It’s happening – international lawyers in England and Wales will have a new route to become solicitors
Foreign lawyers wishing to requalify in England and Wales will have access to the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) from September. The SQE will provide a path to the solicitor title through the same exam taken by domestic candidates.
The SQE will replace the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) and be open to qualified lawyers from all jurisdictions.
The last sitting of the first part of the QLTS, the multiple choice test, is in July 2021.
Registration for that exam closes at 5pm UTC+1 on Tuesday 20 April 2021.
Candidates who do not pass the QLTS multiple choice test can instead attempt to qualify as a solicitor of England and Wales through the SQE.
The SQE is in two parts and the first sittings of SQE1 will be on 8 and 11 November 2021.
Those who have already started the QLTS and passed the multiple choice test can complete their qualification either by:
- sitting the second part of the QLTS and applying for admission to the roll by 31 August 2022, or
- sitting and passing the new SQE2 by 31 August 2023 (the first sitting of SQE2 will be in April 2022)
Can a lawyer still start the QLTS requalification route now?
Yes. It is possible to register to sit the first part of the QLTS, the multiple choice test, with exam provider Kaplan until 5pm UTC+1 on 20 April 2021.
Candidates must then book a place in one of the test centres around the world with administrator Pearson VUE by 5pm UTC+1 on 26 May 2021.
The test will take place on 7 July 2021.
Successful candidates wishing to complete their qualification through the QLTS will have until 31 August 2022 to:
- sit the second part (the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)), and
- apply with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for admission to the roll of solicitors
They will also have the option to sit the second part of the new SQE instead of OSCE, in which case they will have until 31 August 2023 to complete their qualification.
What if a lawyer has already started the requalification route through the QLTS?
Lawyers who have already passed the multiple choice test have two options to complete their qualification. They can:
- sit the second part of the QLTS (the OSCE), or
- sit the second part of the SQE instead of OSCE
Sitting the OSCE:
The booking deadline for the July 2021 sitting is 5pm UTC+1 on 7 June.
A further sitting will take place in November, followed by the last OSCE sitting in March/April 2022.
Successful candidates will need to apply for admission to the roll of solicitors by 31 August 2022.
Sitting the second part of the SQE 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 to the roll of solicitors.
What if a lawyer fails the QLTS multiple choice test in July or cannot secure a place to attempt it?
If a lawyer fails the QLTS multiple choice test in July or cannot secure a place to attempt it at that sitting, they cannot progress through the QLTS. Instead, they can take the SQE.
As stated, the first sittings of the SQE will start in November 2021.
What is the new system?
The SQE will replace the QLTS from September 2021. It will enable lawyers from outside of England and Wales to requalify through the same exams taken by solicitors who qualify domestically.
The new exam is open to more international candidates. The introduction of a single, final, centralised qualification exam will also bring England and Wales in line with most other jurisdictions.
Unlike the QLTS, the SQE will be open to candidates from all jurisdictions, not just those recognised by the SRA.
Foreign lawyers may be eligible for exemption from some of the requirements under the SQE.
Like the QLTS, the SQE will be divided into two parts:
- SQE1 will be made up of two exams in multiple-choice question format, available internationally at a range of test centres
- SQE2 will be a series of practical assessments of skills. The assessments will test candidates’ legal skills through written and oral practical tests of the tasks a newly qualified solicitor might undertake in practice. The SQE2 written assessments will be available internationally. The SQE2 oral assessments will be available in England and Wales (similarly, the QLTS OSCEs are available only in England and Wales).
The SRA will not require candidates to complete any preparatory courses before sitting the SQE, nor to have any specific university degree.
However, taking an SQE preparation course may give the best chance of passing the assessment.
Find out more about the SQE and QLTS
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