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PG Blog: Which route should you take to become a Solicitor- the LPC or SQE?

23rd July 2021

Which route should you take to become a Solicitor- the LPC or SQE? 

The path to becoming a solicitor is changing. A new route known as the Solicitor Qualifying Exam (SQE) is being introduced from Autumn 2021 but there is still time to take the traditional route of a Legal Practice Course (LPC) before the changes come in.  

It’s a confusing time to know what to do for the best. Should you follow the traditional LPC route or wait and undertake the new SQE? ...There is no straight forward answer, and it will certainly depend on your own circumstances and preferences, but there’s a few reasons why it’s worthwhile considering the Legal Practice Course (LPC) before it’s replaced entirely by the SQE route.   

What is the LPC and is it still relevant? 

The LPC is what’s known as the traditional vocational route originally required to become a solicitor. Aspiring solicitors taking the LPC route need to complete both the academic and vocational stages of training. The academic stage is achieved by either a qualifying undergraduate law degree, or a non-law degree with either the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) or Common Professional Examination (CPE). The vocational stage is achieved by completing the LPC, a 2-year training contract and the Professional Skills Course. 

The LPC continues to be offered by well-respected institutions like Northumbria University that remain approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and allow you to study the topics you are most interested in, which is something the SQE doesn’t offer, for instance if you’re interested in family law when you qualify you can choose modules related to your future specialism. Often Legal Practice Courses, like that at Northumbria provide additional benefits such as access to pro-bono opportunities with legal charities, and offer similar in-practice work opportunities such as the Student Law Office. There is also the advantage of being taught by research active, experienced practitioners providing the very latest knowledge from both the academic and professional worlds. Access to on-campus facilities such as mock courtrooms and dedicated postgraduate study areas is also an added benefit.   

So what’s the SQE? 

Unlike the CPE/GDL and LPC, the SQE is not a course instead it's a series of exams that must be taken to become a solicitor.  

The SQE will be a national assessment for anyone who wants to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. The route differs from the LPC as it’s broken down into two assessment stages- SQE1 & SQE2 covering legal knowledge and practical elements. You will also need to carry out two years of qualifying work experience (QWE), but, unlike a training contract, this can be undertaken with up to four different legal providers. The QWE can be carried out before, during or after the SQE assessments. 

It aims to provide a fair and consistent assessment for all candidates regardless of whether you have taken a law degree or qualified through new routes like the solicitor apprenticeship. In time, it will replace the LPC.  

Your options  

At present the proposed start date for the SQE is November 2021, but this this could change. Some institutions are launching courses to prepare students for SQE examinations. If time is of the essence the LPC certainly remains a viable and recognised route to becoming a Solicitor and it just might be the right choice for you.  

If you would like further information about the LPC commencing this September 2021, please leave your details below or visit our Legal Practice Course page.

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