updated on 20 April 2021
The SQE will be introduced in September 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 towards 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 potentially has the edge over the LPC is cost. The SQE route can cost around £10,000 in total (the costs of SQE1 and SQE2 exams amount to £3,000 - £4,500, while prices for the SQE1 and SQE2 preparation courses vary depending on the provider). Meanwhile, the LPC can cost as much as £17,500. However, some of the more extensive SQE preparation courses offered by law schools are closer in cost to the LPC.
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.