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How does the SQE impact LPC grads?

If you are a legal practice course (LPC) grad, the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) opens a great opportunity in order to reach your goal and qualify as a solicitor of England and Wales.

One of the reasons behind the development of the SQE is to remove the injustice under the old regime of training contracts. The inability to obtain a training contract does not mean that you do not have the necessary qualities to become a solicitor.

Even though there is arguably a demand in the UK market for more qualified solicitors, the old system of qualification created barriers for many talented people. The new SQE aims to remove these barriers, albeit remaining a tough task to tackle.

LPC graduates have certain advantages over other aspiring solicitors, especially if you have been working for many years as a legal assistant, paralegal, legal clerk, foreign attorney or similar.

Now the SQE, or ‘super exam’, opens the door to non-law graduates who wish to pursue a future career in law. Since the exam is competitive and comparative, the legal knowledge and experience, which many LPC grads already possess, provides you with a serious advantage over other categories of candidates.

The OSCEsmart course was initially set up to help foreign qualified lawyers pass the QLTS OSCE assessment (precursor to the SQE2).

Before qualifying as solicitors of England and Wales, many members of our team completed the LPC course at the top UK universities, such as Nottingham Law School, University of Law and BPP. Also, having first-hand experience of passing the QLTS after completion of the LPC, we have been successfully assisting the LPC graduates enrolled with OSCEsmart to clear the examination. Due to the introduction of the SQE, we have developed a tailored ‘SQE LPC’ package to effectively address the needs of this category of applicants.

LPC grads may be exempt from SQE1

When qualifying as solicitors through the QLTS scheme, LPC graduates were granted full exemption from the multiple choice test (MCT) assessment. With the SQE, candidates who have done the Legal Practice Course will continue to enjoy this privilege. In case they have at least two years of qualifying work experience, such candidates may be exempt from the SQE1. However, in order to proceed with the SQE2, they will still be required to obtain from the SRA a formal decision confirming the exemption.

Common reasons LPC graduates fail (based on QLTS OSCE experience / equivalent to SQE2)

  • Overestimation of your readiness and underestimation of the exam’ standards;
  • Poor exam techniques and misunderstanding of OSCE marking criteria;
  • Poor performance in particular skill-set(s).

We understand the expenses involved, including LPC costs already beared by you and your individual needs to tailor the prep. It is essential to identify your weaknesses in order to maximise your future performance and we are happy to help with that.

LPC vs SQE

LPC grads commonly question if they can rely on their LPC grades and LPC course as a guidance for the SQE or what the difference is between the two?

Since the SQE assesses aspiring solicitors on both law and skills, so too should you approach it from both perspectives. The SQE goes beyond the scope of the LPC, plus there may have been substantial developments in the law since you graduated:

  • We estimate that approximately 20% of the law tested in the SQE is beyond what is covered in the LPC course; and
  • The standard of the skills required for the SQE is that of a junior solicitor (after two years of training contract), not a trainee solicitor as for the LPC.
  • Plus, the SQE has its own exam specifics and techniques and is very much different from LPC exams.

(i) Skills: In order to understand the difference in skills between LPC exam papers and what is deemed to be up to the level of a newly qualified solicitor, please see the Threshold standard provided by the SRA. The required standard in order to pass the SQE is at level three. For more details, please watch the video below.

(ii) Law: In order to understand the difference in law between your LPC modules and the SQE, please see the Statement of legal knowledge. Try to compare it with your LPC course syllabus. For more details, please watch the video below.

SQE FAQ

What is the LPC?

The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is a postgraduate course that is usually taken after the successful completion of an undergraduate degree or a conversion course such as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) / Common Professional Examination (CPE) (often referred to interchangeably as GDL/CPE).

LPC students have the choice to pursue either full-time or part-time studies, which they normally complete in 12 and 24 months, respectively, or even to take fast-track programmes.

The Legal Practice Course is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), whose website supplies a list of institutions authorised to provide the LPC. Click here to find the list.

Course Structure

The LPC is divided into two freestanding stages.

Stage one involves the study of core practice areas:

  • Business
  • Property
  • Litigation (Civil and Criminal)
  • Wills and Administration of Estates
  • Solicitors’ Accounts
  • Professional Conduct and Regulation

LPC Stage One - Core Practice Areas

Plus the mastering of skills:

LPC Skills Required

Stage two covers three elective modules, the topics of which can vary depending on the course provider.

For example, at BPP Law School you can choose from Corporate Finance, Commercial Law and Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Law or Immigration Law.

The University of Law offers a wider range of electives:

  • Advanced Criminal
  • Advanced Real Estate
  • Banking and Debt Finance
  • Commercial Dispute Resolution
  • Commercial Law
  • Competition Law
  • Employment Law
  • Family Law
  • Immigration
  • Insurance
  • Intellectual Property
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence
  • Private Client
  • Public Companies

The list of options from Nottingham Law School:

  • Advanced Civil Litigation
  • Advanced Commercial Property
  • Advanced Criminal Practice
  • Commercial Law
  • Corporate Finance
  • Employment Law
  • Family and Child Protection Law
  • Private Acquisitions
  • Private Client
  • Advanced Advocacy

LPC Application Deadline

From September 2021, the LPC will be replaced by the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).

If, before the introduction of the SQE, candidates have already started or completed the LPC, or paid a non-refundable deposit, they will be able to choose whether to qualify through the current route or take the SQE.

Candidates who decide to proceed via the current route will also need to meet the following conditions by 31 December 2032:

  • complete a period of recognised training (training contract)
  • meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.

You can find further information on the transitional period arrangements here.

As asserted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the LPC law courses provided by universities will be approved up to at least the end of the 2025/26 academic year, although it is expected that the better part of LPC prep courses may be abolished before then due to reduced demand for the Legal Practice Course.

How Much Does the LPC Cost?

The cost for full-time courses varies greatly across the country, ranging between £12,000 and £17,000.

LPC tuition fees at various universities may be dependent on:

  • the location you choose to study in
  • whether you enroll in a whole course or take each stage separately
  • the study routes you choose (full-time or part-time).