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Top 5 Predictions for SQE

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1. The cost of qualification to the student will go down.

The SRA says: “The exam fees are likely to range between £3,000 and £4,500.”

The estimated fee for the two stages of assessment are:

  • SQE1 exam fee (payable to Kaplan) is estimated between £1,100 – £1,650.
  • SQE2 exam fee (payable to Kaplan) is estimated between £1,900 – £2,850.

BARBRI will be creating a preparation course for the exams and we are aiming to keep the BARBRI SQE Prep fees below £6,000. It is likely the total cost of qualifying (BARBRI SQE Prep fees plus Kaplan exams fees) will be between £9,000 – £10,500.  This is considerably less than average of £18,000 spent by existing law graduate trainees on a LPC and PSC, and represents a substantial reduction in the cost of qualification.

The cost of qualifying through the SQE may be also more manageable because the preparation and exams fees can be spread over a longer time period.  There is also more opportunity to earn whilst you learn.

2. Some universities may respond by creating an SQE “facing” law degree, but many have decided against changes in curriculum or teaching. 

Generally, law degrees will not prepare students to succeed in the new exams. Students will need courses to help them prepare for SQE. The knowledge test (SQE1) goes well beyond the syllabus of a typical law degree, including practice and procedure topics rarely if ever covered on a typical LL.B.

In SQE2, the level of skills required, particularly in the specialist legal skills such a drafting and advocacy, means that trainees cannot just pop out of the office one weekend and sit the exams. They will need to prepare, and a typical university degree will not be good preparation for the SQE.

3. Over time, the competitive pressures will increase on the university sector – law faculties will have to start preparing law students for their exams.

  • It is likely that the university sector will integrate more skills training into the law degree.
  • I expect that an increasing number of universities will create accredited degree modules in clinical legal education. I anticipate that there will be greater demand from law students to spend time in practical law clinics, enabling them to make an early start on developing practical know-how and skills.
  • I hope to see more focus on the ethics of modern legal practice (rather than the historical development of legal ethics typical of some traditional jurisprudence courses).

4. Law firms will not require their trainees to switch to SQE before 2022.

  • There is a long transition period (until 2030) and existing law students can effectively choose whether to continue on LPC/training contract route or switch to SQE.
  • The main reason to switch will be when non-law graduates (formerly CPE/GDL) will be required to undertake SQE but any student commencing the GDL commencing in September 2020 will be able to complete their qualification in the existing regime.
  • Most law firms have indicated that they will be requiring all their trainees to complete the SQE from September 2022 onwards.

5. There will be a rush of international lawyers qualifying through the QLTS route before 2021.

The QLTS is quicker and cheaper than SQE and so any international lawyers contemplating qualifying would be well advised to do the QLTS now whilst they can.

Sarah qualified as a solicitor in England & Wales and practised as a commercial lawyer in London before specialising in professional legal education.   In 2015, she joined BARBRI as Managing Director, International.   Sarah was formerly the Vice-President of the University of Law in the UK. In 2017, BARBRI launched the QLTS Prep course preparing international lawyers to quality as a solicitor in England and Wales.  There is significant overlap between the QLTS exam and the SQE, and BARBRI has gained invaluable experience in advance of the launch of its SQE1 Prep course in January 2021.  In 2019, Sarah led the acquisition of the business of Altior legal education and training, and she now manages a team of 35 lawyers and business professionals delivering legal education in the UK.

Sarah is Chair of the Section of Public and Professional Interest of the International Bar Association and a member of the IBA’s management board.   She previously chaired the IBA’s Academic and Professional Development committee.  

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