'I was due to start the GDL this September whilst continuing to work part-time with my current firm, but I am now wondering whether I should wait and do the SQE instead? I am now unsure as to whether it is wise to embark on the GDL at this stage.'


Suzanne Szczetnikowicz, senior associate, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy

Suzanne Szczetnikowicz

If you are able to fund your way through and have the time to do so now, I would commence your GDL in September to enable you to get started on your training and ultimate career as soon as possible.  Your recent year of paralegaling experience will stand you in good stead both for the upfront two years of study but even moreso for your interview process and ultimate training contract – there may not be any greater returns to remaining as a paralegal until the implementation of the SQE.  Starting the GDL course in September would mean that you could, if all goes well, be a qualified solicitor by 2021 or 2022 if studying the GDL on a part-time basis.

The paper recently presented to US law firms by the SRA on the SQE indicated that the last people to benefit from the current system could commence their existing professional qualification study in 2020, with qualification occurring two years thereafter.  The presentation also clarified that there is in the meantime some consultation, regulatory, development and testing work to be done on the new system and it will only be after that point when law firms and businesses will have absolute clarity on the provider of the assessment and the full details of the program.  Each firm and business will then have to decide how to implement the system internally, although for the bigger firms it seems likely that some version of the existing minimum two year qualification process will remain to meet business needs and to ensure steady flow of newly qualifieds into the business. 

Whilst the legal profession clearly has a lot of confidence in the current system, our firm certainly sees the SQE as a useful means of being able to bring in talented people from a more diverse set of backgrounds given the (i) flexibility on time lines to qualification enabling the meeting of individual candidate needs and abilities and (ii) non-traditional routes that the SQE now opens up for people within the profession.

I wish you well for the process and the start of your career in the legal profession.

The Gazette endeavours to feature as many of your questions as possible but regrets that our careers counsellors are unable to reply personally.

Do you agree with our counsellors? Have your say below.