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

14th March 2022

How to become a Solicitor?

The path to becoming a solicitor is in a process of change. A new route known as the Solicitor Qualifying Exam (SQE) was introduced in Autumn 2021 but you may still be able to take the traditional route of a Legal Practice Course (LPC) .   

It’s a confusing time to know what to do for the best. Should you follow the traditional LPC route or 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 Solicitors Regulation Authority(SRA) has confirmed that LPC approvals will be extended until at least the end of the academic year 2025/26, although institutions may not necessarily continue running their LPC courses until 2025/26.  

The LPC is well understood and regarded by employers. It continues to be offered by well-respected institutions like Northumbria University that remain approved by the SRA and allow you to study the topics you are most interested in, which is something you may not be able to do on an SQE course. As well as covering certain core modules, you will be able to choose LPC elective modules. For instance, if you’re interested in practicing family law when you qualify you can choose modules related to your future specialism. 

Often LPC 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 first SQEexams took place in November 2021 and had a pass rate of 53%.  

The SQE is 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. SQE1 tests legal knowledge and SQE2 tests practical legal skills. 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 and a greater variety of experience can count. The QWE can be carried out before, during or after the SQE assessments.  

The SQE aims to provide a fair and consistent assessment for all candidates regardless of whether or not they have studied a law degree, the type of QWE they have done or even if they have undertaken a new route to qualification like the solicitor apprenticeship. In time, it will replace the LPC entirely.   

Your options   

Under the SRA’s rules, anybody can choose to do the LPC if, before 1 September 2021, they had completed, started, accepted an offer of a place or paid a non-refundable deposit for one of the following: 

GDL/CPE; 

the LPC; or 

a training contract. 

Many people will still therefore be able to qualify via the LPC route, although they could take the SQE if they wish to do so. 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 2022, please leave your details below or visit our Legal Practice Course page

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