Super-exam: Frequently Asked Questions about the SQE

Avatar photo

By Legal Cheek on

Clarity among confusion as SRA confirms it will scrap the LPC and GDL

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has announced it will kill off both the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) in favour of a centralised super-exam by as early as 2020.

The news has shocked the aspiring solicitor community, and Legal Cheek has been inundated with questions via our comments section and social media. In the hope of bringing clarity to the situation, we have answered some of your more frequently asked questions below.

1. Anonymous (via Legal Cheek comments): I just started the LPC. What does this mean for me?

The SRA plans to roll out the new Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE) as early as September 2020, so students taking vocational postgraduate courses until then will be expected to follow the traditional routes. If you start your LLB before August 2020, you will have the option of taking the traditional route to qualification or the new super-exam route after graduating. Those students embarking on their law degree after that date will have to take the new route.

2. Catherine Duggan (via Facebook): How much will the exam cost?

The short answer is we don’t know. The SRA has said on a number of occasions that it will be cheaper than the current route. Its education director Julie Brannan went as far as to say “substantially cheaper”. We will know more once the regulator has consulted with both law schools (which will provide the preparation courses) and independent organisations (which will handle the examinations).

3. Helmi_xo (via Instagram): Any news about the format of the exam?

The SQE is likely to be split into two parts (see table below). Part one, similar to the GDL, will examine functioning legal knowledge such as commercial, property and criminal law. Part two, which will be undertaken after a wannabe lawyer has completed their training contract, will test a candidate’s practical legal skills such as advocacy, drafting and interviewing.

A possible structure of the new super-exam

4. Anon (via Legal Cheek comments): So could you become a solicitor without even having a law degree?

Back in the super-exam’s early consultation stages, the idea of allowing anyone, non-graduates included, to sit it was floated. However it has since been confirmed you will still need an undergraduate degree “or equivalent” to take the exam.

5. Luckyheatherg (via Twitter): Does it look possible the bar will follow suit?

Maybe. The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is currently debating a vocational education shake-up of its own, and has now approved radical plans that could see the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) split into two parts. You can find out more on this here.

6. Anonymous (via Legal Cheek comments): Has EU law disappeared from the syllabus?

EU law — along with contract, crime, equity and trusts, property, public law and tort — is one of the core modules found in qualifying law degrees and on the GDL. According to the table above, it looks like EU law has been bumped off the list. However, an SRA spokesperson told us:

EU law will be included as part of the Stage 1 Functioning Legal Knowledge Assessment. The areas of law listed were those that were part of the original consultation document. This will be developed more thoroughly as we go through the implementation stage.

7. Josh Battat (via Facebook): Will this change the nature of the training contract?

While you will still need to do two years’ qualifying work experience to become a solicitor, it looks like the SRA’s requirements on this will be more flexible. These two years can be made up of work experience at a maximum of four organisations, including paralegaling and pro bono work at university law clinics. Under the new approach, there is no need for a “block two-year training contract”. However, large City firms are likely to stick with this traditional training format.

8. Chloe Cardwell (via Facebook): If I have an LPC qualification will this affect its credibility in the future?

There are some fears things could go the other way. An independent report into the SQE has said that “high performing candidates” who have completed “traditional” education have been recruited into law firms for many years. From this, it could be inferred that law firms may be wary of recruiting lawyers from new, non-traditional backgrounds (i.e. the super-exam). However, this is only speculation at this stage and we will know more about the super-exam’s reputation as and when it is rolled out.

You can watch our Facebook discussion on the new exam format and how it will affect you below:

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek’s careers events, sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub here.