Exclusive research: SQE prep not enough say majority of law firms

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By Aishah Hussain on


Nearly two-thirds require future trainees to undertake practice area-focused modules

The majority of law firms think the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) is not enough to prepare trainees for legal practice and require them to undertake additional practice area and skills-focused modules and courses.

Legal Cheek research shows almost two-thirds (63%) of law firms require future trainees to complete practice area-focused modules in addition to preparation for the SQE, whilst more than half (52%) require skills-focused courses. More than half (52%) also require SQE prep to be undertaken as part of a master’s programme.

The results represent the views of nearly 50 graduate recruitment and learning & development professionals at leading City law firms, including Magic Circle, UK and US-headquartered global law firms. Just 13% said they require no further training at all.

Law firms’ additional training requirements are possible as the SQE allows greater flexibility; they can provide modules and courses suited to their needs rather than focus on prescriptive requirements of the solicitors’ regulator. These are known as ‘electives’ under the SQE’s predecessor, the Legal Practice Course (LPC), but as this course is gradually phased out, law firms must look to stopper the skills and knowledge gap left by their removal. City law firms tend to require additional training that aligns with their core practice areas, such as corporate and commercial law.

Over three-quarters (76%) of the law firm representatives surveyed said this training would be provided by an external organisation, with the remainder (24%) arranging for it to be delivered in-house. They all said if they require additional training their firms would fund it.

The 2023 Legal Cheek SQE Provider List

The SQE was introduced in 2021, becoming the route to solicitor qualification in England and Wales. More than half (52%) of law firms will transition to the SQE pathway from this year, our findings show, whilst 22% said they will do so from 2024 and 26% from 2025 onwards. Of those planning to transition to the SQE after 2023, the majority (33%) said they’ll recruit a blended intake of LPC and SQE graduates.

Elsewhere in the survey — undertaken by 46 law firms — nearly all respondents (98%) said they will require non-law students to undertake a law conversion course prior to commencing their SQE prep. This is despite there being no formal requirement from the Solicitors Regulation Authority to do so.

In addition to SQE training and any practice area and skills-focused modules and courses, trainees must complete a two-year period of recognised training known as Qualifying Work Experience (QWE). For the majority of City law firms this isn’t too dissimilar to their current training contracts.

The SQE will be a central topic of discussion at LegalEdCon 2023, Legal Cheek‘s annual future of legal education and training conference, taking place in-person at Kings Place, London on Thursday 18 May. Delegates will hear from a range of law firms and law schools on how they established SQE frameworks and where they think the new regime is headed.

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