updated on 06 July 2023
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is the regulator of solicitors and law firms in England and Wales. It works to protect members of the public and support the rule of law and the administration of justice. It does this by setting the standards for qualification as a solicitor, licensing individuals and firms to practise, and setting and enforcing high professional standards for the profession. In order to practise, all solicitors must be admitted to the roll of solicitors in England and Wales.
Further information is available via its official website.
Qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales
Anyone wishing to become a solicitor in England and Wales must:
The SQE consists of two stages. Stage one (SQE1) tests functioning legal knowledge; and stage two (SQE2) tests practical legal skills. SQE1 covers:
SQE1 comprises two separate assessments taken across two days. One assesses FLK1, the other FLK2. Each of the assessments comprises 180 best single-answer multiple-choice questions. SQE1 must be passed before SQE2 can be taken and both parts of the SQE must be completed within six years.
SQE2 assesses candidates’ skills in:
Candidates’ ability to apply their knowledge of the law and legal practice is also assessed in SQE2. SQE2 assesses:
Assessments of ethics and professional conduct are included in both SQE1 and SQE2.
There are 16 different assessments for SQE2. Four of the 16 are oral assessments, and 12 are written assessments. The oral assessments take place over two consecutive half-days; the written assessments take place over three consecutive half-days.
The written assessments for both SQE1 and SQE2 are completed on a computer and taken either at an established test centre provided by Pearson Vue or at a temporary test centre set up for the purpose. SQE1 assessments can be taken in a wide range of countries across the world. The oral assessments for SQE2 can be taken only at test centres in England and Wales.
The SRA doesn’t specify training or courses; candidates are free to do the training they need to prepare themselves for SQE. That said, preparation courses are recommended to give candidates the best chance of passing. There’s a good range of options for candidates, including standalone SQE preparatory courses and others that integrate SQE preparation with a wider academic programme of study, leading to a master’s degree; in-person, remote, and hybrid provisions; and courses that cover either SQE1 or SQE2, those that cover both, and others that cover specific aspects of either, such as advocacy. There’s also an option for candidates to buy materials to help their independent study. The range of fees and associated costs is wide.
Find out more about these courses with LawCareers.Net’s guide to SQE preparation.
Qualifying work experience
There’s a requirement for two years’ QWE before admission as a solicitor. The SRA recognises a wide range of legal work experience, not just traditional training programmes, including working as a paralegal or in a student law clinic, provided that the experience gives a candidate the opportunity to develop the competences required for practice as a solicitor.
You can find out more about the SQE and what firms will expect from candidates via LawCareers.Net’s SQE hub.
Transitional route to qualifying as a solicitor
The SQE was introduced in September 2021. There are transitional arrangements in place for anyone who started on their journey to qualifying as a solicitor before that date. More information can be found on the SRA’s website.
Once admitted, solicitors are under a professional duty to make sure they can offer a proper standard of service to their clients. They must therefore make sure they stay up to date and are competent to practise in their particular field of work. To make sure they meet this requirement, solicitors are required to make an annual declaration that they’ve reflected on the quality of their work, and addressed any learning needs they identified through appropriate training and development.
This is a broad outline of what you need to do to start your career as a trainee solicitor. For more details, visit the SRA students' site. If you need to talk to someone, call the SRA’s contact centre on 0370 606 2555 or email [email protected].
The SRA works closely with the Junior Solicitors Network (JSN) For more on the JSN, head to the Law Society website.
A note from Paul Philip, chief executive of the SRA
“Welcome to LawCareers.Net.
“Wherever your career in law takes you, we want to make sure that those entering the solicitor profession have reached the high standards that everyone expects.
“The SQE is our single, rigorous assessment for all aspiring solicitors. In the first year, thousands sat the first assessments across 42 countries. Our first annual report on these shows that overall they’ve gone well.
“What does this mean for you? To qualify through the SQE you need a degree or equivalent, to meet our character and suitability requirements, to complete two years’ QWE and, of course, to pass the assessments themselves.
“SQE gives you real choice about your training. For example, you might choose a solicitor apprenticeship, or a law degree and then get that important work experience, or perhaps you’re a paralegal who sees the opportunity to qualify without the need to secure a training contract as with the old system.
“Our Career in Law Facebook or Instagram accounts can help inform your choices. There are of course those who started a different training journey before the SQE came in, who will still qualify through the old Legal Practice Course route.
“I wish you all the best in your training.”
This information is supplied by the SRA.