The current route into legal practice as a solicitor is sequentially a qualifying law degree (an LLB or PGDL), the LPC, and then a training contract. However, from September 2021, the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) has phased in to become the new centralised way to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales, replacing the LPC eventually. Currently, with the choice of applying to either the LPC or the SQE, many students are undecided on which path to take. This article will shed light on the differences between the SQE and LPC and consider the advantages and disadvantages of both.

The Structure of the SQE and LPC

SQE – Structure

The rationale behind introducing the SQE is to have one centralized exam for all aspiring lawyers, rather than different assessments across different courses and routes into the profession so that everyone becomes qualified having learned the same material and completed the same exam. However, there is no central SQE course as in the LPC and PGDL there are only important subjects that need to be studied and providers have responded by creating SQE preparatory courses.

The SQE-route entails four stages to becoming a solicitor:

  • A degree (or equivalent) in any subject
  • Pass SQE1 and SQE2 assessments
  • A minimum of two years Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)
  • Show you are of satisfactory character and suitability

SQE1 and SQE2

The SQE is divided into two parts – SQE1 and SQE2.

SQE1 tests ‘functioning legal knowledge’ which tests your application of law based on realistic client-based scenarios in two multiple choice papers of 180 questions. The assessments will cover subjects covered by a law degree or a conversion course, as well as the vocational practice areas in stage 1 of the LPC. Hence, those with a qualifying law degree or the PGDL will usually be exempt from SQE1. You must pass SQE1 before being eligible to sit the SQE2 assessments.

SQE2 tests the practical legal skills required for practice, including:

  • Interviewing (with written attendance note/legal analysis)
  • Advocacy
  • Legal research
  • Legal drafting
  • Legal writing
  • Case and matter analysis

LPC – Structure

The LPC is also divided into two parts: Stage 1 and Stage 2.

Stage 1 covers three core practice areas of law: business law and practice, litigation (civil and criminal), and property law and practice. Throughout this stage, legal skills involving advising and advocacy, interviewing, practical legal research, writing and drafting, professional conduct and regulation, solicitors’ accounts, taxation, and will and administration of estates, are learned and developed.

Stage 2 allows candidates to specialise toward specific areas of their interest in law by offering vocational electives, specifically private acquisitions, public companies, and debt/banking.

Work Experience

SQE – Work Experience

Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) can be completed at any point during the qualification process (although it is anticipated that most students will complete this after SQE1) and may be completed with up to four different legal employers who must sign off to the QWE. The type of work which qualifies as QWE includes placements while studying for your degree, time spent as a paralegal or working in a law clinic, as well as working for a two-year period with a single law firm.

LPC – Work Experience

In comparison, the LPC route requires a 2-year training contract with a single law firm.

Costs of LPC and SQE 


If you do the LLM alongside the LPC, you will have an option to obtain a student loan, otherwise the LPC has to be self-funded unless you have law firm sponsorship. If you do not have a Qualifying Law Degree, you will also need to complete and pay for the PGDL (£5,000-£12,000).

Full SQE costs will depend on the training option chosen. For example, the total cost for taking both SQE assessments with Kaplan will be £3,980: SQE1 costs £1,558 and SQE2 costs £2,422, preparation courses not included.

Only some of the longer SQE-preparation courses will be eligible for postgraduate SLC funding.


While the LPC is still on offer, it would be beneficial to take advantage of its clear structure, well-established path, and its electives that allow you to improve your skills and knowledge of particular areas of legal interest.

However, all law firms will have to adopt the SQE eventually. You may also want to consider the difficulty in obtaining a training contract and the cost of the LPC route. If you are finding it difficult to get a training contract or you prefer a much cheaper alternative to the LPC, you may want to consider taking the SQE from now.

If you are an international student or a non-law student, the SQE has the added benefit that you do not require a qualifying law degree, whereas previously, students were required to complete the law conversion course before progressing further with their legal education because law degrees obtained abroad were not considered a qualifying law degree.

By Elissa Abbara