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The Oracle

Time limits on the validity of the law degree, GDL, LPC, SQE and Bar course

updated on 31 October 2023

Dear Oracle

How long are legal qualifications valid for? Once I graduate with my law degree, how long do I have to qualify as a solicitor/barrister before it expires?

The Oracle replies

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We get a lot of questions on this topic and it’s true that the guidance available is opaque. Let’s explain what time limits there are on the validity of qualifications for both aspiring solicitors and barristers.

Law degree/GDL if you want to become a solicitor

There’s no time limit on the validity of a law degree or the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) for would-be solicitors. For candidates who graduated with a law degree or GDL in 2022, the next step to qualifying as a solicitor could be the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), which was introduced in September 2021.

Anyone who started or accepted an offer to start a law degree, the GDL or a training contract before or up to September 2021 has until as late as 2032 to complete the LPC and qualify as a solicitor through the ‘traditional’ route. However, course providers may stop teaching the LPC as more firms adopt the SQE – in fact, the LPC is expected to be phased out by 2026 and the full transition to the SQE to be completed by 2032.

You can read our guide to SQE preparation courses for more information.

Find out more about The University of Law's SQE, LPC and law conversion courses today:

Meanwhile, candidates who started an undergraduate degree or postgraduate law conversion after September 2021 must pass the SQE to qualify as a solicitor.

It’s not necessary to have completed a law degree or law conversion course to take the SQE, so there’s no time limit on the validity of either course for candidates taking the new ‘super exam’.

That said, some firms will require non-law graduates to complete a law conversion course before starting SQE preparation and qualifying work experience (QWE) or a training contract with them. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) also encourages all SQE candidates (including non-law graduates) to complete an SQE preparation course to give themselves the best chance of passing both stages of the SQE assessments.

For more information on non-law students, the SQE and law conversion courses, read LCN’s Oracle. Plus, we answer all your SQE-related FAQs in this LCN Says


The LPC must be completed within five years of beginning the course. After you’ve completed the LPC, there’s no expiration date on it. However, leaving a big gap between completing the LPC and applying for a training contract is something that recruiters who are looking for a commitment to the profession will question you about.

Although the SQE courses have already begun and exams are being taken, the LPC will remain a valid route to qualifying as a solicitor until 2032.

Read this Oracle to find out whether the LPC or SQE is for you.


The SQE was introduced in September 2021 to replace the LPC. The SQE is divided into two stages:

  • SQE1 covers functioning legal knowledge; and
  • SQE2 focuses on practical legal skills and knowledge.

Find out more about what the SQE covers via LCN’s Feature: ‘The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE): everything you need to know’.

The SQE is a graduate assessment, so you’ll first need to complete a degree (law or non-law) or equivalent.

The rules on when you complete the SQE and QWE requirements offer real flexibility but many firms are likely to have preferences regarding when you complete your QWE – for example, some firms may want you to have passed both SQE1 and SQE2 before you start your training contract with them. You should check what your shortlisted firms are doing in this regard. Speak to law firm recruiters at law fairs or firm open days to find out what they’re doing. You can also see how firms are implementing the SQE into their training via their individual profiles on LawCareers.Net, which is a good place to start!

Find out more about QWE via LawCareers.Net.

The SRA stipulates that SQE1 must be completed before SQE2, but QWE can be completed before, alongside or after SQE1 and SQE2.

Following a candidate’s first SQE1 sitting, they must then complete their SQE2 within six years. Candidates will have up to three attempts at both SQE1 and SQE2 within this six-year period and can enrol to take SQE2 only after passing SQE1.

Once you’ve passed both stages of the SQE, the qualification will remain valid for six years, meaning you’ll need to be admitted as a solicitor during that period.

Candidates must complete their two years’ QWE before they apply for admission to the roll of solicitors.

To find out about the SQE and reasonable adjustments, check out this LCN Says and for more on the SQE, head to LawCareers.Net’s SQE hub.

Law degree/GDL if you want to become a barrister

For those pursuing a career as a barrister, the law degree must be completed within the maximum time limit of six years, although this rule can be relaxed in exceptional circumstances. For non-law students, full-time GDL candidates should normally complete the course in no less than one year and no more than three years, while part-time GDL students should normally complete the course in no less than two years but no more than four years. Candidates can apply for an extension of time via their course provider. The normal maximum number of attempts for the GDL (depending on the provider) is three.

In addition, candidates must start the Bar course within five years of graduating with a law degree or GDL, including any relevant resits. If the Bar course isn’t started within this time, the law degree/GDL is regarded as stale. In some exceptional circumstances, the Bar Standards Boards (BSB) may reactivate stale qualifications, but only if the applicant can prove they have “current competence in all of the foundation subjects, for example through legal work or study".

The only other way to reactivate a stale qualification to continue on your journey and take the Bar course would be to complete (or re-complete) the GDL.

The SRA and BSB previously held joint responsibility for approving qualifying law degrees for barristers. However, following the introduction of the SQE for solicitors, the SRA will not be involved in approving any law degrees that started after 31 December 2021.

Bar course

As above, the Bar course must be started within five years of completing the academic stage (ie, a law degree or GDL). If you leave it later than that, your law degree/GDL will be viewed as stale and you’ll be unable to do the Bar course.

Full-time Bar course students must complete the course within two years after their expected graduation date (ie, within three years of starting the course). Part-time Bar course students must complete the course within three years after their expected graduation (ie, within four years of starting the course).

Once you complete the Bar course, you have five years to secure pupillage before the qualification expires.

If that five-year period expires without having successfully secured pupillage, you can request an extension from the BSB, which has the discretion to do so.

The BSB would take whether you’ve been working in the legal profession during that time (eg, as a paralegal) into account when making this decision.

We also advise you to check that your qualifications are recognised by the SRA or BSB.


If you want to qualify without a degree and work in a legal office, you can join the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX). You need to have at least four GCSEs, or a qualification of the same value, and to pass exams to qualify. Following this you can take exams that test your foundations of legal knowledge and go through vocational stages to become a solicitor.

For more information on becoming a solicitor, head to LawCareers.Net’s Solicitors’ hub. Interested in pursuing the Bar? Head to LawCareers.Net’s Barrister hub