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Important changes to Law professional qualifications: information for aspiring solicitors

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Important changes to Law professional qualifications

The qualification route for students looking to become a Solicitor in England and Wales is changing. In 2017, The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced it would be introducing a new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) from autumn 2021. 

What does this mean for me?

Our LLB Law course will continue to provide skills and knowledge required for your entry into the legal professions. We are currently making changes to the LLB Law curriculum to ensure that our students are prepared for the introduction of the SQE route for qualification. 

What are the changes to the professional qualification?

Currently, there are three stages to becoming a solicitor in England and Wales:

  • The academic stage (the qualifying law degree)
  • The vocational stage (the Legal Practice Course)
  • The professional stage (an aspiring solicitor’s training contract)

Under the changes, the SRA proposes that from 2021 individuals will now need:

  • A degree in any subject (or equivalent qualification or work experience)
  • To pass both stages of the SQE assessment – SQE 1 focuses on legal knowledge and SQE 2 on practical legal skills
  • Two years qualifying work experience
  • To pass the character and suitability requirements

Under the new SRA proposals, no exemptions will be available to law degree holders. SQE stage 1 is to be completed following graduation and stage 2 after the workplace training period. You'll therefore need to have a good grounding in the foundation subjects, all of which are taught in our Law degree, and to have the wider knowledge and skills that our clinic and vocational teaching methods support such as interviewing.

What do the SQE exams cover?

  • Stage 1 of the SQE assessment will be two multiple-choice examinations to test functional legal knowledge in areas including, criminal law, contract and tort law, as well as company and commercial law
  • Stage 2 will focus on practical skills including legal research, writing, client advocacy and interviewing across specific practice areas such as criminal, property and business

Currently, the SQE is still in the planning stages with initial pilots taking place in 2020. We will be monitoring developments in the legal profession and will continue to support the career aspirations of our students.

Will there be a transitional period?

Yes. The SRA has confirmed a period of transition from the old to the new system for all those who start their law degrees before September 2021. If you start your degree in 2019 or 2020, you will have a period of 11 years after the introduction of SQE to qualify in this way. For more details, visit the SRA website.

I want to become a barrister. Will this affect me?

Studying LLB Law at Sunderland will continue to be recognised as meeting the rigorous academic standards required for students wishing to pursue a career as a barrister in England and Wales. For more information, visit the Bar Council website.

Published: 23 October 2019