updated on 05 December 2023
I’m going to be qualifying via the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) route – how can I fund the preparation courses and assessments?
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As with most things in life, qualifying as a solicitor isn’t cheap. One of the many reasons that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) developed and introduced the SQE was to bring the cost of qualifying as a solicitor down. In many ways, this aim has been met but the cost of qualifying remains high and, in some cases, exceeds the costs of the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
So, what are your options for funding the SQE?
While an SQE preparation course isn’t a requirement for qualifying via this route, it’s highly recommended. By completing an SQE preparation course you’ll give yourself the best chance at passing the SQE1 and SQE2 assessments.
Find out more about The University of Law's SQE preparation courses!
As a reminder, there are four requirements to qualify as a solicitor via the SQE. You must:
Undergraduate degree with SQE1 preparation modules
Some universities have developed their undergraduate courses to incorporate SQE1 preparation within the LLB. We recommend you conduct some research to identify which universities are doing this and look at the course content on offer. If sufficient, doing some SQE preparation as part of your undergraduate degree might mean you can choose to do a cheaper, more basic SQE preparation course following graduation.
The cost of your undergraduate degree is also covered via the normal student finance route.
It’s important to note that the SQE1 and SQE2 assessments (total of £4,564) aren’t included in undergraduate degree programmes.
LLM including SQE preparation
Several universities have developed master’s in law courses, which will include preparation for SQE1 and SQE2 assessments and will be eligible for the usual postgraduate student loan funding.
Other SQE preparation courses
There are other SQE preparation courses on offer that are shorter and likely cheaper alternatives to completing an LLM, however these courses can’t be covered with a student loan.
If you’ve taken an undergraduate degree that included some SQE1 preparation, you might decide to self-fund a more basic, cheaper SQE1 preparation course and SQE2 preparation course. According to the Law Society, some courses providers might offer:
The solicitor apprenticeship (for school leavers) and the graduate apprenticeship (for graduates) are other alternative options.
The solicitor apprenticeship incorporates both SQE1 and SQE2 training, plus the SQE1 and SQE2 assessments. Designed for aspiring lawyers who have finished their A levels, the solicitor apprenticeship will take around five to six years to complete, with apprentices required to dedicate 20% of this time to on-the-job training.
As well as receiving a salary, the cost of training, preparation and assessments will be covered by the employer.
Similarly, the two to three-year graduate apprenticeship includes on-the-job training (ie, QWE), plus preparation for SQE1 and SQE2, and the subsequent assessments. Like solicitor apprentices, graduate apprentices will also receive a salary and their training and assessment will be paid for by their employer.
For more information on legal apprenticeships head to LCN’s apprenticeships page.
Many firms are continuing to recruit trainees via the conventional two-year training contract route. This will count towards the two-year QWE requirement set out by the SRA, with employers covering or sponsoring their employees’ preparation course fees and SQE assessment costs.
Trainees will also receive a healthy salary.
You should research which firms are recruiting their future lawyers in this way to find out whether this is an option for you. If you know the type of law firm you’d like to work in, we’d always recommend securing a training contract to fund the SQE before embarking on a preparation course.
The cost of taking the SQE exams is £4,564. This is broken down into:
As mentioned, candidates will need to pay for these assessments themselves unless they’re an apprentice or being sponsored by a firm.
As well as the apprenticeship and firm sponsorship options, there are bursary options available that will cover the costs of the assessments.
If you’re already qualified as a lawyer you can apply to the SRA to establish whether you’re exempt from the SQE or parts of it. For example, if you started or passed the LPC and meet the SRA’s transitional requirements you may not need to take SQE1.
The Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme (DAS) “is a unique scholarship programme, designed to address key barriers to the solicitors’ profession faced by those from less advantaged backgrounds”. Via the scheme, candidates can apply to receive funding for the SQE, including assessment and preparation course costs.
You can find out more about other diversity access schemes via LawCareers.Net and visit LCN’s Diversity hub for additional insights into how the legal profession is addressing the diversity and inclusion issue.
To stay up to date with the SQE, make sure you regularly visit LCN’s SQE hub.
Take a look at LCN’s finances page for more information.