Without law degree
Amit Kapoor scored in the top quintile for both SQE1 exams despite having no legal background or undergoing any formal preparation. He shares his experience below.
I had a typical lower middle-class upbringing in Mumbai, with my dad the sole breadwinner for our family of four. My first language was not English. My undergraduate engineering degree dates back to 2000. My early jobs were in the area of IT and outsourcing. I immigrated to the UK to do my MBA at Cranfield University when I was 27. My love for the law only developed a few years after, at a time when I had parental responsibilities as well. By the time, I got to the SQE1 exam, I was in my forties.
SRA’s statistical reports suggest that candidates with my demographics perform lower than average in the exam. Naturally, I was elated to spot in my July 2023 SQE1 scorecard that I was in the top quintile on both FLK1 and FLK2.
Although, I have a settled career as an IT contracts and public procurement consultant, what I have found most fascinating are the legal aspects of my work and observing lawyers in action. Aside from work, I have some experience as a user of courts and tribunals, including in one instance acting as a lay representative for a friend in a defended employment tribunal claim.
It’s only after I passed the Mensa IQ test in December 2022 that I decided to take action on my interest in law to make the most of what I was naturally gifted with. Although I could afford to pay for a preparation course, I backed my instinct that I could do this on my own. I did not see the lack of a law degree or GDL as a stumbling block — for me, this was an exciting personal adventure!
I decided to take the exam in a short period of about four and a half months, from when I started self-study, because I had gathered from candidate experiences that knowledge retention was key. I therefore chose to give my exam as soon as possible from the time of study.
My initial preparation material comprised of 15 Kindle e-books from Revise SQE and notes from another provider. After I finished reading all the e-books, on average 1 per week, I attempted a free mock test from another SQE training provider. I failed and realised that I needed to up my knowledge and retention. I was concerned that exam day was only 3 weeks away. I then bought a subscription from a question-bank provider, for further practice. I also re-revised all the e-books.
The exam days were intensive, to say the least. Each day required a high level of concentration sustained over two, two and half hour marathon sessions. The questions appeared to be of a different tone and quality to anything I had previously experienced in my preparation. Fair to say, I was confident I answered quite a few questions right, but on many others, I exercised judgment after ruling out the obviously wrong options. I don’t think it is realistically possible to walk out of these exams being supremely confident that you have done well. I have seen that the pass mark for our batch was much lower than previous ones. It perhaps suggests this exam was much harder.
As for next steps, I am registered with a training provider for SQE2. I believe that getting feedback on your written and oral work is vital — and that isn’t possible through self-study. My goal post-qualification is to practice in tech dispute resolution. I understand that the route to early practice is via a law firm. I know that my route to qualification goes against conventional wisdom and from anecdotal feedback I understand that newly-qualified hiring process can be rather cookie-cutter! Not many law firms have as yet warmed up to SRA’s view that SQE-excellence is an adequate measure of readiness to practice. However, my message to private practice firms is that no one can pass this exam by simply cramming the law. Every question is a scenario, much like real-life, in which facts need to be assessed for relevance, and the options are not black or white, they are shades of grey.
Finally, I am grateful to the SRA for opening up the profession. Had it not been for the SQE route, I would not have attempted to enter it.”
Amit Kapoor is an IT contracts consultant and business owner, intending to change career into law. He is experienced in employment litigation and maintains a particular interest in tech and outsourcing dispute resolution.