How will the SQE be different from the GDL and LPC?
So if you’ve reached this article, you’ll perhaps know by now that the SQE is set to replace the GDL and LPC in autumn 2021. But what exactly are the differences between the two routes?
The SQE is an exam, but the GDL and LPC are courses
This is the main difference to get your head around. There is no central SQE course—there are important topics that you’ll need to study, and a lot of providers have responded by creating courses suited to the SQE, but ultimately the SQE is an exam. On the other hand, GDLs and LPCs are courses with their own self-contained exams.
The SQE is centralised and standardised
The SRA says that the rationale behind the SQE is to have one super-exam (you might actually have heard the SQE called this) for all aspiring lawyers, rather than a number of different exams specific to individual courses and routes into the profession. The idea is that everyone arrives at qualification having learned the same material and completed the same exam. While most LPCs and GDLs are quite similar no matter where you do them, the SQE goes one step further by having everyone literally complete the same exam.
The SQE is cheaper… sort of.
So this is true… but only technically. The SQE exam is predicted to set you back between £3,000 and £4,500 in total. SQE1 will cost between £1,100 and £1,650. SQE2 will cost between £1,900 and £2,850. But before you get too excited about turning your back on those £15,000+ LPC fees, those figures don’t include additional training. The courses designed to get you ready for the SQE will no doubt have their own price tags. There will be various ways that you can fund the SQE, though!
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The SQE works in conjunction with Qualifying Work Experience, whereas the LPC and GDL work in conjunction with a training contract
This is quite a major distinction and given that it’s still a long time until kick-off for the SQE, there isn’t a huge amount of information about how firms will respond. It’s generally agreed that some form of on-the-job learning is an essential component to becoming a solicitor. At the moment, this manifests in the training contract, after your GDL and LPC. Once the SQE comes into play, it gets a whole lot broader. Instead of a training contract at one firm, you’ll be able to use Qualifying Work Experience from up to four different places, including things like pro bono and placements. As long as it totals two years, and the work is signed off by an SRA-approved supervisor, you’re good to go.
If you’re currently working as a paralegal (or plan to be), you’re in luck—you can use experience acquired before, during and after your SQE years. Compare that to the current system, which rigidly cumulates in a training contract. A lot more flexible, huh?
Everyone will have to do the SQE—not just non-lawyers!
As it stands, you only do the GDL if you did not complete a qualifying law degree, with LLB students progressing straight onto the LPC. However, everyone will have to do the SQE, regardless of what you’ve studied before.