The legal profession is undergoing a significant transformation with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). Ella Watts, TSR Legal, explores the ins and outs of the SQE and examine how law firms are adapting to this groundbreaking change and the shift in recruitment strategies.
Replacing the traditional Qualifying Law Degree (QLD) and Legal Practice Course (LPC), the SQE is set to revolutionise the route to becoming a solicitor in England and Wales. As this new qualification becomes a reality, law firms across the country are adjusting their approaches to recruitment, training, and professional development.
Understanding the SQE
The SQE, designed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), is a new national assessment that aspiring solicitors must pass to qualify in England and Wales.
The examination is divided into two stages: SQE1 and SQE2. SQE1 focuses on legal knowledge and assesses candidates’ application of the law in various contexts. On the other hand, SQE2 evaluates practical legal skills, such as client interviewing, advocacy, legal research, and case analysis.
Implications for aspiring solicitors
The introduction of the SQE brings both challenges and opportunities for aspiring solicitors. On the positive side, the SQE offers a more flexible approach to qualifying, allowing individuals to gain legal experience through apprenticeships, work-based training, or traditional training contracts. However, the SQE also demands a thorough understanding of the law and practical skills, making it a rigorous and demanding examination.
The shift in law firm recruitment strategies:
Law firms are taking a closer look at their recruitment strategies to adapt to the SQE’s changing landscape. With the SQE’s emphasis on practical skills and work experience, law firms are placing greater importance on candidates’ practical experience and abilities.
Internships, paralegal roles, and relevant work experience now play a crucial role in the recruitment process.
Training and development programmes:
To support aspiring solicitors in their journey to qualify through the SQE, law firms are redesigning their training and development programs.
In-house training modules, mentorship initiatives, and specialised workshops are being developed to help candidates prepare for the SQE’s challenges effectively.
Diversity and inclusion considerations
As law firms adapt to the SQE, they are also considering the impact on diversity and inclusivity within the legal profession. Law firms are actively exploring ways to foster inclusivity in their recruitment practices and promote diverse talent within their organisations, and the SQE’s flexible training pathways aim to make legal careers more accessible to candidates from diverse backgrounds. This in turn offers greater diversity of thought and representation for clients and communities.
Evaluating the success of the SQE
As the SQE is still relatively new, its effectiveness and impact on the legal profession are under constant evaluation. Law firms are keen to assess the performance of solicitors who qualified through the SQE and analyse how their skills compare to those who followed the traditional route.
The introduction of the SQE represents a transformative shift in the legal profession’s training and qualification process.
As law firms adapt to this new landscape, they are reevaluating their recruitment strategies, enhancing training and development programs, and addressing diversity and inclusivity considerations.
The future of the SQE holds exciting opportunities for aspiring solicitors and the legal industry as a whole, fostering a more dynamic and accessible pathway to becoming a qualified solicitor.