One of the most liberating things about the new qualification is the way that it opens up differing pathways into being a solicitor. The thing with standardised qualifications is that they mean you can get to the point of entry in any way you like, so long as you conform to the requirements. We take a quick look at some of the options.
The Old Way
There will still be merit to the old system of qualifying, with one major difference – there will be no LPC, and instead the SQE’s two exams will frame the period of work experience training, which will almost certainly still be mostly given out through training contracts or their equivalent.
So the timeline would go something like: Degree -> SQE Stage One -> Work-based Training -> SQE Stage Two -> Qualify as a Solicitor.
With us so far? Good!
One of the main options that the SQE will open up is the fact that you can qualify as a solicitor using the Government’s new Trailblazer apprenticeship scheme.
Whilst this system is already up and running, the SQE will add a flat level of standardisation which will allay the fears that Legal Apprentices might not be as qualified for the job as their counterparts who went down the traditional University route.
Thus, the SQE allows apprentices and graduates equal footing when qualifying into the profession, bulldozing the barriers or stigmas which might have been in place, and levelling the playing field.
An Apprentice route might go as thus, then: A-Levels -> Solicitor Apprenticeship (first years) -> Solicitor Apprenticeship (work-based years) -> SQE Stages 1 & 2 -> Qualify as a Solicitor.
As you might see, the way which an apprenticeship combines learning and experience means that it might be more pertinent to take on board everything across a number of years, and then to complete Stages 1 & 2 of the SQE simultaneously.
They will, of course, be able to do the Stages however they want, either together or separately, but the integrated learning methods of the Apprenticeship route may favour a lump approach at the end of the six years.
It’s here perhaps that the SQE really demonstrates its true worth to the legal profession. By putting one big exam at the end, aspiring solicitors will be able to do their training period in any way they wish, rather than simply having to get a training contract.
This means that more and more solicitors, especially those who haven’t managed to get training contracts, will be able to throw themselves fully into equivalent work, such as paralegal duties, and therefore prove themselves to be ready for qualification in a number of different ways.
As such, the examination removes part of the stigma of not achieving a training contract, and allows a far greater level of flexibility in what is regarded as workplace training.
An equivalent route might go: Degree -> SQE Stage One -> Paralegal Work (at least 24 months) -> SQE Stage Two -> Qualification as a Solicitor.