Global Legal Profession and the SQE

Global Legal Profession Opportunities with the SQE

When the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) was initially introduced as the new route to qualification in England and Wales by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), it was met with some apprehension from industry professionals. However, with over 1,000 candidates enrolled on the inaugural November 2021 SQE1 exam and over 700 candidates receiving their SQE2 results across 24 countries this August, it seems as though aspiring solicitors have begun to embrace this new route to qualification. 

What is the SQE?

In September 2021, the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) began to be phased out and replaced by the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). It’s formed by two exams - SQE1 and SQE2 - alongside two years of required Qualifying Work Experience (QWE). While this structure offers greater flexibility for aspiring solicitors, the SRA has also introduced exam exemptions for foreign qualified lawyers depending on their jurisdiction, helping to shape a streamlined dual qualification process also.

What are the opportunities for firms, in-house teams, and legal professionals?

Opportunities for dual qualification 

The SQE has also replaced the QLTS for international solicitors hoping to practice law in England and Wales. Many practitioners globally have benefitted from the ability to operate in multiple jurisdictions, with almost 6,000 registered foreign lawyers admitted to the Roll of Solicitors as of July 2022. This enables legal practitioners to offer a higher level of client service enhancing their unique selling point on an individual and firm level. While the legal industry continues to be increasingly competitive, the ability to offer an international service is invaluable and will help future-proof operations. Also, the SRA has introduced exam exemptions for lawyers already practising across international jurisdictions including Australia, the US, Singapore, New Zealand and India. Individuals who meet the SRA’s criteria can apply for an SQE2 exemption provided they have gained at least two years of QWE, helping to fast-track the dual qualification process, and benefiting both firms and the individual.

Upskill existing talent

UK research shows that bringing a senior corporate/commercial lawyer into the business can cost your organisation up to £200k in the first year thanks to base salary, employment costs and recruitment fees. However, upskilling existing talent including paralegals and legal secretaries can be a more cost-effective solution and can demonstrate your commitment to your team. With SQE assessments costing just £4,115 (although this excludes the cost of preparation), this can help organisations to keep costs down while enhancing the diversity of thought by developing professionals from all backgrounds. Plus, individuals who have been at an organisation for two years or more, may have already fulfilled the Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) requirement of the SQE which replaces the traditional training contract element. This means exams will be the final hurdle, offering a more efficient route to qualification for aspiring solicitors while organisations reap the rewards of their upskilling.

Increase team retention

The impact of learning and development is not to be underestimated. Research shows that 87% of millennials say that access to professional training and development is important to their decision to remain at a job or leave it, with 68% of professionals rating training and development as the most important company policy. Investment in existing talent has proven to support retention and engagement levels by demonstrating an opportunity for progression for those at all levels. During the period deemed the Great Resignation where professionals are seeking only the best opportunities, talent is on the move and those who do not prioritise L&D will likely be amongst the first to feel the impact. Plus, with 85% of UK law firms expected to increase employee numbers in 2022 alone, the battle for talent has already begun which will naturally impact retention figures.

Lucie Allen

“Not only does the SQE carve out a more cost-effective qualification option in comparison to the pre-existing LPC alternative, but it holds significant opportunities for individuals, firms, and organisations globally. From increased talent retention, dual qualification opportunities, improved diversity across the profession, and more,” explains Lucie Allen, Managing Director for global legal education provider, BARBRI

Follow the link to learn more information regarding the SQE and BARBRI’s Prep course.

Also read top viewed Ai Legal article: The Role of AI in Legal Research.

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