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 this method would look something like: Degree -> SQE Stage One -> Work-based Training -> SQE Stage Two -> Qualify as a Solicitor.
You might notice that there's no specific degree listed here. That's because under the SQE, there won't be a need to have a qualifying law degree, or even to do the GDL. You'll be able to complete the SQE regardless of what degree you've done.
With us so far? Good!
Whilst the solicitor apprenticeship 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.
The SRA has stated that Stage 1 of the SQE will be part of the on-programme assessment for apprentices. Stage 2 will be the end-point assessment for apprentices, taken in the last six months.
As for the two years full-time provision of work experience, apprentices are in an excellent position. As part of their apprenticeship, they will be learning on the job, so a significant proportion of these working hours will fulfil the new requirements.
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.