SQE Training Contracts - GDL?

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AGW1983
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#1
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#1
'Brief' background for context. I'm a potential mature student (approaching 40) working in financial services for a major US bank. I work in a profession (company secretary) that works closely with solicitors to the extent that I'm one promotion away from roles where all the office holders are either solicitors or hold an LLB. One promotion after that and the role fuses into a dual "company secretary and legal counsel." It has therefore become apparent that I need to become a solicitor in order to further progress. It is possible to qualify in my firm but typically it's an option for LLB and GDL holders who join the Legal Department as paralegals.

As I'm not getting any younger, I'm looking for the fastest route to qualify! I was hoping to do the SQE with BARBRI without doing a GDL first.

Although I would hopefully qualify with my current employer (and the SQE seems to make that slightly easier because the work experience requirement is more flexible than the old training contracts) I do also want to make sure I'm on a level playing field with other people qualifying as a solicitor in City firms (from an educational perspective. My work experience will necessarily be very different but this won't be an issue in my field).

My question is whether anyone knows why all the big City law firms and a fair few national and regional ones are demanding that future trainees hold either an LLB or GDL before they start? As far as I can tell it must be for one of two reasons:

A) Candidates only get four attempts at the SQE and law firms have decided it is better to onboard people before they attempt the examination so that they can provide the right level of support. However, to hedge their bets and to reduce the amount of time their trainees spend studying rather than on the job, they want to check that they can pass law exams first and only need to go on the shortest study routes because they have covered the content already;

B) Law firms think that the SQE is inadequate preparation and want their trainees to have a more rigorous academic grounding in law.

If the answer is A) then I will happily sign up to the 40 week long course with BARBRI safe in the knowledge that I'll be getting a suitable legal education. My path is going to be different to the average 20-something law student after all and I don't need to fit the mould of a City law firm's training contract.

If on the other hand the answer is B), then I guess I will need to think about doing a GDL first.

Does anyone work in legal recruitment or an HR department (especially learning & development) who might be able to shed some light?
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17Student17
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#2
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#2
I don't work in legal recruitment so may not be the best person to answer but just to chime in..... It is partly B. So some city firms are putting students through the PDGL for 2 terms if they do not have a law degree, then 3rd term is SQE1 preparation and SQE1 exam. Then they move on to SQE preparation plus something similar to the current additional "electives" etc you do on an LPC. However you are nearly 40, a company secretary and not competing to join a leading law firm as a newly qualified 24 or 25 year old so I would not worry too much about that. If you can pass SQE1 and 2 and are sure the work you currently do or will do at your current place will be signed off by a solicitor as QWE then just get on and pass SQE1 and 2.

As a private practice solicitor I do still use all kinds of bits of law I learned on my 3 year LLB and the course after in my professional life which is a lot wider in terms of study than the areas of practice in which I now practise and is wider than the core law subjects tests on SQE1 and 2 so I do think the big law firms are doing down the right route for them.

As to your point (A) I know someone in a bit London firm who was saying they do not want to have people starting work for them as trainees if that person has not passed all exams so are keeping in a sense to the current structure. That is in the same way that if you fail even just one module on your GDL and LPC some big firms will cancel the training contract even if you pass the exam on a resit. Smaller firms will not necessarily do that.
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AGW1983
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#3
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#3
(Original post by 17Student17)
I don't work in legal recruitment so may not be the best person to answer but just to chime in..... It is partly B. So some city firms are putting students through the PDGL for 2 terms if they do not have a law degree, then 3rd term is SQE1 preparation and SQE1 exam. Then they move on to SQE preparation plus something similar to the current additional "electives" etc you do on an LPC. However you are nearly 40, a company secretary and not competing to join a leading law firm as a newly qualified 24 or 25 year old so I would not worry too much about that. If you can pass SQE1 and 2 and are sure the work you currently do or will do at your current place will be signed off by a solicitor as QWE then just get on and pass SQE1 and 2.

As a private practice solicitor I do still use all kinds of bits of law I learned on my 3 year LLB and the course after in my professional life which is a lot wider in terms of study than the areas of practice in which I now practise and is wider than the core law subjects tests on SQE1 and 2 so I do think the big law firms are doing down the right route for them.

As to your point (A) I know someone in a bit London firm who was saying they do not want to have people starting work for them as trainees if that person has not passed all exams so are keeping in a sense to the current structure. That is in the same way that if you fail even just one module on your GDL and LPC some big firms will cancel the training contract even if you pass the exam on a resit. Smaller firms will not necessarily do that.
Couple of follow up questions if you can spare the time!

First of all, I doubt the work I do will be sufficient as QWE. The main thrust of my role is managing board meetings and advising on regulatory matters. There's some crossover there but realistically to progress to be able to do a dual role of CoSec and Legal Counsel I'm going to need to spend some time on secondment in another part of the legal dept. However, on the basis of what you've said I doubt it will be an issue provided I stay with my current employer.

In terms of what you say about the LLB though, that caught my attention. These firms are only asking for GDLs which are a lot more narrow in scope as I understand it; would it be fair to say the difference between the SQE and the GDL is more in the SQE's favour (e.g. coverage of private client law) than would be the case comparing the SQE to an LLB? Are you aware of anything in particular covered on the GDL that will not feature in the SQE, or is it more a matter of depth into the topics (I'm slightly concerned that when I looked at a set of SQE sample questions 6 months ago I was able to answer most of them correctly based on logic rather than any study which was what first made me concerned about the course's rigour).
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Gmaster1980
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#4
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#4
(Original post by AGW1983)
'Brief' background for context. I'm a potential mature student (approaching 40) working in financial services for a major US bank. I work in a profession (company secretary) that works closely with solicitors to the extent that I'm one promotion away from roles where all the office holders are either solicitors or hold an LLB. One promotion after that and the role fuses into a dual "company secretary and legal counsel." It has therefore become apparent that I need to become a solicitor in order to further progress. It is possible to qualify in my firm but typically it's an option for LLB and GDL holders who join the Legal Department as paralegals.

As I'm not getting any younger, I'm looking for the fastest route to qualify! I was hoping to do the SQE with BARBRI without doing a GDL first.

Although I would hopefully qualify with my current employer (and the SQE seems to make that slightly easier because the work experience requirement is more flexible than the old training contracts) I do also want to make sure I'm on a level playing field with other people qualifying as a solicitor in City firms (from an educational perspective. My work experience will necessarily be very different but this won't be an issue in my field).

My question is whether anyone knows why all the big City law firms and a fair few national and regional ones are demanding that future trainees hold either an LLB or GDL before they start? As far as I can tell it must be for one of two reasons:

A) Candidates only get four attempts at the SQE and law firms have decided it is better to onboard people before they attempt the examination so that they can provide the right level of support. However, to hedge their bets and to reduce the amount of time their trainees spend studying rather than on the job, they want to check that they can pass law exams first and only need to go on the shortest study routes because they have covered the content already;

B) Law firms think that the SQE is inadequate preparation and want their trainees to have a more rigorous academic grounding in law.

If the answer is A) then I will happily sign up to the 40 week long course with BARBRI safe in the knowledge that I'll be getting a suitable legal education. My path is going to be different to the average 20-something law student after all and I don't need to fit the mould of a City law firm's training contract.

If on the other hand the answer is B), then I guess I will need to think about doing a GDL first.

Does anyone work in legal recruitment or an HR department (especially learning & development) who might be able to shed some light?
The answer is primarily B based on the conversations I've had with grad tec at my firm and at other firms in the City. The sqe prep courses are geared towards getting you to pass th exam rather than actually giving you the foundational knowledge you might need for law.
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AGW1983
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#5
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#5
(Original post by Gmaster1980)
The answer is primarily B based on the conversations I've had with grad tec at my firm and at other firms in the City. The sqe prep courses are geared towards getting you to pass th exam rather than actually giving you the foundational knowledge you might need for law.
That's interesting. So it's actually the nature of the prep courses rather than the syllabus that might be the primary concern? If that's the case I'm a bit less worried about just doing the SQE because if I do the GDL it would have to be by distance learning anyway. Granted a full time course would involve a lot of teaching time but I'm not really convinced that something like 10 weekends of classes over two years with the rest self study will make much difference to a crammer course. That plus the fact that the law I'll be specialising in I've already got a thorough grounding in through classroom based study and experience.
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Gmaster1980
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#6
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#6
(Original post by AGW1983)
That's interesting. So it's actually the nature of the prep courses rather than the syllabus that might be the primary concern? If that's the case I'm a bit less worried about just doing the SQE because if I do the GDL it would have to be by distance learning anyway. Granted a full time course would involve a lot of teaching time but I'm not really convinced that something like 10 weekends of classes over two years with the rest self study will make much difference to a crammer course. That plus the fact that the law I'll be specialising in I've already got a thorough grounding in through classroom based study and experience.
Have you considered just asking your legal department about their opinion?
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17Student17
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#7
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It sounds like you are getting experience of the areas of law you need and in your specific case and with a current employer. Learning law is continuous anyway and lifelong. I read a legal article or court judgment just about every day (and I am an old lawyer). My daughters did the GDL and 2 of my sons did the PGDL last year with BPP so I have a reasonable knowledge of what is in the conversion course PGDL City trainees will be doing under the new system. I felt they were very well taught the core modules o f contract law, tort etc. I have not compared it to SQE1. The PGDL covers
Company Law
Contract Law
Criminal Law
Land Law
Public Law I
Public Law II
Tort Law
Trusts Law
Foundational Legal Skills


I did more on my 3 year law degree and I think an LLB is better but the PGDL/GDL is a reasonable cramming of those subjects and fairly hard. It covered company law for the first time this last academic year.

As suggested above perhaps just ask your company as if you will be working for them they may not care whether you have done a GDL or not as long as you pass SQE exams.
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AGW1983
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#8
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#8
(Original post by Gmaster1980)
Have you considered just asking your legal department about their opinion?
Yes. For added context, I'm actually quite new in my current role and only joined the department in November (I've spent most of my career in compliance). The "progression ceiling" is something I've only recently discovered and I need to find my feet in my current role and make my mark before asking about other opportunities! I also have limited contact with colleagues outside CoSec specifically so it's going to take a while to build a network.

In a perfect world I'd wait it out, do a couple of years in my current role, make connections and then ask for advice. Brutal honest truth though is I'm not getting any younger and if I need to do another qualification I need to get on with it. So the imperfect plan is to either start SQE 1 or a GDL by September at the latest by self financing and just get on with it.
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