Qualification routes including Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) and Future Bar Training (FBT)
For the attention of applicants for Law 2019:
Currently if you want to become a solicitor in England and Wales, there are two primary routes you can take:
- You can take a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD, usually 3 years), followed by the Legal Practice Course (LPC, one year), followed by a training contract (on the job training secured through a law firm, two years). OR
- You can take a degree in a subject other than law (usually 3 years), then take the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL, usually one year), then the Legal Practice Course (LPC, one year), and finally a training contract (two years).
If you plan to become a barrister in England and Wales, there are again two routes you can take:
- Take a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD, usually 3 years), followed by the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT), join an Inn of Court and then complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). OR
- You can take a degree in a subject other than law (usually 3 years), complete the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), join an Inn of Court and complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).
Taking a Qualifying Law Degree enables you to gain an exemption from what is called Stage One of the current qualification process.
Planned changes to the route to qualify as a solicitor (SQE)
For those intending to qualify as a solicitor, the current process involves completing a Qualifying Law Degree (or law conversion course) followed by the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and a training contract of two years. The new route for qualification will remove the need for a Qualifying Law Degree; all that will be required in future is a degree or equivalent (such as a degree-level apprenticeship) followed by successful completion of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam and two years' work experience. It is intended that these changes will be introduced by the SRA from 2021 but we are waiting on further details.
However, the planned SQE will require students to demonstrate knowledge of subjects that are expected to relate closely to those included within the QLD, so a law degree will remain an excellent first step towards a career as a solicitor.
Planned changes to the route to qualify as a barrister (FBT)
The Bar Standards Board (BSB) will be introducing the Future Bar Training (FBT) programme with the aim of making the qualification process for becoming a barrister more flexible, accessible and affordable. The new pathways will replace the BPTC from September 2020.
The BSB has confirmed that, for prospective barristers, the academic component of training must continue to contain the existing seven 'Foundations of Legal Knowledge' (as currently specified in the QLD) plus the skills associated with graduate legal work, such as legal research.
Although such a degree will no longer be technically referred to as a ‘Qualifying Law Degree’ the core academic requirements for training as a barrister will not change. However, some of the detailed regulations which currently exist will be abolished and law schools will have more freedom to develop programmes which meet students’ needs within this more open regulatory framework.
The SRA has stated that the changes will not come into effect before Autumn 2021; and the FBT programme will be introduced from September 2020.
What might this mean for you?
- For those wishing to qualify as a solicitor: All students who start a law degree in or before the 2020/21 academic year (assuming the introduction of the SQE in 2021), should be able to qualify under the current route until 2032; students who start after the introduction of the SQE, will be required to complete the SQE.
- For those wishing to qualify as a barrister: All students who start a law degree in or before the academic year 2018/19 will be able to qualify under the current route; students who start in or after 2019 will be subject to the FBT programme.
The Law School is monitoring these developments closely with a view to advising students about law career routes. We are also reviewing our curriculum to ensure that our legal education provisions continue to prepare students effectively for legal practice and/or professional careers more widely and will be seeking input from other stakeholders into the review process.