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

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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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This SQE nonsense is just getting worse and worse smh, why can’t they just stick to lpc blimey


The LPC is a complete waste of time and teaches you absolutely nothing I need to know or apply during my day job at a MC firm.

Senior Paralegal and SQE Student

Do you actually understand the SQE? Based on your comment, I’m guessing not.


So how does this work for lpc grads thatt have TC and have to do a SQE LLM or whatever it’s called. They have go through electives again? Doesn’t seem fair or rational.


So in summary, the SQE have sh*t the bed by rolling out a course that is full of unnecessary content whilst removing the core elements that law firms require, which the LPC had provided. Great thinking by the SRA!


The GDL/LPC system was working just fine. The SQE is just one big complicated mess.

Don’t make sense

Why are some firms making LPC grads still do the full SQE course but only do SQE 2 exams. It just doesn’t make sense when they have the LPC already! Are they now saying the LPC is completely worthless even though it’s been used for decades and is what every partner or senior has gone through?

I understand if you haven’t done LPC but if you have, it just seems like additional stress and headache for no rational reason other than to ensure “everyone goes through the same route”…


Which firm has asked a prospective trainee and LPG graduate to do the SQE?


Pinset masons is making them


It’s because in order to pass the SQE 2, it takes direct knowledge from the SQE1. Meaning if you just took the exams, you wouldn’t have this knowledge. The breadth of work you need to pass both these exams is HUGE.

This is crazy

Can someone please explain what this extra module is about? And the essay you have to do the SQE LLM? Are these additional assessments alongside having to do SQE 1 + 2??


Yep. It’s BS lol.

Not only do we have to work towards these incredibly hard exams – where they don’t even teach you 50% of what the course is about..
They’re making us do internal assessments just so we get the LLM. I doubt they’re super hard, but it’s just annoying and more work.


No law exam is hard. Not if you are good enough. Some BCL papers need thought but really no-one can seriously call a mere vocational qualification “incredibly hard”.


Isn’t there like a junior lawyer group or something that can shout their concerns or revolt against this SQE nonsense? I don’t think they truly understand how much of an impact this is.

Max Coreyson

It’s just not fair! Especially for people like like myself who had to self fund the LPC for over £17,000 and there’s no where to appeal against this!!


It’s because in order to pass the SQE 2, it takes direct knowledge from the SQE1. Meaning if you just took the exams, you wouldn’t have this knowledge. The breadth of work you need to pass both these exams is HUGE.


Lol. The SRA ‘consulted’ on this for years and went ahead with the SQE anyway, despite a chorus of concerns and warnings.


This gonna put off people wanting to even go into law imo. Maybe that was their ulterior motive all along…


And to think there are some advocating for this bollocks up here in Scotland. The barriers to entry should not be dumbed down, just made less expensive.

Tic Tac Toe

You lost me at your second sentence.

Senior Paralegal and SQE Student

If you think the SQE is “dumbing down” I suggest you sit the SQE1 and SQE2 exams and then you can pronounce what a genius you are.

Dumb and dumber

The dumbing down of the process was bad enough before the powers that be dumbed it down even more after complaints about candidates struggling with questions involving long sentences.

SQE Candidate

This is the stupidest comment ever, LPC candidates were regularly scoring 80 and 90% on their exams because they were so spoon fed by universities. Everyone I speak to calls the LPC a ‘tick box exercise’.

The SQE in comparison is actually very difficult (see 51% pass rate for SQE1) and this is made far more so because universities aren’t given sufficient guidance from the SRA on what to teach.


Those that can’t do the SQE. There the pass rate difference explained.

John Smith

Who thought that making it easier to qualify would involve diluting the key subject areas? Whilst the LPC and TC route was never perfect, it was satisfactory and gave a good balance of academic and practical, it could have been reformed following consultation with those in practice. Instead the non-lawyers within the SRA had their minds set on one system, and have gone full steam ahead into. Let’s face it all of the consultation and engagement was because they had to do that, they haven’t actually listened to or otherwise acted upon the concerns raised, as such it should not come as a shock that the whole project is a failure.


The fact we not only have to learn the core modules of LPC, but we have to basically revise 7 core modules of academic law in 4 months tells you everything you need to know about the sqe. I don’t understand why anyone would think it’s a good idea to do this.


SQE is a load of BS..


From the comments the SQE seems to attract a lot of entitled moaners who think the world is against them and if only they were treated in the way they think is fair all would be good. God help and good luck any firm that takes them on and employs them.


People who actually enjoy the SQE are nerds who are better off in the library then in a corporate law firm.


I’m interested to hear this view as I thought it was the opposite. The GDL/LPC route was putting me off a career change from Company Secretary to Solicitor because of the amount of time I would have to waste reading academic law that I already knew would be of no practical use to me in a corporate environment (my aim is to be able to further my career to dual hat as a General Counsel). The SQE doesn’t seem to go into anything like the depth; I don’t even need to remember case names. In fact, I’m reaching a point where I worry the content is too thin to fulfil my career ambitions without further study in relevant areas.

Whistle blower at SRA

SQE 2 is not fair on LPC grads imo….

Amused foreign lawyer & future trainee in London

As someone qualified in their home jurisdiction and currently taking the SQE before starting a TC in London, I never fail to be amused (confused?) by these comments. It really makes me wonder – how easy was the LPC??

The SQE is almost exactly like the QLTS, which is what foreign-qualified lawyers (who were often straight out of university, just like UK LPC students) took before the SQE was brought in. It is just a basic overview of the important areas of English law? Extensive, challenging and fairly detailed… but that is just how English law actually is?


If you’re qualified, why are you doing a London TC lol

London future trainee

Because I am straight out of Uni with no work ex presently 🙂

So I am qualifying in the UK like anyone else… while also being qualified in my home jurisdiction, quite standard with international lawyers in London! Perhaps you are unfamiliar?

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