compliance officer for legal practice within the firm
- a solicitor working at the organisation, or
- (if neither of these is available) another solicitor who is willing to sign off the experience gained and who has direct experience of the candidate’s work, including undertaking a review of their work
In November 2018 the SRA released estimates of how much the assessments will cost. These indicative costs have been based on an estimated 35 hours of assessment, including written tests, computer-based assessments and simulations such as mock client interviews.
The estimates may change depending on the length and number of assessments, and whether they are offered in both English and Welsh.