This article is written by Amulya Bhatia.
This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.
Imagine it’s a Sunday night and you suddenly wish to cook pasta for yourself. Unfortunately, you are absolutely clueless about how to make pasta. You’ve never cooked in your life and you most certainly don’t know the ingredients required to make the pasta. Will you be successful in cooking yourself a fine meal that night? No, right?
We all know the importance of setting goals in life. Goals help align one’s focus and give life a sense of purpose. But tell me, what good are those goals if you have no idea of how to achieve them? You neither know the skills, nor the resources required to achieve those goals.
You can wish to make pasta but will only fail without knowledge of the ingredients or the manner to utilize those ingredients. Such is the case with the Solicitors Qualifying Examination, hereinafter referred to as ‘SQE’.
What is SQE?
The SQE is a new, accessible and standardized route for students to practice as qualified solicitors in England and Wales. Before SQE was introduced in September 2021, the most common route toward becoming a qualified solicitor was studying the Legal Practice Course along with a two-year training contract with any legal firm or practice. While the former would showcase your legal academic knowledge, the latter would demonstrate your ability to apply such knowledge in the practical world. However, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) introduced the SQE intending to introduce a more centralised set of exams to ensure that all applicants are being assessed consistently across the profession.
SQE and its parts
The SQE has been divided into four main elements, all of which must be fulfilled by the applicant to qualify as a solicitor:
- The applicant must have a degree in any subject; not necessarily law.
- The SQE is divided into two stages, which shall be discussed in detail in the further part of this article. These two stages are designed to test the application of legal skills and knowledge and the applicant must successfully clear both these stages.
- Similar to the previous route to becoming a qualified solicitor, this way also requires the applicant to undertake a total of two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE). QWE is the practical, legal experience requirement that all aspiring solicitors who are pursuing the SQE must complete.
- SQE allows more flexibility in terms of gaining work experience as, under this route, the two years of qualifying work can be completed at a maximum of four organisations. The experience need not necessarily be paid for.
- The applicant must also meet the SRA’s suitability requirements which include factors such as no criminal record, no financial issues, no dishonesty, etc.
The Solicitors Qualifying Examination consists of two parts, namely, SQE1 and SQE2 which are discussed in detail below.
SQE 1 is further divided into two more stages, both testing one’s ‘ functioning legal knowledge ’. These exams not only test your academic knowledge but also the application of this knowledge in practical situations. Both of the exams in SQE 1, namely FLK 1 and FLK 2, consist of 180 multiple-choice questions each and are taken on two separate days. These assessments are further divided into two sessions of 2 hours 33 minutes (or 153 minutes in total), with 90 questions in each session.
FLK 1 broadly covers the following topics:
- Business Law and Practice
- Dispute Resolution
- Legal System of England and Wales
- Constitutional and Administrative Law and EU law and legal services
FLK 2 broadly covers the following topics:
- Property practice
- Wills and the Administration of Estates
- Solicitors Account
- Land Law
- Criminal Law and Practice
Along with the above-mentioned subjects, Ethics and Professional Conduct shall also be examined across both these examinations.
It is important to note that for one to pass SQE1, they are required to duly pass in both, FLK 1 and FLK 2. Failing in either automatically means that you have failed to clear SQE1.
The mode of examination in SQE2 is very different from that of SQE 1 as it involves both oral and written assessments. Emphasis is placed on testing your practical application of legal knowledge.
SQE 2 is a 14-hour assessment of your ‘core legal skills’ spread over five days. It is to be noted that there are a total of sixteen practical assessments involved in SQE 2, out of which four pertain to oral assessments which shall be held over two half days. The remaining twelve are written skills assessments which shall be held over three-half days. The six keys skills examined during the exam are:
- Client interviewing
- Advocacy/ persuasive oral communication
- Case and matter analysis- including planning negotiations
- Legal research and written advice
- Legal writing
- Legal drafting
These skills are assessed in context with the following legal practice areas:
- Criminal practice
- Dispute resolution
- Wills and administration of estates
- Business practice
All the assessments, written and oral, are based on the above-mentioned skills and the five practice areas.
Where do you study for the SQE
After looking at the syllabus of the SQE, you might find yourself under the same stress as a school child. Where to start? Where to study from? What to study first?
These are some questions and fears that will strike your mind at a first glance of the syllabus.
However, these fears are only short-lived. As far as the SQE1 exam is considered, it requires a deep knowledge of the law. Multiple-choice questions may sound easy but you will be required to answer a total of 360 questions, with roughly 1.7 minutes to read, understand, analyze and answer each question. SQE2 too serves as a difficult challenge for most law students and professionals despite having prepared in advance as it tests your practical knowledge. Reading alone is not sufficient to pass SQE2, consistent practice is the way to go.
Keeping in mind the level of SQE, it is usually recommended to start preparing rigorously for both these exams 9-12 months in advance. Additionally, it is suggested to devote approximately 15 to 20 hours per week studying from books and attempting mock exams to successfully clear SQE.
Many professionals recommend the following books and other materials for preparing for SQE:
- Skilfully Passing the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (2021) by Neeta Halai
This resource is considered to be different from most SQE preparation books. The book provides practical guidance on approaching each aspect of the exam. Communication skills and professional conduct are also covered in the book along with qualifying work experience.
- Business Law and Practice (2021) by Liz Jones
- Dispute Resolution (2021) by Amanda Powell
- Contract Law (2021) by Alison Smith
- Tort (2021) by Carl Price
- Property Practice (2021) by Anne Rodell
- Constitutional and Administrative Law and EU Law (2021) by Trevor Tayleur
- Legal System of England and Wales (2021) by Frederick Price
- Wills and Administration of Estate (2021) by Jaqueline Kempton
- Ethics and Professional Conduct (2021) by Jaqueline Kempton
- Legal Systems and Skills: Learn, develop and apply (4th ed.) from Oxford University Press
This contains guidance on tackling each of the criteria one is assessed in SQE 2 such as interviews, matter analysis, communication, etc. along with additional material on professional conduct and ethics.
These books cover advocacy, legal analysis, legal writing, and drafting, and help in the preparation of SQE2.
Other aids to study for SQE
Other than books and study material, there are sample questions and mock tests available to aid the applicants in preparing better for the exams:
- Solicitors Regulatory Authority: The SRA for the convenience of the applicant, since SQE is a new form of assessment, has published some sample questions to help them prepare better for the SQE. There are 45 questions available for FLK1 and 45 questions available for FLK2 and after each question, answers are provided.
- Kaplan: Kaplan is an assessment organization, as appointed by the SRA. The organization previously provided 20 questions for the Qualifying Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS). Since the format of QLTS is similar to that of SQE1, these questions can be helpful.
What are you waiting for now? Dive right into these books and start your preparation for the Solicitors Qualifying Exams.
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