updated on 08 December 2020
I’m in the final year of my degree – should I do the GDL and LPC after I graduate, or the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE)?
The SQE will be introduced in 2021, but the ‘traditional’ route to qualifying as a solicitor (a law degree or law conversion, followed by the LPC) will remain valid until 2032. The questions for candidates who are applying for training contracts starting in 2023 (or earlier), are which route do law firms prefer and when are firms all switching to SQE?
Apply for a training contract before starting the LPC or SQE
LawCareers.Net’s first advice is to apply for training contracts before you commit to either the GDL, LPC or an SQE preparation course. Securing a training contract in advance eliminates the risk involved in taking these vocational courses without a guaranteed job at the end of them. It is also likely that your employer will sponsor the cost of your postgraduate training, whether it is the GDL and LPC, or the SQE route, saving you thousands of pounds.
Do law firms prefer the LPC or SQE?
Many law firms – as well as future lawyers – are continuing with the traditional LPC route in 2021 to avoid being ‘guinea pigs’ for the new SQE system going through its first ever year of exams. In contrast, the LPC is a qualification familiar to all law firms and the route is well established. For this reason, candidates applying for training contracts in 2021 may be encouraged by their future firms toward the LPC.
However, all law firms will have to adopt the SQE eventually, so if you are planning to apply in 2022, the situation may be different.
Modified GDL keeps both LPC and SQE options open for non-law graduates
As of September 2020, non-law graduates can choose a modified GDL (at some universities called the PGDL (Postgraduate Diploma in Law)), which enables candidates to progress onto either the LPC or an SQE preparation course.
One area where the SQE easily beats the LPC is cost. The SQE route costs around £10,000 in total (the costs of SQE1 and SQE2 exams amount to £3,000 - £4,500, while SQE1 and SQE2 preparation courses are available from £3,000 each). Meanwhile, the LPC can cost as much as £17,825.
But bear in mind our earlier advice; applying for a training contract in advance can get you access to sponsorship, alleviating the financial concerns around these courses.
Who should take the SQE in 2021?
The SQE could be a good option for those working in paralegal and legal support roles while pursuing qualification as a solicitor through the equivalent means route.
Whichever route you choose, you should ideally be on course for a 2:1 (or higher) and be building up work experience and/or extracurricular achievements to support your application for a training contract.
We also recommend that you read the advice of BPP Law School’s Jonny Hurst, who has written in detail for LCN about the pros and cons of waiting for the SQE. And read LawCareers.Net’s guide to the Solicitors Qualifying Exam.