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The New ‘Super Exam’

There are currently several routes to becoming a solicitor in England and Wales.

Gaining a Law degree followed by the Legal Practice Course before undertaking a training contract (of usually two years), is the more traditional route to qualifying. However, some people choose to gain a degree in another field and then study a Postgraduate Diploma in Law conversion course, allowing more time to make the decision if law is for you.

Then there is the much more flexible route of CILEX (The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives), which allows for people to become Chartered Legal Executive Lawyers before continuing on to qualifying as a solicitor, should they wish to.

In 2017, the government also introduced the Solicitor Apprenticeship route, which enables school-leavers to undertake paid work and training, without a university degree.
However, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) are currently making plans to implement a new ‘super’ exam; the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). This is expected to begin in Autumn 2021, and will be open to anyone who:
– Holds a degree in any subject
– Has two years of qualifying work experience
– Is able to pass the SRA’s suitability and character requirements

There will be two stages to the SQE. The first will test legal knowledge and general practical legal skills, and the second will test more specific practical legal skills. Both examinations must be passed in order to qualify.

It follows public consultations held to consider the new regulations, with the SRA’s aim for the SQE being to ensure that everyone who wants to become a solicitor is held to the same standard and undertakes the same assessments. It will also likely mean much lower fees for students wanting to qualify, with the SRA estimating the test may cost between £3,000-£4,000. The SRA state that the exam will ensure that, despite the various ways to currently qualify as a solicitor, every person will be tested consistently, creating a more ‘even’ playing field.

To read more on the SRA’s proposals for the Solicitors Qualifying Exam, visit https://www.sra.org.uk/sra/policy/sqe/background-sqe.page, or for more information on the various routes to qualifying, visit https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/law-careers/becoming-a-solicitor/qualifying-as-a-solicitor/

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