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Solicitor, Legal Executive and Other Legal Roles

How to become a solicitor

The training route to becoming a solicitor is changing. From September 2021, the new SQE route will be introduced.

The SQE training route will mean that non-law graduates no longer need to do the GDL followed by the Legal Practice Course (LPC), and law graduates will no longer need to do the LPC.  

Graduates will also no longer need to complete a two-year training contract with a law firm. Instead, they will be able to accrue two years' work experience through a range of legal roles, each signed off by a solicitor. 

The current training route will still be open to graduates who are starting their LPC and GDL in September, and those who have already completed their GDL and LPC. This transition period will end in 2032.

A new way of qualifying from September 2021: The SQE training route

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has introduced a new training route for law and non-law graduates who want to qualify as a solicitor. 

From September 2021, the Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE) will require all graduates to sit two exams - the SQE 1 & SQE 2.

Law graduates who have applied to start the LPC in September 2021, or graduates who have already completed the GDL/CPE, will still be able to continue on the old qualification route until 2032. This also applies to graduates who accept a place on the GDL before 1 September 2021. 

The SQE 1 will comprise two assessments that test an aspiring solicitor’s ability to apply legal knowledge and their practical legal skills.

Non-law graduates will want to consider whether they have the legal knowledge required for the SQE 1 and whether they wish to undertake a preparation course or Masters before sitting the exam.

The SQE 2 will examine a candidate’s legal skills e.g. client interviewing, legal drafting and advocacy. It is expected that candidates will take this exam after their period of qualifying work experience. 

The cost of the two SQE exams is expected to be £3,980. 

Work experience 

Graduates on the SQE route will also need to complete two years of qualifying work experience, confirmed by a solicitor. You will be able to accrue this experience in up to four organisations. This could be:

  • paralegal work
  • a degree placement
  • a training contract
  • volunteering role at a law clinic or the CAB. 
Character and suitability requirements

To apply to be a solicitor after completing your training, you will also need to pass the SRA's character and suitability requirements

University of Law - postgraduate SQE preparation courses for non-law graduates

The University of Law is offering a range of new postgraduate courses (starting in September 2021) to prepare non-law graduates for the SQE training route. 

Law conversion courses for non-law graduates

The Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL, also known as the CPE) is a law conversion course for non-law graduates. The GDL takes one year to complete with full-time study.

Prospective students need to apply for the course in the final year of their undergraduate degree, from September onwards. There is no set closing date for applications and they are reviewed by institutions weekly. Students who are seeking sponsorship from a law firm for the GDL (and LPC) will need to apply to firms that recruit two years in advance.

Some firms may offer sponsorship for the GDL (see the link below for details). Students who are self-funding should be aware that the Government's postgraduate study loan does not apply to the GDL or LPC, and the standard way of funding the course without sponsorship is via a high street bank loan.

Note: The GDL will be replaced by the new SQE training route after the final intake in September 2021. After this time, non-law graduates will want to consider whether they do a preparation course before sitting the SQE 1. 

Applying for the Legal Practice Course (LPC)

The Legal Practice Course is a one-year full-time vocational course run by a university. You apply for full-time courses through the  LawCabs system. To apply for the two-year part-time course, you need to apply directly to the institution.

If you're doing a law degree, you can apply for the LPC during your final year. If you're doing the GDL conversion course, you will need to apply for the LPC during your course.

Note: The LPC will be replaced by the new SQE training route after the final intake in September 2021. 

CILEx training - for legal executives and solicitors

The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives offers training on the job for people working in legal executive/paralegal positions.

You can also qualify as a solicitor via this training route. While training takes longer, it's less costly and you don't need to complete a training contract. if you complete it before an LPC.

Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme

The QLTS enables lawyers who have qualified outside the UK to practise as a solicitor in the UK