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LPC or SQE: which route should you take?

updated on 22 August 2023

“Can I still qualify as a solicitor via the Legal Practice Course (LPC) even though the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) is now the new pathway into the profession?” This is a question that’s becoming increasingly more familiar as many aspiring lawyers consider their next step towards qualification.

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Despite the introduction of the SQE in September 2021, some students will have the option to qualify via the LPC. Making a decision between either route shouldn’t be taken lightly – there are several factors worth considering, which this article will outline.

LPC versus SQE


The LPC was the traditional vocational stage of training to be a solicitor that follows either a law degree or postgraduate law conversion course and focuses on the practical skills required to be a successful lawyer. It can be completed either full time over a year, part time across two years or, in some cases, accelerated (as with The University of Law). The LPC is designed to get you ready for work as a trainee solicitor. There are two stages to the LPC:

  • stage one – core practice areas and skills; and
  • stage two – three vocation electives.

LPC candidates must pass a range of assessments, including oral, and open and closed-book exams.

Head to LawCareers.Net’s LPC page to find out more about this route into the profession.

To find out whether you can still qualify via this route, read the 'transitional arrangements' section below and to find out whether firms are still recruiting LPC graduates, read this Oracle.


The SQE is a system of exams that all solicitors will eventually have to pass at the point of qualifying. It’ll ultimately replace the LPC but for now, the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) transitional arrangements enable eligible students to decide between the two routes.

Like the LPC, the SQE is split into stage two stages:

  • SQE1 – functioning legal knowledge; and
  • SQE2 – practical legal skills and knowledge.

Unlike the LPC, the SQE doesn’t have any set training – it’s just a system of exams. That said, legal education providers like The University of Law has developed several SQE courses that are designed to help candidates get ready for the SQE assessments.

Find out about The University of Law’s SQE courses via its website!

For those who choose the SQE as their preferred route to qualification, it’s important to note that both non-law and law graduates are being encouraged to take relevant SQE preparation to give themselves the best chance of passing the SQE assessments when the time comes.

Interested in studying at The University of Law, find out when the next open day is for an insight into life at the university.

Transition period for the LPC and SQE

So, who actually has the option between the two routes? Anyone who’s “completed, started, accepted an offer of a place or paid a non-refundable deposit” on/for the GDL, LPC, MA law or training contract before 1 September 2021 can choose which route they take to qualify (ie, LPC or SQE).

These transitional arrangements also apply to candidates who’ve completed, started, accepted an offer of a place or paid a non-refundable deposit on/for a qualifying law degree (QLD) or exempting law degree (ELD) by 21 September 2021 (inclusive). This means that if you’re heading into your third year of a law degree (at the time of writing August 2023), you’ll still be able to take the LPC to qualify as a solicitor.

The transition period will run until the end of 2032, meaning eligible candidates have until then to qualify via this route, with some firms looking to recruit hybrid cohorts of LPC and SQE candidates. However, some firms have already moved over to the SQE route, so it’s important that you check what your shortlisted firms are doing with regards to adopting the SQE. Some firms have added their plans for the SQE to their LawCareers.Net profile.

It’s also important to note that over the next few years, there will likely remain a strong focus on studying the LPC for those who are eligible. According to Legal Cheek’s survey, taken by 33 law firms, 42% said they’ll make the full transition to the SQE in 2024.

Find out how the SQE will impact training contracts in this Oracle.

Should I do the LPC or the SQE?

There are several factors to bear in mind when making your decision – the main one being that you should choose the route that best suits you and your circumstances.


As you probably know, the traditional legal training model adopted by firms is a two-year training contract.

With the introduction of the SQE, candidates are required to collect two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE). Some firms have revealed plans to continue running their two-year training contracts for SQE candidates as they’re keen to train their future lawyers at the firm – this training is likely to look very similar to the traditional training model with most firms requiring students to complete SQE preparation courses ahead of starting the SQE assessments and their training at the firm (in many ways mirroring the LPC route).

Firms are under no obligation to shorten the training period if a candidate has already built up some accredited QWE, which is worth bearing in mind. For example, if you have previous paralegal experience that counts towards the required QWE, it’s important to note that via the SQE, not all firms will reduce the period of training in light of experience you might already have.

If you’re yet to secure a training contract or are keen to build up your QWE elsewhere, you can do so in up to four separate periods via the SQE route. Your QWE can be completed in a variety of organisations, including law firms, law centres and paid or voluntary experience.

You can find out more about what counts as QWE via The Oracle.

It’s also important to note that the graduate solicitor apprenticeship is another alternative way that some firms are adopting the SQE.

Want to know more about the graduate solicitor apprenticeship, read this LCN Says.

Thinking about the way you want to train and finding out what your shortlisted firms are doing training-wise is key. You shouldn’t go into this decision blind, so find out what will be expected of you depending on the route you choose before you make your decision.


Having studied a degree, you’re likely to have experienced several different assessment types. By now, you hopefully know what type of assessment suits you. If you’re choosing between the LPC and SQE, it’s worth looking at the different ways in which you’ll be assessed.

LPC assessments differ between education providers, so you’ll need to do some research, but most institutions choose to assess candidates via open-book exams and written assessments. For example, The University of Law’s LPC assessments include:

  • a one-hour, closed-book exam with multiple-choice questions;
  • a three-hour open-book exam, with short and long-form questions; and
  • a range of written and oral skills assessments across 24 hours.

The SQE is assessed in two parts:

  • SQE1 consists of two exams, each containing 180 multiple-choice questions to test a candidate’s application of their legal knowledge, research and writing skills in real scenarios.
  • SQE2 is made up of 12 written and four oral assessments that take place across several days. These test the everyday skills required to be a successful lawyer – this section will test many of the same skills as the LPC.

Have you used LawCareers.Net’s SQE hub yet? Sponsored by The University of Law, our SQE hub is the go-to place for understanding the SQE basics, the latest developments and more!

One of the main differences between the skills assessments is that the LPC tests to the level of a trainee solicitor while the SQE tests to the level of a newly qualified solicitor. Candidates will have different preferences here and there’s no right or wrong way to think about it. If the way you’re assessed is likely to play a significant role in your decision making, you should conduct some further research into your preferred LPC provider’s assessment types.

Find out more about The University of Law’s LPC and how candidates are assessed via The University of Law’s website.


The fees associated with the LPC and SQE are important factors. While the SQE is designed to reduce the cost to qualifying as a solicitor – and in some respects, it does – fees for completing the LPC and SQE aren’t dissimilar.

Studying the LPC in 2023/24 can cost up to £19,500 in London, with fees outside of London significantly cheaper ranging from around £14,300 to £15,350. When combined with an LLM, the LPC is eligible for postgraduate funding.

Find out more about postgraduate funding in The Oracle: ‘Are the GDL, LPC and SQE eligible for the postgraduate student loan?

Meanwhile, from September 2023, the cost of taking the SQE1 and SQE2 amounts to £4,564. However, this only covers the cost of taking the exams. The fees associated with the SQE preparation courses vary depending on the provider and course content, for example:

  • The University of Law’s LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2) costs between £12,800 and £16,950 (for 2023/24), depending on location; or
  • The University of Law’s SQE1 and SQE2 Preparation Courses each cost between £4,000 and £5,900 (for 2023/24), depending on location.

You can find out more about the SQE preparation courses via LawCareers.Net’s guide.

Weighing up the costs and your likelihood of securing a job is an important factor to consider in your decision. Some firms will continue to offer funding for candidates who are training with them so you should again conduct some research into how your shortlisted firms are implementing the SQE or, alternatively, whether they’re continuing to recruit LPC candidates during the transition period.

Length of study

This might be an important factor depending on a candidate’s particular circumstance. While the SQE preparation courses are shorter than the LPC, aspiring solicitors will still be required to complete two years’ QWE.

If you can join a firm that’s willing to reduce your training period based on QWE you’ve built up over the years, the SQE is likely to be a quicker way to qualify. Otherwise, it’s worth considering the other factors addressed in this article to help you with your decision. Both the SQE and LPC are available to study flexibly, which might suit those changing careers or with caring responsibilities.

You can take a look at The University of Law’s SQE preparation and LPC courses to see what flexible options are available.

Is the SQE harder than the LPC?

Looking at the recent pass rates for the SQE and LPC, there’s not much in it at the moment. In early 2023, the SRA revealed a 51% pass rate for the January 2023 SQE1 sitting and 71% for October 2022’s SQE2 sitting, while 57.7% of candidates passed the LPC in 2019/20.

If you choose the SQE, although not required, you should complete an appropriate SQE preparation course to give yourself the best chance of passing the assessments. With the LPC, as you likely know, the study and exams are incorporated into the programme so there’s no need to do any additional preparation.

Still stuck?

Talk to your university’s careers adviser, as well as the advisers and employability teams at the institutions you’re considering for the SQE or LPC. There are lots of candidates in a similar position to you and while it’s sometimes easier to not have to make a decision, if you’re eligible to choose which route you take to qualify (ie, LPC or SQE) make sure you do so with some understanding and awareness of what’s to come.

Olivia Partridge is the content manager at LawCareers.Net.