SQE vs LPC: Is This Your Sliding Doors Moment?



The most common question my students ask me is, “Should I do the LPC or the SQE?”. This is a fair question considering that the SQE1 pass rate of 53% is pretty dismal (See the Revision Killer posts on TikTok on the July 2022 results @revisionkillersqe). Students are genuinely worried about whether they will be able to pass such a high stakes set of assessments.


There are endless resources and articles on the internet which can help you answer this question and why it is not worth me rehashing those points here. My advice in this article will provide you with a practical insight about the LPC and SQE courses and assessment which will hopefully help you make the right decision for your learning journey.


LPC Cut Off Date

To begin with it is important to understand that you only have the option to sit the LPC if as at 1 September 2021, you have completed, started, accepted an offer of a place or paid a non-refundable deposit for one of the following:


· a qualifying law degree (a later date of 21 September applies)

· the Common Professional Examination / Graduate Diploma in Law

· Exempt Law Degree

· the Legal Practice Course

· a period of recognised training (also known as a training contract).


In practice this means that if you are currently in the second or third year of your qualifying law degree you can still choose to undertake the LPC. However, all first year law students enrolled from 2022 are now required to do the SQE.


Is the LPC Easier Than The SQE?

Having taught the LPC and GDL for 7 years I have no doubt that a disciplined and organised student will pass the LPC. It is an intense academic year of classes and assessments but there is one big difference between the LPC and SQE: the LPC course and assessments are written and set by the LPC provider.


This means institution like ULaw, BPP or other Universities who offer a LPC not only design their course but they set their own LPC assessments. As a result, they TEACH TO THEIR OWN LPC ASSESSMENTS. Therefore, as the LPC course and LPC assessments align, you are more likely to pass the LPC. In contrast, the SQE assessments are a centralised assessment written and delivered by Kaplan. No SQE provider has any input or influence over the content of the assessments and simply teach you the syllabus as published by the SRA.


Furthermore, the LPC assessments are not mixed subject like the SQE FLK1 Assessment and the FLK2 Assessment. When sitting an LPC assessment, you know exactly what subject you are sitting and, therefore, should you fail you know exactly the subject you have failed.


In comparison with the recent SQE1 results published in July 2022, a student who failed FLK1, for example, has no idea if it was Business Law, Dispute Resolution, Contract, Tort, Legal Systems or Public Law in which they underperformed since they are given an overall score for FLK1. Compare this to the LPC, where a student can approach their course tutor and ask for feedback on their LPC assessment to see how they can improve their performance.


The mixed subject assessments of FLK1 and FLK2 is undoubtedly a challenge and can be passed by you must adapt the way you study for the SQE. It is not like any assessment you have done before at Law School.


Do Law Firms Prefer The LPC or SQE?

If you are lucky enough to have a training contract offer with sponsorship of your legal training, the firm will specify which route they want you to take though it appears more and more firms are embracing the SQE and are transitioning from LPC to SQE sooner rather than later.


If you are still looking for a training contract, you may be concerned that doing the LPC will be viewed negatively. I doubt this would be the case since every lawyer for the last 30 years has had to sit the LPC. The SQE does not make you a better lawyer, it is just a different style of assessment where the SRA has control and influence over the assessment process and regulating of standards.


Having said that, I doubt enrolling on a LPC course in 2024 would be the main choice for many students or preference for law firms. 2022 and 2023 are still very much viewed as transitional years from the LPC to SQE but beyond that you may want to seriously consider the SQE to ensure your route to qualification is the most current option.


Is the SQE Cheaper Than the LPC?

Yes, the SQE route could work out more cost effective than the LPC provided that:


1. You choose a basic SQE preparation course and avoid the SQE LLM in Legal Practice which is just as costly as the LPC LLM in Legal Practice. See the Revision Killer post, The SQE LLM in Legal Practice: Do You Really Need It?; and


2. Pass the SQE assessments at the first attempt. The SRA and Kaplan require candidates to pay a costly assessment fee to sit (and resit) the SQE. The current SQE1 assessment fees is £1622. Should you fail, the FLK1 and FLK2 assessment, you will be required to pay £1622 to resit the assessment (or £811 if you fail one of the assessments). Generally with the LPC assessment fees are incorporated into the course fees though some providers may charge you an additional administrative fee to resit an assessment.


Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)

For students who do not have a training contract offer, the appeal of the SQE route is the QWE criteria. QWE is more flexible and accessible than the 2 year fixed training contract requirements that have so often proved to be a block to aspiring lawyers. If this is your main reason for opting for the SQE this makes perfect sense and the SQE option is your best route to qualification. See the Revision Killer post, The SQE Route and Qualifying Work Experience: Opportunity Knocks.


SQE1 Exemption For LPC Candidates

There is an exemption on the SRA website that states that:


If you have started or passed the LPC, or meet the SRA’s transitional requirements, you can use qualifying work experience and SQE2 as an equivalent to a period of recognised training (training contract). You would not need to take SQE1.

Firstly, tell the SRA that you wish to use this option. You do this by completing the relevant form on their website. “

Therefore, it is possible to take the LPC and switch streams to the SQE thereby allowing you to get around SQE1, though you will still need to pass SQE2 and meet the QWE requirements to qualify as a Solicitor.


Should you be considering this exemption, please speak to the SRA beforehand to ensure you are able to pursue this route to qualification.


Conclusion

The sun is setting on the LPC. While it is still a viable option for students in 2022 and 2023, beyond that it is probably time to accept the SQE is the preferred route to qualification unless your firm has indicated they are happy for you to take the LPC route. Once you are qualified as Solicitor, the question of whether you did so by the SQE or LPC is irrelevant, as you have demonstrated the competencies to join the profession.


Sunit Tejura is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Roehampton Law School and leads the Law School’s SQE Foundations Course. Prior to joining Roehampton University he worked at Kaplan for seven years teaching on their Legal Practice Course, Graduate Diploma in Law and writing multiple choice questions for the Qualified Lawyer Transfer Scheme (the precursor to the SQE). Sunit is a qualified Solicitor (England and Wales) and Attorney at Law (New York).