Students protest against Squeeeee! 

The SRA has responded to complaints by students that the Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE) is too expensive and unfairly punishes them due to a lack of transparency, while Clifford Chance and Slaughter and May have both dropped future trainees who failed it.

The SQE structure offers a myriad of ways into the profession compared with the old route. Now, candidates do not need a law degree, or even a non-law degree, if they have an "equivalent qualification" or an apprenticeship comprising "equivalent experience".

In a significant change from the old system, the two years of 'qualifying work experience' (QWE) for candidates do not have to be completed as a block two year training contract with a single provider. Instead, candidates can work at up to four appropriate places, which includes student law clinics and pro bono projects.

When it comes to studying for the exams, there are a number of options students can choose in preparation, ranging from: the non-costly (self-taught); the medium-priced (online providers); to the very costly option of shelling out up to almost £20k for a course provider. Some candidates don't have to pay the fees if they are funded by a firm, or if they obtain an "earn as you learn" apprenticeship.  

But students have been getting in touch with RollOnFriday, and posting online, complaining that the SRA has not been transparent in providing stats on the pass rate for those that took the self-study route, compared with those that went to course providers. The silence has made it "confusing" and "difficult" to determine the best option when weighing up whether or not to fork out an awful lot of cash to a course provider, they said.

One student said they believed "few people pass" without paying for a preparation course. "That is not to say it is impossible without a prep course," said the student, "but the SRA knows if it released stats, this would undermine their desire to make qualifying more 'accessible' than the LPC". 

The unfair consequence was that people "cannot make a fully informed decision about how to go about preparing for the SQE exams", they said.

The SRA told ROF that it was "committed to publishing further data to help potential SQE candidates decide how best they might prepare for the assessments", but that it did "not yet have sufficient data". The regulator said its bank of data will "grow" as more candidates take the SQE, and that it would be reviewed this year to "determine whether the data bank is large enough to inform a useful publication”.

Students have also complained that as well as potentially high costs in studying for the course, there is the added expense of the exam itself. The SQE costs over £4,500 in total, and there is no discount for students that fail and have to retake the exam. 

One student said, "For the exorbitant examination fee, the SRA should be willing to at least provide past papers so that people are aware of the difficulty level before they embark on doing the SQE," adding: "I am from a working class background and I have self funded the SQE with the little money that I have". 

The SRA's justification for the costs was that “the structure of the SQE helps address the ‘LPC gamble’." With the old system, although some people could "get a training contract before taking the LPC," many people didn’t, said the regulator. "That meant taking the risk of paying up to £17,300 for the LPC, which they might not pass, and risking failing to secure a training contract."

The regulator also said that it recently released more sample questions for students to review.

Many students have also criticised the SRA for making them sign a NDA when they take the exam, with one student stating that "it is all very secretive". However, the SRA told RollOnFriday that the confidentiality agreement was in place to protect "the security and integrity of the assessments" i.e. so that students don't share the questions with others, but that the NDA didn't prohibit people "talking about their experience and the process". 

It is not the first time that students have complained about the SQE.  But the SRA said that it seeks feedback and invites "all candidates to attend focus groups" and to take its survey "for us to learn from." Last year, the regulator published a report from responses from its survey, and said that it is "committed to a continual review of SQE for at least the first ten years."

And, of course, not all students are complaining about the SQE, including some of those who pass the exam with flying colours

Meanwhile, in other news about the SQE, some City firms are pulling training contract offers for future trainees who fail it, including the likes of Clifford Chance and Slaughter and May. 

RollOnFriday understands that at Clifford Chance four students out of 52 have had their training contract offers rescinded. It is understood that the Magic Circle firm provided career consultancy support to the affected students, advised them on next steps regarding SQE and law school enrolment, and did not ask them to repay the fees. But they're not getting a TC.

A Clifford Chance spokesperson confirmed "they were reviewed on a case by case basis, and that the firm would not comment on individual applications".  

RollOnFriday also understands that future trainees at Slaughter and May have had their training contracts cancelled due to failing the SQE, consistent with how the firm had dealt with LPC results. A Slaughter and May spokesperson said: "We don’t comment on individual situations, but each instance is assessed on a case-by-case basis". 

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Barney 22 March 24 08:32

The ‘LPC gamble’ is overblown. On my LPC it was obvious from day 1 who shouldn’t be there and would never qualify. Everyone else to my knowledge did get a TC, though not always immediately.

Anonymous 22 March 24 08:39

Odd stats. To lose 4 out of 52 suggests either CC weren't very careful when handing out TC or they are carrying out a cull. (Perhaps they think ChatGPT will replace them?).

Sounds like a firm to avoid if you have other options.

Anonymous 22 March 24 08:54

Barney is right - on my GDL half the class had more chance of becoming Olympic swimmers than solicitors. It's the fault of the law schools!

Anonymous 22 March 24 09:08

SQE is far, far harder than the route I qualified under. 

If the aim is to open up access to the profession, then this route is counterproductive 

Curious dog 22 March 24 09:22

The public requires competent solicitors so if you fail the SQE you can't be taken seriously or deemed competent. 

Anonymous 22 March 24 09:30

Haha so many people are taking the SQE who have no place working in reputable law firms - the same as the LPC. Those are the ones complaining.

It is ridiculous people think they should be able to take the SQE exams and be able to easily pass without having taken a preparation course. 

During the handful of occasions I have had to deal with solicitors working at high street firms, I am just amazed they managed to even tie their shoe laces in the morning. If you can't even get to that stage, perhaps you should just stick to working in your local supermarket. 

Anonymous 22 March 24 09:32

Has ROF seen the strange case of the CC trainee who posted about their experience with the SQE on the Reddit community r/uklaw, but whose posts and account have now disappeared...?

Anonymous 22 March 24 10:01

The entire alternative UK route of becoming a solicitor is rather bizarre. The options of not studying law and taking the GDL is very unique to the country and not observed in any other, as far as I am aware, where the same route is applicable only to already qualified practitioners who want to requalify in the particular jurisdiction. The same applies to the SQE as it allows those who have no aptitude for the profession to just become lawyers. It leads to very poor quality of solicitors and it is very obvious based on some that I have come across over the years. The profession is very specialised and requires specific skills that not everyone possesses. You wouldn't want a doctor without a medical degree but you can get a lawyer without one... 

Anon 22 March 24 10:02

Agree law schools mostly to blame. For-profit entities with big marketing budgets selling lost students the false promise of great career opportunities if they just pay tens of thousands for a few courses. 

Anonymous 22 March 24 10:25

Where's the news? 

The SQE is a brilliant test, because it's one standard, and a pretty high standard. It does require you to truly love the law (rather than the lifestyle, the prestige and the money) to succeed. I've been watching people dance around the subject and I think few really cares about equality and fairness — it's a corrupt society, too many of us give opinions about the exam based on selfish interests. 

And too many people in the past have wiggled into the profession with the help of mummy and daddy or by being too helpful to the employer. You hear the working class heroic stories about someone qualifying against all odds usually from themselves and then having to find out they are frauds, the partner owes them a lot of money and the firm is sold out. This wouldn't happen with the SQE unless they paid for impersonation which is difficult to pass the checks.

Anonymous 22 March 24 10:28

Anon 22 March 24 10:02

Law schools never promise great careers. You study at Oxford, you graduate, you work wherever you can and start taking mental health days. 

Let's be honest. Insider Trainee 22 March 24 10:31

The issue is not the TC being rescinded its the way the CC team have dealt with the issue. From what I heard, they were cruel callous and cold. 

CC offer training contracts through Spark/Prime and other schemes, poaching young emerging talent from the ripe age of 18. Having developed relationships with the firm for this long and then dropping them is an awful way of saying goodbye.  

From what i gathered by the reddit post, there was no communication, no chance for individuals to plead their case - it was as if fate was decided for them already and no transparency was given to them by the CC team about the decision which made it worse. 

It definitely seems too suspicious for it to be that the candidates were not capable, i am sure they have a rigorous hiring process  and hired the top talent that has to offer - i'm sure each candidate had a different story , different skills - but if none of them were kept - it seems like this is an internal business decision to get rid of trainees and numbers

Anonymous 22 March 24 10:42

Hmmm 22 March 24 10:12 The LPC gamble is about employers decision. The SQE is about whether you have the knowledge and the skills. 

Future Trainee 22 March 24 10:44

But, the thing is, would the LPC not be "such a gamble" with the new QWE regime? 

If the SRA simply kept the LPC but implemented the new QWE regime, the following outcome would likely occur:

1. Keep LPC - self fund or sponsored - likely to pass if competent....

2. Gain QWE in up to 4 organisations or through your TC provider

3. A greater amount of qualified lawyers - meeting SRA diversity goals

The TC students wouldn't have to worry, but it would also allow the chance for greater access to the profession. Would the above not truly open up the profession? Whereby you could complete the LPC and get your QWE in up to 4 organisations? The SQE seems to make no sense.....

Anonymous 22 March 24 10:48

Barney 22 March 24 08:32 You mean everyone in class with TC are white middle class? That's true. 

However, solicitors are no longer the middle class's favoured profession, any profession that is full of women becomes powerless, such as teachers. Tech is next. 

Anonymous 22 March 24 10:55

Self-studied and passed both SQE 1&2 while working full-time. It's very doable, relatively inexpensive, and landed me an associate position at a respected firm within 2 years of starting my first paralegal job. 


I'm sure there's plenty others like me, who struggled with the performative and opaque TC rigamarole but for whom the SQE has offered the opportunity to qualify through straightforward applied effort and ability. To throw that all away because the standardised test is "too hard" is just silly.  

Anonymous 22 March 24 10:56

Future Trainee 22 March 24 10:44. That's surely a joke. It's a watering down, rather than leveling up. If MC trainees can fail SQE1, so can anyone. That's the point. Merit is true equality, charity hire is the opposite and harmful to ethnic minorities.

Anonymous 22 March 24 11:02

Anonymous 22 March 24 10:55 It's pure jealousy and protectionism from the lawyers who have lawyer and aspiring children. Now they have to tell them to pass the test before mummy can introduce the partner to them. Tsktsk.

Lydia 22 March 24 11:16

The statistics I want are if those with high A level and degree grades (and law conversion grades) with TCs are failing SQE1 there is a problem. I don't like SQE at all because for SQE1 it is entirely multiple choice. Also it is a fiction in a sense - SQE1 and 2 are day one solicitor standard but not surprisingly firms want people to have passed all exams before they start a 2 year TC. 

I believe only 4 of the whole CC intake failed and lost a TC so that is probably consistent with a normal year. In my Finals course half failed. On the LPC about half failed and on the SQE1 about half fail. In all 3 cases that is because people who didnm't have a hope of passing had a go anyway. If we strip those out and look at statistics that would be useful. Last year the SRA DID produce that data to an extent -those with a first were most likely to do well in SQE1, those with 2/1 next, those with 2/2 next so that was relatively comforting. However more data needs to be gathered. 


RE Let's be honest. Insider Trainee 22 March 24 11:45

@Let's be honest. Insider Trainee 

If you don't pass an exam, you are not entitled to a training contract. It is that simple. If you can't pass an exam (however novel, however tough), it is simply not appropriate for you to be a trainee anywhere, let alone at a firm like CC where excellence is a prerequisite.

A more valid question is why CC has a graduate recruitment team apparently focussed on recruiting inadequate trainees, who think working long hours in a money factory is "fun". Work is not university - trainees should not be social justice warriors. They get paid top dollar to bill long hours and learn from the best. CC is in no way unique in this - graduate recruitment (across top tier firms) with a socio-economic bent has inevitably led to a diminution in the quality of the future of our profession, sacrificed on the altar of diversity.

As a long-term in-house beneficiary of the sage advice and profound experience of CC, I care only for trainees who are dedicated, able and eager. 

TO CLIFFORD CHANCE: We honestly care nothing for the race, creed, ethnicity, or sexuality of your trainee cohorts. We do not care to be advised by "humbled" award winners, social media over-sharers, influencers or self-proclaimed trainee experts. We pay handsomely, and seek only honesty, diligence and aptitude from your teams.

Anonymous 22 March 24 12:08

A thought about the CC and slaughter trainees who failed: regardless, they are super stars looked up by those of us who can't get a TC or a top firm TC. And they are blessed with the knowledge and experience of failure! Which is so vital for all adults. Everyone fails eventually. The marriage, the kids, and health and death. The sooner one fails the sooner one becomes humble and a lot wiser in life. 

Junior Associate 22 March 24 12:31

The idea that performance in an academic legal exam is correlatable with aptitude as a corporate lawyer is risible. I cannot recall a single time in my professional practice where I have relied on anything which I learned at law school. If the SQE taught students how to co-ordinate signings, or run redlines, or instruct offshore counsel, or draft regulatory filings - then it might be useful. As it stands, doing well at a multiple-choice academic law exam is about as meaningful as doing well at a multiple-choice academic ornithology exam.

Get over yourselves 22 March 24 12:33

"it is simply not appropriate for you to be a trainee anywhere, let alone at a firm like CC where excellence is a prerequisite."


Excellence at what? Filling in precedents for 10 hours a day at the office? Let's not pretend you need to be an Oxbridge genius to hack it in the Magic Circle - the job of a trainee is extremely simple and it makes no sense to cull someone at first instance, without offering a second chance if what you're concerned with is the ability to do the job. It was a business decision, plain and simple.

papercuts 22 March 24 12:40

When I did my law degree in the ‘80s (Queen's, Belfast), you needed 3 As minimum for entry, and every year the Faculty threw out the bottom 20% anyway.  Then, when I did the old Law Society Finals, even in its latter stages with a largely Oxbridge entry, and min 2:1 undergrad, failure rate still was c 40%.  
Nowadays, the very concept of fail-able exams seems to offend people.  
I'm also from a v working class background.  My primary school had neither running water nor electricity.  Loyalist paramilitaries then blew up our new replacement primary school, to keep seditious underlings like me from being educated.  Hustle for a good training contract in the City like I did.  I rented a basement uni room in Bloomsbury, lived off pot noodles, and doorstepped City firms daily for a month, early to late, suited up like Fauntleroy, with a Jehovah’s Witness style irrepressibility.   I was desperate – I had nothing to go back to.  As a well-known rapper said, years later, success was my only m/f option.  I’d pretend to have interviews, and would affect to “struggle to fit you in” lol to give the impression of a crammed schedule of interviews lol.  But once you get one to bite, then you leverage their interest.  I ended up with 9 offers.  With my background, at a time when many in London assumed I was a terrorist.  I thought it was hilarious, but of course nowadays people would whine about being “profiled”.  If I can, anyone can.  London changed my life, and it's still the best city in the world, for me. 

12:31 and 12:33 22 March 24 13:01

A condition for commencing the training contract is to pass the exam first time (at least it was in my day). If that condition precedent to TC commencement is not satisfied, the firm's obligation to invest in your training has not come into force. Even a junior associate should have an appreciation of simple contract law. 


I do not understand the fuss. Why do so many in Gen Z see these precious jobs as a right? A role at a MC firm is gold dust, and prioritising the less capable over those more suited to the rigours of practice (and able to pass a damn exam first time) makes no sense. Those who failed need only have passed and they would be in, filling in precedents for 10 hours a day and earning £60k a year. The entitlement rankles.


One can only assume these firms have gone down a righteous rabbit hole in recruiting the most diverse and the loudest, rather than the best and the brightest. And are now full of regret.

Anonymous 22 March 24 13:26

@12:31 and 12:33 22 March 24 13:01

To be fair, I think they must have recruited the best and the brightest in the standard process. There is no evidence to suggest they didn't hire the trainees based on their merits. There is no guarantee that TC is a better standard, in fact a trainee is by definition a lower standard than the SQE day one solicitor. This is why the diversity agenda does more reputation harm to ethnic minorities and recruitment should be strictly merit based. People will always try to second guess if someone does not deserve to be there. The advantage of the TC is that it is itself a credential. Firms want to keep the reputation of gold standard TCs will sacrifice the trainees who may be brilliant but neglected to ace the SQE.

Anonymous 22 March 24 13:32

@papercuts 22 March 24 12:40 And you worked with paper! You should give talks at universities to these gen-z peasants to inspire them. The egalitarian sentiments need to hear different voices from the real world. Technology does not change the world as much as we think it has.

Alpha Junky 22 March 24 14:25

God forbid law firms want competency shown. Back in my day if you didn’t get a certain grade on the LLB you’d have a TC revoked. Everyone wants everything to be so easy and it all to be handed to you. If you’re that upset at law firms revoking offers, then study harder for the exam. Simple. Don’t expect a hand out from partners who are looking for the best junior lawyers. And if it is revoked, step aside quietly to allow a competent junior lawyer to take your spot in this very competitive market.

Gall Anonim 22 March 24 14:57

Ok, so … as a non lawyer I prefer use a Google for my case instead pay a stupid bailable hours to English lawyer. Hm… in others countries laweyers are study law from 16 until 25 years old. And their knowledge is beyond of degree, and of course they can give me advise about contract, court case…Finishing a law degree they can as a lawyer represent client in the court. What English lawyer can do ? Mostly they copy and paste ready templates , sometimes even without correcting previous client notes. So yes… this quick courses can do : engineers, people with high IQ…

Nads 22 March 24 16:04

The only stat which needs to be made clear is what proportion of kids with TC offers failed, as opposed to all the sadly deluded people who thought that by paying thousands for a course they would get to call themselves solicitors. I would bet that 90% of those who had a TC in the bag passed. And sub-50% of those without failed. There will be some tough conversations to be had amongst diversity and inclusion teams…

 When I did my LPC (the pointless and tedious “City LPC”, which dates me) - the people who self-funded were, almost to a man, fvcking useless and just burning money, which of course the law schools were thrilled about.

Anonymous 22 March 24 16:33

@Gall Anonim 22 March 24 14:57

Wow, certainly hit a nerve somewhere to invite that comment. But I also think the diversity politics and implementation is a joke if you let it affect results based on pure merits that apply to all. Or you will risk creating tokenism, the kind that will inspire critiques to point out that the US representative in the UN is among the blackest woman when her country is determined to continue stall efforts of cease fire by following the it can't be done - it must be done the right way - it can't immediately do anything approach while the Gazans are almost finished. And let's not use the phraseology like genocide, that's not related to China or the enemy of aukus. 

Literary Genius 22 March 24 16:41

Gall Anonim 22 March 24 14:57

Fair points made, but we can write proper sentences. I think. Can English lawyer do?

Anonymous 22 March 24 17:09

@Nads 22 March 24 16:04 

Oh my god. Stop calling them kids. It's time to empty the f cking nest! 

Shambolicus totalis 22 March 24 18:28

1. CC - no second chances.

2. SM - sat exam in January, slaughtered by May. 

A kick in the ‘Nads? 22 March 24 19:21

’Nads 22 March 24 16:04

The only stat which needs to be made clear is what proportion of kids with TC offers failed, as opposed to all the sadly deluded people who thought that by paying thousands for a course they would get to call themselves solicitors. I would bet that 90% of those who had a TC in the bag passed. And sub-50% of those without failed. 

There will be some tough conversations to be had amongst diversity and inclusion teams… When I did my LPC (the pointless and tedious “City LPC”, which dates me) - the people who self-funded were, almost to a man, fvcking useless and just burning money, which of course the law schools were thrilled about.’’

SQE is a difficult exam. If you have a TC and are sponsored on the SQE, you have a massive advantage compared to self funders. You get fees paid, you get grants, you don’t have to stress about finances, exam fees, lunch costs, bus fares or the rest. You even have fellow trainees studying alongside you and so a pre existing social network. Your path is laid out for you to walk. You should be doing better than those without a TC, not necessarily because you are better than them academically, (which may or may not be true) but because so much has now been taken off your plate, you are able to focus your efforts on learning and passing the exam. 

And self funders don’t burn money. They want to be solicitors and have worked hard enough to pay their own way through law school to get to where they want to be. 


Richard Dyson 23 March 24 09:58

Ask the Partners who cancelled the T C to take the exam and see how they get on !

Overseas 23 March 24 13:01

It is sad to see trainees losing their TCs but this shows just how tough was for all us overseas qualified lawyers to pierce through and clear the MCT OSCE or SQE (95% overlapped in content really), usually working full time in international and national firms. However, it is also true that I know almost no overseas who complaint for failing (universally self-funded candidates who took away considerable time from their families) as much as UK-trainees now and we did not have much room to bargain back then as the SRA never took genuine interests in our concerns (Covid policies are prime example of that).

Yes, the standard is set fairly high but if you have worked your way through diligently and have put honest effort through a structured process, you will generally end up in a good place. Notwithstanding that, one can always have challenging personal circumstances or a really awful day, in which case firms should make a very conscious effort to assess, on the whole, each case on a personal basis.

Lydia 25 March 24 11:22

I have not liked this from the start as the many options make things worse - it gives too much choice and so people can make the wrong choices, not do a course or train at the CAB and qualify but never get a job.  Having to pay a course provider (if you choose to use one) and the exam fees is complicated and expensive.

Also any English solicitor even if they never worked with you can sign off your QWE which is ridiculous and the so called competencies so flimsy that anyone providing legal advice is likely to meet the standard.

You can also qualify even with a level 7 diploma in anything, even knitting as long as you pass SQE1 and 2 even without a single course or single day of study of law if you guess the MCQ answers in SQE1 correctly (SQE2 is basically skills with some law like the Skills on the LPC and 90% at BPP pass SQE2)

Annon1. 26 March 24 18:32

The SRA has the cheek to bang on about wellbeing and mental health under their codes and guidance, but the distress the Sqe is causing to people is shameful. Bright individuals are being treated by the SRA with contempt and mistrust even before they have entered the profession. They are made to sign NDAs, they have cameras filming their every move and need to go through multiple id checks every time they leave their desk during the exams - even for the toilet! This is a very poor way to start any relationship.   The exams are nothing like real life, competent individuals are failing! The sqe is a memory game that most qualified solicitors could no pass without looking up the law. The mental turmoil people are being put under just to enter the profession is a disaster waiting to happen. The Sra has been warned numerous times and will be to blame when this disaster materialises... worse still the brains that introduced the sqe at the SRA are long gone, leaving others to pick up the mess.

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