‘I failed SQE1 and lost my TC. Is anyone else in the same boat?’

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By Legal Cheek on

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Needs help on what to do next


In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, an aspiring solicitor asks for guidance following disappointing SQE1 results and an unsupportive response from their firm.

“I sat the SQE1 exams in January and found out last week that I have failed. My training contract (City law firm) was due to start in September 2024 so I was extremely worried about what the consequences would be. After a few calls with graduate recruitment and HR, I’ve been told that my TC offer has been revoked. I just have no idea what to do at this point, and want to know if anyone else is/has been in the same boat, and how they dealt with the situation. How are other people’s firms handling cases of future trainees failing the SQE?”

If you have a career conundrum, email us at team@legalcheek.com.

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92 Comments

Tim

This is shocking!

Archibald O'Pomposity

Why is it shocking?

Anon

That is so disappointing. It is very harsh for them to revoke your TC. My advice would be to avoid the whole TC cycle again (maybe apply for a couple TCs here and there but do not make it your priority). I would paralegal in a department you are interested in seeking a career in. Do that for two years whilst studying on the side. No need to pay for the prep course if you have already done it. Then sit your SQE1 and SQE2 exams. Hopefully the firm will then take you on as an associate. You will be in employment, paid an ok to good salary, and your career will continue.

Huh

Why would they want to return to a firm that has treated them like this?

anon

Who said it has to be that firm

Commercial Awareness

I would caution against jumping in to being a paralegal. Absolutely continue applying to TCs, but seriously consider taking a role in another sector (ideally a revenue-generating, commercial role) in order to hone business skills and broaden your horizons. This will give you real-world experience for future interviews. It will also likely not be as time intensive as a legal role and you may find you also enjoy it as much as, or even more than, the law.

As a paralegal you may get some good experience, but I have seen many non-TC-holders step into being a paralegal and then find it extremely hard to get out of that position. It is every bit as time consuming as the practice you work in. So, if you become a corporate paralegal, you will work long hours under stress and you will have less time to complete applications.

Anon

Wow. Brutal if true. The SQE is a new exam and law firms need to give students some flexibility here.

Shocked

Clifford Chance, you should be ashamed.

Anon law school

This is such a shame. The practical reality for HR teams will be juggling support for resits and the number of resit candidates and the effect it has on intake sizes. Many are allowing resits of SQE1 with a deferral but there will be a practical limit to the number of people they can do this with, given it then adds more people to the following intake.

I have heard of some firms who have overrecruited in order to ensure they have enough starters, taking into account expected fails so maybe that’s what happened here. A brutal approach, for sure.

I would be careful at this point – you need to make sure you pass SQE1 and working alongside might not help. I don’t know your circumstances while you were undertaking the prep course.

You only have two attempts left. If you have some downtime, you may well be best using the materials you have from your prep course to resit with the maximum possible study time and then moving on to look for TCs in the Autumn.

anonymous

Exactly, if law firms permit deferrals, couldn’t this be considered unfair to the next cohort?

an interested party

Which firms are allowing resits and which ones aren’t?

I imagine there is a great deal of difference between firms’ policies, as there was during the LPC

Elon

Is the concerned firm a prestigious one ?
A top 15 corporate city law firm ?

Pls let me keep my TC

Clifford Chance and HSF I know for a fact, rumours of Latham & Watkins but cannot confirm

..

Macfarlanes also

Anon

Don’t jump into another Training contract. I’d focus on passing the exam first, you’ve done most of the work, now you just need to go through it all again with a laser focus. Then re apply..

Anonymous

Latham allows resits

CC future trainee

CC does not allow resits, 5 TCs pulled after the most recent SQE sitting

Anon

Travers Smith is another one that won’t allow resits

Richard

Ask for the paper to be independently reassesed to find out what the problem was at least then you will know your weakness It is appalling the way you have been treated.If you were good enough to be offered a T C then at least you should be given one more chance.A good Lawyer is one that learns from his or her mistakes

Archibald O'Pomposity

A good lawyer can string a sentence together.

Reginald K

I’m sorry this happened to you, but it’s no different to people who secured training contracts prior to the LPC who then lost them after failing a module.

Anon

It is different, particularly at this early stage.
With the LPC, students were being taught by the people writing the exam papers.
With the SQE there is not even much of a body of past papers to use in exam prep.

One of the difficulties for law firms will be the long wait until a candidate can resit and then another two months for those results to come through. Even if a recent fail takes the next round of SQE1 and pass it will be September before they have that result. It’s very disruptive to the traditional pipelines that firms have established. Some firms would bin people after one fail on the LPC, but if they wanted to keep them resits could be done relatively quickly.

I imagine we will end up with something closer to the accountancy model where failure rates and losing graduates through exam fails will become a more established part of the intake planning.

To be fair to sponsoring firms, quite a few have significantly increased their maintenance grant in the past couple of years, so hopefully fewer of their candidates having to work evenings and weekends to make ends meet, so a fairer playing field within their intake as to who passes or fails.
The firms who are still paying very low maintenance grants which are unrealistic to live off need to take that into consideration when looking at their candidates’ SQE results – some will be able to call on parental funds, others will be working many hours a week.

Future trainee

They increased grants but SQE is twice as long as the accelerated LPC so in real terms you actually have less money. It was possible to sustain yourself for 6 months on 12k. Not so possible to sustain yourself for 12 months on 17k or even 20k.

Challenger

Also let’s be honest, the LPC was far easier than the SQE is turning out to be.

Curious Bystander

Agree. The LPC was designed to assess suitability for a traineeship.

SQE is designed to assess suitability for a day 1 solicitor. Requiring it’s completion pre-traineeship is a much bigger hurdle.

Pappa

Name the firm

Document Connoisseur

Hardly unexpected. You should have known what you signed up for when law firms ask if you have ever failed and had to resit an exam.

Not that it matters in the long run since AI can already pass bar exams and more difficult exams so take it easy

Anonymous

Perhaps reflect on your own advice next time you’re finding work a bit hard (and yes AI can already do your job too). What an awful way to show you lack basic empathy

Sneeder

Reddit confirmed firms on zero resit policy: Macfarlanes, HSF, Clifford chance, Slaughters

Possibly Latham as well

Bobble is King

good work sneeder

James

Do you know Linklaters stance?

123

Links allows resit

Links Future Trainee

How do you know?

Links Trainee

Very few failed in my cohort. They were allowed a resit. Links actually cares about their future trainees. When they said they’d stand by their trainees. They meant it.

123

They sent an email saying so to the cohort that just sat SQE1 in Jan 2024

Anon

can confirm Latham allows all trainees one resit!

Anon

Not true. Slaughters allows resits but need to re-interview for the TC (from what Ive been told, no one’s failed this re-interview)

Sweatshop and Pray

Not really a Resit then is it if you’re effectively applying from scratch

Hooray Henry

You aren’t effectively applying from scratch – you don’t need to write the application, pass whichever godforsaken Arctic Shores or equivalent games are required, pass the Watson Glaser, pass the personality test, pass the assessment centre. Literally you just have to do the final bit which is the interview

Anon

Dunno how true that is. There’s someone in our intake (from one of those firms mentioned) who failed a module but got to retake it.

Hmmm suspect

Sqe doesn’t have modules Anon …

Future Silver Circle Trainee

Could you link the reddit post on what firms have this policy? We should make a publically available source for future applicants, since I imagine this would weight heavily in people’s priorities when choosing a firm.

City Trainee

I can confirm that at least two of those firms 100% allows resits.

Mangleboxer

Name them then

Macs Trainee

Macfarlanes is an AWFUL firm anyway, it’s a blessing in disguise

Anon

Why do you say this?

Anon

CMS too

Anon

Oh yeahh I am totally in the same boat, failing an exam with a pass rate of roughly 50% after bragging about getting a training contract on Linkedin 24/7 in case nobody knows I am really proud to be intellectually superior enough to read Word and pdf documents and actually make EDITS on them!!! It’s important to focus on the successes instead of failures so let’s sit around a campfire and sing songs about our epic achievements!

Why?

Who hurt you?

Anonymous

are you okay?

Anonymous

*hun

From a US firm

I know that some City firms, especially ones where salaries are highest, will not even touch candidates that fail their SQE1 exam first time. They will not consider people who failed SQE1 first time, even if they passed the 2nd time. It is the harsh reality I’m afraid. The City law firms are EXTREMELY selective because the salaries are unreal and incomparable to other sectors. And there’s too many people to choose from, so….

Grabber

Strange tho considering all the top NY firms in NY allow resits (in fact, it’s common for all NY firms, regardless of ranking, to allow for one re-sit.

Josephine

I would go down the route of paralegal work and just do two years QWE – you don’t have to have a training contract with the SQE now, as long as you get the 2 years QWE.

Anon law school

Well yes technically. And there may well be a route to a role in the firm you paralegal in or others depending on whether you specialise and whether there’s a demand for you in that specialism. But the commercial reality is that CVs get compared for jobs. Candidates who did a TC will have had a rounded experience, good firm/supplementary training etc. For recruitment agents the university and firm is often a shorthand for an easy placement. Any firm is going to be selective and unless there are more jobs suddenly, they don’t need more qualified lawyers. This does happen in the market from time to time, but isn’t necessarily the norm and will massively depend on what area you end up practising.

So you could do this. But just be aware that it isn’t an easier option and won’t come without disadvantage.

Josephine

That totally makes sense. I guess it depends on the route you take. I work in house which I think is very different to private so I’m coming at it from a different perspective

disappointed

Few thoughts on this.

1. The firms should be named. Not necessarily for the sake of being petty, but for transparency. Candidates applying to said firms should be made aware that they will lose their TC if they don’t pass first time. A lot of people who had their TC revoked will have had more than one offers. I’m sure the majority of them would’ve went with the alternative offer if they knew what was at stake.

2. From stories I’ve seen on other sites, these failures aren’t being considered on a case-by-case basis. The firm does not care what the pass rate was/difficulty of paper, how close you are to passing, mitigating circumstances, past academic merit ect. They will simply revoke your offer if you do not pass. To me, that’s disgraceful.

3. At least with the LPC, you could justify doing this. The LPC tested if you had the required knowledge to start a TC. The SQE, on the other hand, tests your knowledge to the standard of a NQ solicitor. To destroy the mental health of an oncoming TC applicant because they haven’t proven that they have NQ standard legal knowledge is… interesting.

4. I feel extra bad for the people that have already told family/friends about their job offer. Securing your first job “proper” job out of university is a great feeling. I can’t imagine how heartbroken I’d be if mine was revoked because of a bad exam, Especially if I’d already gotten a First Class in my degree!

Lawyer

You do realise that candidates are made aware when they get their TC offer that if they fail their SQE1 the TC is revoked.

Anonymouse

OP only discovered their offer had been revoked after several calls with HR, suggesting the firm itself wasn’t aware this would be the outcome.

x

One of my friends had their TC revoked. I can confirm not all firms stated that TC’s would be revoked after a single failed attempt.

Future Silver Circle Trainee

This is not the case. My firm still has not decided what their policy is, and I signed my TC over two years ago!

Kirill

Why do not firms allow doing TC and preparing for the SQE at the same time? After two years of TC trainee knows a lot more both in terms of law and skills, and can sit SQE with confidence.

Earl

Because depending on the firm, you’ll be busy enough as a trainee that you humanly won’t have time on top of all that to study for the SQE.

Anon

You’re clearly smart and able enough to be accepted to a prestigious firm. Don’t let this setback deter you from achieving your potential! Re-sit, and re-apply to firms, there is no doubt you will be accepted to a great firm in the future. It’s a setback but that’s all it is.

Jack Black

Does King & Spalding allow re-sits?

Anon

Who?

Anon

google.com

Anon

Making TC offers before SQE1 is putting the cart before the horse. Sensible firms would use SQE1 scores as part of their consideration in hiring. But doubling down on an archaic hiring policy is easier, innit!

What

That wouldn’t work considering the rip off the course is, lots wouldn’t self fund

Junior Leachman

It very shameful for what they have done to you. Try working as a Paralegal where you can still gain knowledge and enhance your experience. Finally, you can resit your SEQ1 exam again. Hopefully you will pass next time around.

Lawyer4454

Does anyone know about baker McKenzie and their tolerance policy?

US NQ

I wonder if there were more SQE1 sittings per year – eg 4, once per quarter – firms might be more inclined to allow resits. Right now there are only 2 sittings per year, each roughly 6 months apart. If you fail in Jan, the earliest you can only retake it is in July, which would mean you can only take SQE2 in October. From a firm’s POV, if they allow resits they would probably need to push back start dates which could end up being a major staffing issue. With quarterly sittings, if a trainee fails SQE1 in January they can just retake it in March and still be on track to complete SQE2 before the start of their TC in September.

Of course I’m not denying that it is cruel to rescind someone’s TC over failing the SQE. The SQE is a total crapshow and has been from the start – just take a look at the public consultation responses from when the SRA first floated it. But I don’t foresee the SRA walking back from it anytime soon, so increasing the number of sittings might be one way to make things a little more fair for TC holders.

Anon

SQE is bull****. The SRA and the city firms know it. Just a matter of time before they “repeal/amend” the entire framework. They won’t abolish it because it will make them seem incompetent and backlash of ruining people’s lives (quite literally) and experimenting. Look forward to what mess they next concoct up.

Also, who wants to be at a firm where they treat trainees like that? Really telling of their “true” culture rather than the glammed up grad rec nonsense.

Mystery X

Their loss honestly.

Infaliable law student

NAME AND SHAME THE FIRM!! Help your fellow students out. They deserve to be stayed clear of.

Future Trainee CMS

Anyone know if CMS will revoke?!

sqe candidate

Sadly, yes. I know someone fighting for their position at the firm despite missing passing by 1 mark.

Future Trainee CMS

Well, a surge of anxiety courses through my veins now.

sqe candidate

Sorry for the bad update but their TC got revoked. CMS are not as friendly as they make out to be. HR have been horrible to my friend throughout the process.

His master’s voice

This should be a surprise to nobody.

There’s a huge oversupply of well-credentialed people looking for TCs. That, and the economic climate (plus that AI can already do the job of the very best diligence monkey) means there is zero reason for a firm to offer any kind of second chance to people who fail.

That only 50% pass the exam gives no insight to its difficultly; as with the LPC, it’s a money-spinner for the law schools without any practical professional value. There will be many, many people suckered into this system who have no hope of an actual career in law, and who – terrifyingly – will be self-funding the whole thing. I would fear the failure rate amongst them is more like 80%.

Huh

Have Macs rescinded any TCs? I swear they allow you resit?..

Anon

If you decide to go down the paralegal route, make sure you ask upfront whether the firm will sign off on QWE and what the process involves. The last thing you want is to join a firm that is gatekeeping QWE.

Expose them

Reply to this thread if you know for a fact that a firm either doesn’t allow resits and rescinds or a firm is still up in the air about it.

So far we have Clifford chance..

XYZ

Macs 100% rescind if you do not pass first time

Anonymous

Does anyone know Freshfields stance on this? Revoke or do they allow resits?

Appalling

Clifford Chance you should be ashamed. For a firm that has spent a fortune in marketing itself as the MC firm who is open, inclusive, and truly cares about the well-being of its employees, this is appalling. I think this harsh decision truly exposes the real culture for trainees inside the firm. Hopefully undergraduates will now favour other firms in their applications who don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.

No greed

Name and shame the gready rat bags!

Old School Sucess

YOUNG FOOLS ASK YOURSELF:
Is AI self-entitled and does it feel society owes it something even when it fails?

there's always one (or five, as it seems on legal cheek)

i don’t really want to engage with this obviously bait comment but you’ve actually even spelt success wrong

jonathan

It’s a magic circle firm, who want the highest quality trainees (and future associates). Why should they spend the significant resources required on someone who cannot pass the SQE first time?

SQEauker

Surely the best candidates pass SQE1 first time and so law firms want the best candidates?

Yes, it’s a hard exam. However it’s the same exam for everyone.

anon

Anyone know Baker’s stance on resits?

Join the conversation

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