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The Oracle

Funding the SQE

updated on 07 December 2021

Dear Oracle

I’m going to be qualifying via the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) route – how can I fund the preparation courses and assessments?

The Oracle replies

Money, money, money! 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 to qualifying remains high and, in some cases, exceeds the costs of the Legal Practice Course.

So what are your options for funding the SQE?

SQE preparation courses

While an SQE preparation course is not a requirement for qualifying via this route, it is highly recommended. By completing an SQE preparation course you will 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:

  • have a university degree or equivalent in any subject (law or non-law);
  • pass the SRA’s character and suitability assessment;
  • pass SQE1 and SQE2; and
  • have two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE).

Undergraduate degree with SQE1 preparation modules

Some universities are developing their undergraduate courses to incorporate SQE1 preparation within the LLB. We recommend that 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 is important to note that the SQE1 and SQE2 assessments (total of £3,980) are not 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 various other SQE preparation courses on offer that are shorter and likely cheaper alternatives to completing an LLM, however these courses cannot be covered with a student loan.

If you have 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:

  • scholarship options; or
  • private student loans.

Use LCN's course search to find the right course and education provider for you.

Apprenticeships

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.

Training contracts/QWE

Many firms are continuing to recruit trainees via the conventional two-year training contract route. This will count towards the two years’ 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 would like to work in, we would always recommend securing a training contract in order to fund the SQE before embarking on a preparation course.

Paying for the SQE exams

The cost of taking the SQE exams is £3,980. This is broken down into:

  • SQE1 – £1,558; and
  • SQE2 – £2,422.

As mentioned, candidates will need to pay for these assessments themselves unless they are 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.

Diversity Access Scheme

The Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme (DAS) “supports talented and tenacious aspiring lawyers from disadvantaged backgrounds” throughout their journey into the profession. 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.