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  • Writer's pictureThe Legal Digest

Does the SQE Improve Access to the Legal Profession?

The UK Solicitors Qualifying Examination (“SQE”) introduced by the SRA is an assessment that must be taken by anyone that wants to qualify as a solicitor in the UK whichever route to qualification they take and it has removed the requirement to complete the LPC.

In this article we compare two routes to qualification, the training contract and the Trailblazer Legal Apprenticeship.

Training Contract - Law degree / non-law degree - Period of recognised training - SQE

Trailblazer Legal Apprenticeships - Aimed at school leavers who split their time with work-based learning and classroom based learning - It can take 6 years to complete but no degree is required however, level 7 apprenticeship qualification is completed - SQE

The SQE sets one standard for all routes to qualification and allows those who may not be able to or who do not wish to attend university for various reasons, thereby breaking down barriers to the profession.

Qualifying as a solicitor has always been competitive requiring resilience and commitment and involves spending a number of years working towards qualification and post qualification, further developing and honing a breadth of skills and knowledge.

The law degree consists of spending three years learning the theoretical side of the law where the student hones their debating skills, writing skills and developing thought processes to enable them to interpret and analyse the law and is aimed at those that want to enter the profession.

The law degree is a prestigious degree because it demands a lot from its students where they develop transferable skills. For this reason, it is a popular choice for students who may wish to use the transferable skills obtained to pursue other non-law careers.

There is a lot to be said about the skills learnt when doing on the job training in the Trailblazer Legal Apprenticeship such as developing commercial acumen and soft skills. The SQE shows the SRA’s steps towards breaking down barriers to access to the profession however, this can still be achieved in other ways such as in firms’ recruitment processes.

Opening up applications for training contracts to those from a range of universities rather than just red brick universities, is one step in improving access to the profession. The SQE however, does not address the issues of diversity in the profession as those positions may still be reserved for applicants that are favoured by those in the hiring process.

Additionally, students who completed the LPC and GDL costing a combined amount of around £20,000 may be wondering why course fees were so high compared to the SQE course fees of around £3,000. If anything it shows the extraordinarily high costs imposed on students that wanted to qualify as a solicitor via the LPC and GDL route.


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