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The new SQE Exam and Qualification Method

The new SQE regime comes into effect September 2021. There are transitional arrangements for those who have started to train beforehand so they do not have to go back to the beginning.

The idea is to have 1 standard across the whole jurisdiction of England & Wales. Currently each organisation providing the LPC creates its own LPC course, so some employers are reverting to A levels as the last measure that is moderated to a national standard. The SQE will give a uniform measure. It will also cover areas of legal practice mixed in with the law itself. Ethical & conduct issues will be scattered throughout and candidates are expected to spot them and deal with them, rather than them being flagged up for separate attention. Finally, the training element is now much more flexible, adapting to the more varied ways that people gather relevant experience.

30th July 2020 the SRA announced that the cost of both sets of the exams would be £3,980. This figure does not include preparatory courses which will vary between the various providers.

The Solicitors Qualifying Exams (SQE) will be in 2 parts:

SQE 1

This will be 2 exams, each of 180 multiple choice questions. 10 hours of exam time in total. The idea is to test candidates’ ability to identify legal principles and apply them to client problems and transactions. It will test core legal knowledge in the following subjects. Cost £1,558 as announced July 2020).

·         Business Law & Practice

·         Dispute Resolution

·         Contract

·         Tort

·         Legal System of England & Wales

·         Public Law

·         Legal Services

·         Property Law & Practice

·         Wills & Administration of Estates

·         Solicitors Accounts

·         Land Law

·         Trust

·         Criminal Law & Practice

SQE 2

There will be 16 written and oral tests totalling 14 hours of exam time. They will be simulating tasks carried out by a solicitor in practice.

This is designed to assesses Practical Legal Skills for working with the law in practice. Candidates can only take the SQE 2 after they taken the SQE 1. It can be taken before the completion of the Qualifying Work Experience (QWE), but the SRA expect most candidates will take it after completed their 2 years QWE. It will assess both skills & law (50:50 weighting). Again, ethical issues will be embedded and it will be up to candidates to spot and deal with them. Areas covered are set out below. Cost £2,422 as announced July 2020).

Skills In 5 Contexts

·         Client Interviewing & Attendance Note

·         Advocacy

·         Case & Matter Analysis

·         Legal Research

·         Legal Writing

·         Legal Drafting

·         Negotiating

·         Criminal Litigation

·         Dispute Resolution

·         Property Practice

·         Wills & Intestacy, Probate Administration & Practice

·         Business Organisation Rules & Procedures

QWE

Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) is designed to be more flexible than the old method and to test a wider experience and suite of legal skills. There are opportunities in this for both trainees and businesses. It should make it easier for people to qualify through a wider variety of routes, for example in-house legal departments and advice centres as well as traditional law firms.

The trainee must be able to show at least 2 years relevant experience of legal services. This will have to be signed off by a solicitor, but this does not have to be a training partner in a law firm. So, it gives the opportunity for this to be outsourced should you wish.

The experience may be obtained in up to 4 different organisations – so summer placements can count, as can work in an advice centre. Time spent before the SQE comes in can count, so long as it has been monitored and a solicitor can vouch for it. There is no longer the requirement for work in 3 practice areas (although that would give a more rounded experience in our view).

The solicitor is signing of:

  1. The length of time of QWE
  2. That the person has had the opportunity to develop some or all of the competencies in the Statement of Solicitor Competence and
  3. There are no ethical issues that arose during the QWE period which might be relevant to an Assessment of Character & Suitability.

Benefits

For the Trainee Solicitor

  • it gives you greater control and flexibility and
  • can speed things up, as you can use holiday experience towards this.

For the Business

  • greater flexibility,
  • wider pool of talent from which to recruit,
  • the new solicitor will be trained in more of the practicalities of working as a solicitor,
  • the new solicitor will be trained to a national standard and
  • you can benefit from the government support for Apprenticeships; can draw down funding from the Apprenticeship levy if your turnover is less than £3m (if above you can draw down on your contribution).

Firms may want to think what they want to do, who they want to attract and how they want to use the SQE to help them resource and grow their firm. They may want to revise what they say about this on their website.

External QWE Certification Service

We can be your External QWE Monitor –

  • should you as a Business decide that you might want to outsource the monitoring of the trainee for the QWE or
  • if you are an Aspiring Solicitor and want to start having your QWE monitored now when you are doing holiday experience or other roles either outside or in your selected firm.

Here is a link to a summary of our service

Some useful links:

A link to a useful webinar about the SQE & QWE from the SRA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbbIIcC1f5k

A link to resource for Apprenticeships: https://www.apprenticeships.gov.uk/

A link to the SRA Transitional Arrangements: https://www.sra.org.uk/students/sqe/transitional-arrangements/

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