How to become a solicitor: a guide for international lawyers
From 1 September 2021, lawyers from abroad who wish to requalify in England and Wales can sit the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) – the same exams taken by solicitors who qualify domestically.
The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) has replaced the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS).
This page covers:
- what are the requirements for foreign lawyers to requalify in England and Wales?
- am I eligible for exemptions?
- can I still sit the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS)?
If you’re an overseas student looking to qualify in England and Wales, read our careers page.
Unlike the QLTS, the SQE is open to candidates from all jurisdictions – not just those recognised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Introducing a single, final, centralised qualification exam has also brought England and Wales in line with most other jurisdictions.
The first examinations take place in November 2021.
To requalify as solicitors in England and Wales, foreign lawyers need to:
- hold a legal professional qualification
- hold a degree in any subject or an equivalent qualification (such as an apprenticeship) or work experience
- complete two stages of assessment, SQE1 and SQE2, unless exempt
- satisfy the SRA’s character and suitability requirements
Fully qualified foreign lawyers are exempt for any qualifying work experience (QWE) requirements.
What is the structure of the new exam?
The SQE is divided into two parts:
- SQE1 consists of two exams in multiple-choice question format
- SQE2 consists of a series of practical assessments of skills through written and oral examinations
How should I prepare?
Candidates are not required to complete any preparatory courses before sitting the SQE, nor to have any specific university degree.
However, taking an SQE preparation course may give you the best chance of passing the assessment.
How much does the SQE cost?
The total cost of the SQE assessments is £3,980, which breaks down as:
- SQE1 – £1,558
- SQE2 – £2,422
In addition, candidates may wish to take courses, or buy resources, to help them prepare for the SQE assessments.
Can I sit SQE1 outside England or Wales?
Yes. You can sit SQE1 at a range of test centres internationally.
Can I sit SQE2 outside England or Wales?
SQE2 written assessments will be available at a range of test centres internationally.
You'll need to sit SQE2 oral assessments in England and Wales over two and a half days.
Lawyers qualified overseas can apply for exemption from the SQE on the basis of prior qualifications or experience.
You may seek exemption for one or more of the following parts of the SQE assessments:
- SQE1 Functioning Legal Knowledge 1
- SQE1 Functioning Legal Knowledge 2
You'll need to show that your professional qualification is equivalent to the whole part of that assessment.
If exempt, you will not need to sit the corresponding SQE assessment(s) (see regulation 3.2 of the Authorisation of Individuals Regulations).
If you're granted an exemption from SQE2, you may need to prove your English or Welsh language competence.
Once an exemption is granted to a jurisdiction, lawyers qualified in that jurisdiction can apply to benefit from that agreed exemption.
Foreign bars and law societies can also apply for SQE exemptions for their members by contacting the SRA education and training unit at email@example.com.
Irish solicitors are fully exempt from the SQE. They do not have to sit any examination in order to requalify in England and Wales, and can apply for admission with the SRA directly, after completing a pre-screening process.
It's no longer possible to start the QLTS requalification route.
From 1 September 2021, the SQE replaced the QLTS and is open to qualified lawyers from all jurisdictions.
If you've already started the QLTS and passed the multiple-choice test, you have two options to complete the qualification.
You can sit the:
- second part of the QLTS – the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), or
Sitting the OSCE
The remaining sittings to complete the OSCE take place in:
- November 2021
- March/April 2022
Successful candidates will need to apply for admission to the roll of solicitors by 31 August 2022.
Sitting SQE2 instead of the OSCE
The first sitting of SQE2 will be in April 2022.
Successful candidates will have until 31 August 2023 to apply for registration on the roll of solicitors.
Find out more about the SQE
Book your assessment by registering with the SRA
If you have any questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.