Solicitor apprentices “leading the way” in SQE results, SRA reports

updated on 14 February 2023

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The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has revealed that apprentices are achieving top performance levels across the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), averaging scores that are 8% higher than other candidates on SQE1 and SQE2.  

The news broke during National Apprenticeships Week, highlighting that on average, pass rates were 26% higher for apprentices than the overall pass rate. The apprenticeship pathway, which was first introduced in 2015, has allowed 21 apprentices to qualify as solicitors through the new SQE route since September 2021, with an additional 1,300 in the system.  

A solicitor apprenticeship has become a popular choice for aspiring solicitors, offering an alternative route to qualification that forgoes costly university fees in place of earning while training, with exam and training fees covered by the firm. SRA Chief Executive Paul Philip said the pathway is “an attractive option for those who want a more affordable way into the profession and want to gain early legal practice experience”. 

Philip adds it’s “the mix of learning and on the job experience” offered by the apprenticeships pathway that’s produced such excellent results from apprentices undertaking the SQE. That said, the SRA has cautioned that current data is based on a small pool of results, with new data set to arrive in its annual report this spring

The apprenticeship route typically takes candidates five to six years to complete, with candidates required to pass both parts of the SQE during this period. The alternative route is said to “make the (legal) profession more accessible and diverse”.  Taylor Wessing is the most recent firm to embrace this route to qualification, joining Addleshaw Goddard, Allen & Overy, Charles Russell Speechlys LLP, DLA Piper LLP, Eversheds Sutherland LLP and Linklaters LLP

Legal adviser for ITV, Holly Moore, who qualified via the SQE as an apprentice, claimed that her apprentice experienced helped her “to develop professionally and personally” and meant she qualified “without any university debt”. She added: “I feel much further ahead than I would have had I taken the traditional route.” 

Jennifer Coupland, chief executive of the government apprenticeships agency, has praised apprentices for “performing so well” in the SQE, adding “solicitor apprentices are leading the way with results and as trailblazers for many more people from all walks of life to enter this vital profession”.