All you need to know about the Solicitor Qualifying Exam

The route to becoming a solicitor in England and Wales is changing. 

The Solicitor Qualifying Exam (SQE) is being phased in initially alongside and will eventually replace the Legal Practice Course (LPC). The SQE was launched in September 2021 and marked the biggest change to qualification routes in 30 years. The SQE route will in the future become the main way to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. The transition from the LPC to the SQE route will be complete by the end of 2032. The first cohort of solicitors to have qualified via the SQE formally entered the profession in September 2022. 

Old route V new route

If you completed, started, accepted an offer or paid a non-refundable deposit for a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), the MA law course, the LPC or undertook a training contract on 31st August 2021, you can continue with the LPC route. 

For an undergraduate law degree such as an LLB course, you must have completed, started, accepted an order or paid a non-refundable deposit by 21st September 2021. 

For all others who do not qualify or have started the relevant course in the above way, will now have to undertake the SQE route to become a solicitor in England and Wales. 

If you have chosen to study the LPC during the transitional period, you will be able to sit the SQE exams in the future if you wish. If you have chosen to study the GDL or MA Law, you will be able to select either the LPC or SQE route on completion of your chosen programme. 

What does the SQE entail? 

This is a four-stage route to becoming a solicitor as follows:- 

  1. You will need to have a degree or equivalent in any subject (this does not have to be a law degree). 
  2. You will need to pass the SQE1 and SQE2 assessments (some exemptions do apply but are only available to qualified lawyers i.e. someone who has a legal professional qualification which allows them to practise in the UK or an international jurisdiction and there are certain qualifications which will need to be proven to receive the exemption). 
  3. You will need to undertake a minimum of two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE). 
  4. You will need to show that you are of satisfactory character and suitability. 


This tests the functional legal knowledge. This is a multiple-choice assessment which tests your application of law based on realistic client-based scenarios. There will be two lengthy multiple-choice papers of 180 questions each. 

You must pass SQE1 before being eligible to sit the SQE2 assessments. 


This tests the practical legal skills required to practice law including: 

  • Interviewing with written attendance note
  • Advocacy
  • Legal research
  • Legal drafting
  • Legal writing
  • Case and matter analysis

Qualifying Work Experience

This could involve working as a paralegal, working in a law clinic or volunteering for a charity that conducts legal work. This could also be a work placement that an individual undertook during a law degree. SQE qualifiers can spread their training between up to four different organisations as long as they spend at least 6 months with each. Individuals can even count experience they have accumulated even before sitting the SQE1 exams. You do not need to be paid for your work experience as long as a qualified solicitor (though they do not need to be currently practicing) signs off on what you have done. 

Success rate

In November 2021, more than 1,000 candidates sat the SQE1 with 53% achieving a pass. 726 people sat the inaugural SQE2 exams and 77% were successful. 

You case will always be supervised and led by a qualified Solicitor of the jurisdiction of England and Wales here at Grant Stephens Family Law. If you have a family law enquiry that requires our expertise, please do not hesitate to contact us on 02921 679333. 

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