How the SQE helps during the cost-of-living crisis
By Lily Edwards
Recently, the cost-of-living crisis is a phrase we are all hearing, and all feeling the consequences from. Unfortunately, money has always been a restrictive factor within education, especially when it comes to law. Funding post-graduate study routes, for example the LPC, is one reason many students are unable to progress straight away, or all together, with the minimum price for the LPC (before factoring in living costs) being £13,000. It is therefore hoped that the introduction of the SQE, which has a central aim of making the route to qualifying as a solicitor, will ease some of the financial burden law students face, especially during the cost-of-living crisis. But how will this be achieved?
The most significant and direct way that the SQE helps is simply comes from the price. A quick comparison of the LPC and SQE costs show that taking the SQE is considerably cheaper than the LPC:
SQE cost (for both LLB and non-LLB students) - £3,980
LPC cost (for LLB students) - £12,000-£17,000
LPC + GDL cost (for non-LLB students)– £19,000 - £30,000
While these figures don’t factor in living costs, or preparation course costs, it is undeniable that the fact that the exams themselves are substantially cheaper is helpful and makes other expenses, such as living costs that bit more manageable.
Another important factor comes from the fact that there is no conversion course required to sit the SQE. This means that non-LLB students no longer have the added burden of funding the GDL, which is extremely helpful.
The removal of the strict requirement of the traditional training contract also has financial benefits. Securing a training contract is notoriously difficult and is often a factor that prolongs (and can even prevent) students from qualifying as solicitors. However, the introduction of qualifying work experience (QWE) will help with the cost-of-living crisis, as QWE can take place in up to four corporations (that need not necessarily be law firms). It is likely that students will be able to find work, and start earning faster than sourcing a training contract, and this will also constitute as their QWE. The added benefit of being able to complete QWE in up to four corporations means students can also gain varied experience and where possible, take higher paid jobs as their level of experience increases over the 2-year QWE period. Most importantly though, students can undertake QWE alongside their preparation for the SQE1 & SQE2, giving the opportunity to earn at the same time.
There is no recommended preparation course for the SQE exams, but one major benefit is that there are preparation courses available online. The added benefit to this is that there is no strict requirement to take any preparation course, and students who, for example feel confident in LLB and SQE1 content, could instead for example consider having some online tutoring sessions to consolidate knowledge and exam technique rather than taking an entire course. Having the option to learn remotely is also advantageous for those students who will be completing QWE alongside their studies, as learning online means learning in their own time, but earning at the same time.
It's also worth noting that it is likely that universities will begin to incorporate SQE1 preparation into LLB courses to help students prepare, as the SQE1 is heavily focused on LLB content. While this is yet to be confirmed as the SQE is still relatively new, this will be helpful to current and future students.
Overall, the SQE undoubtedly helps to remove some of the financial burden of qualifying as a solicitor. While it is still expensive, not to mention during a cost-of-living crisis, in comparison to the LPC the SQE is considerably more financially manageable and will make the road to qualifying as a solicitor smoother.