What are the SQE and LPC?

Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)

The SQE was introduced in September 2021 as the new route to qualification as a solicitor in England & Wales. It includes two sets of externally assessed exams (SQE 1 and 2), which assess Functioning Legal Knowledge, practical skills and knowledge. The SQE is not a university course, but there are courses available at Swansea University, that will help you to get ready for undertaking the SQE.

Legal Practice Course (SQE)

The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is a professional legal course that develops the important skills and confidence needed for a career in law in England and Wales. It is a postgraduate-level programme and is open to law graduates who started a law degree or GDL by September 2021.

Keep reading for full information on which option could be right for you.

Who is the SQE Compulsory for?

The SQE is the compulsory route to qualification for candidates who had not done one of the following by 21st September 2021:

  • Started or already completed their Qualifying Law Degree (QLD)
  • Accepted an offer to study their QLD
  • Paid a non-refundable deposit for their QLD

The same stipulations also apply to the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), but with the alternative final date of 1st September 2021.

Candidates who have done any of the above, can choose whether to qualify via the SQE, or via the Legal Practice Course and training contract route. If you fall within this category, there are certain things to consider which may help inform your decision as to which route to choose.

Requirements for postgraduate study

LPC – there is a requirement that you pass the LPC, which involves a year of postgraduate study. Passing the LPC is the qualification you need. Once you have passed the LPC, there are no further assessments for you to sit.

SQE – there is no requirement for postgraduate study, but candidates will need to consider how they will best prepare for the SQE exams. The SQE exams are centrally set, and do not form part of any preparatory courses. Candidates who are looking to qualify via the SQE route will need to sit and pass the SQE1 and SQE2 exams, in addition to any assessments set by the institution or organisation they choose to prepare with.

Work-based learning requirements

LPC – candidates need to complete a two-year training contract with an SRA authorised training provider in order to qualify via the LPC route. Applying for training contracts is a highly competitive process, with no guarantee that candidates will be successful. Candidates with an LPC need to qualify by December 2032, or they will need to sit and pass the SQE exams to qualify at a later date.

SQE – candidates need to complete two years of QWE (on a full-time basis), which can be taken in up to four different organisations. Roles as a paralegal or legal assistant could count towards QWE. Working in a law clinic or legal advice centre could also count, provided that they provide the requisite experience and exposure.


LPC – there is no student loan finance available to fund the LPC, which gives successful candidates an award of a Postgraduate Diploma.  Postgraduate student loan finance is only available for masters’ level courses. Most institutions offering an LPC also offer a masters programme which incorporates the LPC. Students choosing a masters option will have access to student finance.

SQE – there is no student loan finance available to fund the SQE exams as they are a professional qualification. Where students choose to study a masters’ level qualification to help prepare for the SQE exams, they will have access to student finance. Candidates are advised to check whether the level of student finance they can access is sufficient to fund the masters course fees, and an attempt at the SQE assessments. There is no student finance funding available for preparation courses which are not at masters’ level.   

Employer preference

As the SQE is new and relatively untested, it is advisable to explore whether any prospective employers you are interested in have preference for candidates with an LPC or SQE. Whilst the LPC remains the more recognized qualification at the moment, employer preference may change as the SQE becomes more established.

A Quick Reference Summary

Quickly compare the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), to see which is right for you.

Legal Practice Course (LPC)

Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)

Requirement for further study

No requirement for further study, but will need to prepare for the SQE

Passing the LPC is the qualification

Need to pass the SQE in addition to any further study

Funding available for LPC/LLM

Funding available for Masters’ level courses to help prepare

No fees for re-sits

Need to pay for the SQE and any re-sits

Need to obtain a training contract, or obtain QWE and sit SQE2 exams

Need to obtain QWE

Recognised qualification

Recognised qualification if Masters’ or PGDip to help prepare

Costs – LPC/LLM course fees

Costs – SQE examination fees (and any re-sit fees); cost of preparation