Changes to qualifying as a Solicitor or Barrister

Changes are likely to affect undergraduate students starting law degrees and graduates starting law conversion courses from September 2021

Changes are being planned to routes to qualification as a solicitor or barrister. The changes are likely to affect undergraduate students starting law degrees and graduates starting law conversion courses from September 2021.

For students currently registered on law degrees or conversion courses, the existing rules for qualification continue to apply.

A student who has graduated before 2021/22 (in any subject) who intends to qualify as solicitor may opt to take the existing route to qualification which includes the LPC, or instead take the new SQE route to qualification.

A summary of the current position

At the moment the route to qualification as either a barrister or solicitor normally requires completion of three stages: academic, vocational and training.

The academic stage requires the study of 7 compulsory subjects. This is the same requirement for both professional organisations, Bar Standards Board (BSB) for Barristers and Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for Solicitors. This academic stage can be completed by one of two ways:

  • either by completion of a recognised law degree - which these professional bodies refer to as a qualifying law degree (QLD)
  • as a graduate in a non-law subject, by completion of a short but intense law conversion course - there are various names for these courses, including CPE, GDL or PGDL.

Both of these routes are available at LSBU.

Following either of these routes, a student must complete the vocational stage. This bridges academic study of law with the practice of law:

  • A student who intends to qualify as a barrister must complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).
  • A student who intends to qualify as a solicitor must complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC).

In either case, a student will have to assure the relevant professional body that s/he has a suitable character. There are further points to note before a student chooses a path. Consulting with the websites of each professional body is essential:

  • See more information about qualification as a solicitor from the SRA on the Law Society website or SRA's website.
  • See more information for qualifying as a barrister from the BSB.

Changes for solicitors

From September 2021, anyone who wishes to qualify as a solicitor, but has not yet started either a law degree or a conversion course, must follow the new route to qualification. The new route has five parts:

  1. Students must have a degree (or equivalent) – it can be in any subject.
  2. They must complete the Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE) Part 1.
  3. They must complete the Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE) Part 2.
  4. Students must complete 24 months of relevant training.
  5. Students must satisfy the SRA as to the suitability of their character.

Perhaps surprisingly, there is no mandated order of steps, with the exception that SQE Part 1 must be passed before attempting SQE Part 2. In other words, the current proposals make it possible to take a degree during or after taking any of the SQE exams. Each person should consider carefully, with advice, the best steps to qualification.

The SQE Part 1 and Part 2 will be a national solicitors exam regulated by the SRA and undertaken at exam centres around the country.

Part 1 is proposed to be a series of computer-based exams assessing knowledge and understanding of core law and procedure. Some law degrees may prepare for this exam, some may not.

Part 2 is proposed to be a series of practical skills assessments. The SRA expects that students would be at the stage to take this exam after two years of work experience in a legal environment, though a student could attempt it with less experience if she thinks she has sufficient skills and experience.

The SQE means that there are very likely to be changes to how law degrees at some universities are delivered, and the current conversion courses and LPCs will have to change to meet the needs of the SQE. The proposed SQE route also offers the possibility for students to choose to prepare themselves for the SQE exams without attending any course.

Find out more information from the SRA.

Changes for barristers

The BSB is intending that, from September 2019, anyone who wishes to qualify as a barrister and who has not started either a law degree or a conversion course, must follow the new route to qualification. The new BFT route proposes variations in the vocation course and pupillage. It does not make fundamental change to the first stage to qualification - the academic stage. This means that in order to be eligible for the professional stage, a student must first have completed either a recognised law degree, or completed a non-law degree and a conversion course.

Find out more information from the BSB.

Meeting the needs of our students

LSBU continues to be committed to enabling access to the legal professions for people of all backgrounds. We provide the best opportunities and learning for all our students to help  realise their career goals. We have provided the qualifying law degree and the law conversion course for many years and will continue to offer courses that are relevant to professional qualification a solicitor or barrister:

  • We propose to give students taking our law degree a head-start with clinical and legal simulations as well as a taster of the type of examination for SQE Part 1.
  • We intend to create a postgraduate qualification to enable students to prepare fully for SQE Part 1 and gain some experience towards SQE Part 2.
  • We intend to offer a conversion course for non law graduates who want to qualify as a lawyer but need more time to decide which direction to take.

We will publish information about our new look courses in Spring 2020.

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