Routes to Becoming a Solicitor Explained

I received so many questions on how to qualify as a solicitor, that I decided to create an updated blog post. Be sure to bookmark for future reference! 

For a more visual representation, please refer to my guide on routes to solicitor qualification: here.

Routes to becoming a Solicitor

The old traditional route.

If you are a law graduate, this is the route that you are most likely to be familiar with, as this tends to be the only route advertised by universities. 

To qualify under the old route, you will need to have completed 1) a law degree (either in the form of a 3-year undergraduate LLB law degree, or a 1-year post-graduate law degree (the GDL), 2) the legal practice course (LPC), 3) a 2-year training contract which is usually organised across 4 “seats” (i.e., departments), but can be more and must contain both contentious and non-contentious work, and 4) the professional skills course (the PSC) which is usually done alongside the training contract. There are training contracts available both in law firms and in in-house legal departments, however, as many of you know, training contracts are incredibly competitive. This route will be phased out in 2032. 

The new traditional route.

Under the new traditional route which has been introduced last year, you will need to have completed 1) any undergraduate degree, 2) the solicitors qualifying exam 1 (SQE1) which is a multiple choice exam testing your knowledge across several legal subjects, 3) the solicitors qualifying exam 2 (SQE2) which is a practical exam covering written and oral tasks, such as drafting, researching and interviewing, across a few legal subjects, 3) qualifying work experience (QWE) which can be obtained in up to 4 places of work and needs to include the provision of legal services supervised by a qualified lawyer or legal compliance officer. 

The difference between qualifying work experience and a training contract is that qualifying work experience is a lot more flexible and can be obtained in e.g., legal clinics, volunteering roles, etc. and is not so strict on the contentious work requirement, unlike the training contract route. There is a record template on the SRA website that shows you which competencies you need to demonstrate. 

If you already completed the LPC, then you will be exempt from the SQE1 and only need to pass the SQE2 and obtain QWE. 

It is also possible to undertake a solicitor apprenticeship whereby you work and study simultaneously for 6 years, rather than take the requirements sequentially. With many apprenticeships you would do a 4-year LLB and then sit the SQE1 and 2 exams after within a period of 2 years. The advantage of this route is that often your course fees are covered by your employer and of course, you have a lot more practical experience as you work throughout your studies. 

The foreign qualified route.

If you are a qualified lawyer abroad, all you need to do is pass the SQE1 and 2 exams – you would be exempt of the QWE requirement. This route is ideal if you are struggling to find a training contract of qualifying work experience. 

For English law (LLB) graduates, it may be possible to qualify in the US, and then cross-qualify into England and Wales. This is what I did – I qualified as a New York Attorney first and then cross-qualified into England and Wales via taking the QLTS MCT (which is phased out now, as this was the previous Qualified Lawyer Transfer Scheme) and the SQE2. 

The old CiLex route.

If 1) you are a Chartered Legal Executive, 2) you have completed the LPC, and 3) the PSC, it is possible to qualify as a solicitor under the “CiLex equivalent means route” which will also be phased out in 2032. 

Qualifying as a Chartered Legal Executive is a more flexible endeavour. To become a Chartered Legal Executive you will need to 1) fulfil the academic requirements (i.e., have a LLB law degree or equivalent), 2) fulfil the experience requirement. 

Regarding 2) you will need to have 3 years’ of qualifying work experience – this is very flexible and can be obtained in a variety of locations, as long as it meets the competency requirements and is supervised by a qualified lawyer (there is no contentious work requirement as such). Further, if you have completed the LPC, this can be counted towards qualifying work experience. 

Note however, that CiLex is undergoing through changes and is in the process of implementing a new scheme. 

The advantage with CiLex is that it is very flexible (similar as with the new SQE QWE). However, it can be argued that if you haven’t yet completed the LPC, you might as well pursue the new SQE route. If you have done the LPC and are pursuing qualifying work experience, the CiLex equivalent means route may be more efficient and quicker (as all you would need is having your work experience signed off and completing the PSC). 

The new CiLex route.

If you a Chartered Legal Executive, it is also possible to qualify by passing 1) the SQE1 and 2) the SQE2. The qualifying work experience requirement is waived for Chartered Legal Executives (this makes a lot of sense, as you would have already needed to submit qualifying work experience when applying to become a Chartered Legal Executive). 

If you are a Chartered Legal Executive and haven’t done the LPC (and don’t have the inclination or the funds to do so), then this route would be a viable option. 

For a more visual representation, please refer to my guide on routes to solicitor qualification: here.

Are you working towards any of these routes? Can you think of any ones I have missed? Let me know in the comments. 

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