Which law firms will fund your SQE preparation, LPC and PGDL course fees and pay maintenance costs?
Last updated: 30 Nov 2023, 16:50
Do law firms really pay for the SQE and the other routes to qualify as a solicitor? Yes, many do. We list the top firms offering sponsorship for your postgraduate law studies from 2024 onwards and also point to other sources of funding, including scholarships and loans.
Trainee solicitors at the largest firms tend to receive some of the highest salaries of all graduates and there’s no doubt that this is one of the attractions of a career in law. But there is also no doubt that training to be a solicitor in England and Wales is expensive.
On top of finishing their undergraduate study, non-law students will either need to, or be strongly advised to, complete a law conversion course (most usually the postgraduate diploma in law, PGDL). Then both law and non-law students will either need to complete the legal practice course (LPC) or, more likely now, sit the solicitors qualifying examination (SQE) assessments – for which at least one SQE preparation course is strongly recommended. These are not cheap, but there are ways to ease the burden.
From September 2023, the total fee for taking both SQE assessments is £4,564 (£1,798 for SQE1 and £2,766 for SQE2). This does not include preparation course costs, which differ according to the type of course and method of study but could be anywhere between £500 (for a short online SQE1 preparation course) and around £11,000 (for a masters preparing you for SQE1 and SQE2).
Fees for the LPC typically fall somewhere between £7,000 and £18,000, depending on the course and how it is studied.
The costs of the PGDL also vary, but can be between £6,000 and £12,000, depending on the institution.
There are different ways of funding your law studies:
1. Sponsorship from law firms
Large and mid-sized law firms typically hire future trainee solicitors as second-year law students or final-year non-law students. They then pay for them to complete the conversion course and/or SQE preparation courses and assessments, and provide a grant to cover living expenses while studying. Some firms still pay for the LPC, although this is much less likely now as most firms are switching to the SQE qualification route.
Note that smaller and high street firms are unlikely to be able to offer the same financial support. Although a few might be able to contribute a small amount towards the fees or provide a loan, you are likely to have to seek out other funding options.
2. Bursaries, grants and scholarships
You may be able to get financial assistance from your institution/university, from the Law Society or from a charity. While each fund will have its own eligibility criteria, there are typically grants available for those undergoing economic hardship, for those coping with adversity and to help students with disabilities pay for adaptations or additional living costs.
The Law Society, for example, offers the Diversity Access Scheme (DAS) scholarship . This is open to students who live in England and Wales and are from low socio-economic backgrounds or face exceptional challenges in pursuing their career ambitions due to factors such as their cultural background, health problems, disability, sex, gender identity, sexuality, race, religion or other personal circumstances. It can be used to pay for the LPC or an SQE preparation course.
If you are unsure about where to start looking for scholarships and bursaries, your intended place of study should be able to point you in the right direction.
Depending on the course you’ve applied for, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from the government . There are also specialist loan providers for postgraduate study, but always take advice before taking out a loan and try to explore all other avenues of funding first.
4. Self-funding through staggered work and study
You may decide to study part time while working or, in the case of the SQE, choose to work between studying for each assessment. The SQE route was introduced in part to make the qualification process more flexible and therefore easier to finance.
Although it is still technically possible to qualify via the LPC route until 2032 if you’d accepted a place on the course before September 2021, many large law firms are switching to the new SQE route from 2024. These firms are therefore no longer paying the LPC course fees nor providing you with a maintenance grant while studying it. Instead, they will fund you to complete the final SQE2 assessment and any necessary preparation course (LPC students are exempt from SQE1).
There are a few exceptions, however: see the list of firms below.
If I’ve started a PGDL, LPC or SQE preparation course before getting a training contract, will law firms reimburse my course fees?
Most firms accept applications for their training contracts from students who are already on a conversion course, LPC or SQE preparation course, as well as those who are yet to begin studying. However, many will not reimburse the money you have already spent on course fees. We list a few of those that do below.
The firms that reimburse fees do not generally pay you a retrospective maintenance grant – Bristows is a notable exception. Check the firms’ websites carefully for details when applying.
As noted above, many large and medium-sized law firms provide financial support for the conversion course, the SQE preparation course and, less frequently now, the LPC – although you often have to study with their preferred course provider. You’ll see that the most generous firms cover full course fees and provide a maintenance grant of £20,000 for the SQE preparation course and £12,000 for the PGDL. But these amounts won’t be matched by all firms.
Here is a list of the sponsorship amounts offered by a select number of firms:
Allen & Overy
Non-law students will have their PGDL course fees covered and receive a maintenance grant of £12,500. LPC students will receive the same. Students undertaking the SQE preparation course will have their fees paid and get a maintenance grant of £17,500.
All future trainees can also apply for an interest-free loan of up to £2,000 (or £2,500 in the case of SQE students) to use as they see fit: for example, to study another language or to take part in a pro bono initiative.
Non-law students receive a bursary for studying the PGDL at the University of Law, in addition to a £10,000 maintenance grant (£9,000 if studying at a campus outside of London). All students will receive a bursary to study the LLM legal practice course (SQE 1&2) with the University of Law, plus a £17,000 maintenance grant.
Baker McKenzie LLP
Funding for the transition to the SQE hasn’t been announced as of November 2023, but previously it was £8,000 for the conversion course and £10,000 for the LPC. The firm also offers hardship grants and grants for technical support (such as laptops or wifi services).
Bird & Bird LLP
The firm pays fees for the PGDL (for non-law students) and the SQE preparation course. It also offers PGDL students a £10,000 maintenance grant and SQE students a £15,000 grant.
Blake Morgan provides financial support for both the LPC and the SQE, including a maintenance grant, but does not specify the amounts. It does not provide any financial support for the conversion course.
The firm fully sponsors students through the SQE process and provides a £10,000 maintenance grant. Any students who have started the LPC can continue to qualify via the LPC route.
If you have already started the PGDL, LPC or SQE course by the time you receive an offer, the firm will reimburse your fees and backdate your maintenance grant to the beginning of the month in which you accepted the offer.
Browne Jacobson structures the qualifying process differently from many other firms: first you complete a year working as a trainee solicitor, then you undertake a year of SQE study and assessments and then you do your second year of qualifying work experience. SQE course and examination fees are paid for and you receive a salary and benefits package throughout (which is a minimum of £38,000 in London and £29,000 elsewhere).
The firm does not require (nor sponsor) non-law students to do a conversion course; instead, these students take a short paid-for preparation course before SQE1.
Burges Salmon LLP
The firm provides sponsorship for the PGDL and the SQE Plus courses with the University of Law, but hasn’t yet published the details.
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP
BCLP pays the full course fees for the PGDL at BPP and for its SQE preparation courses at either BPP or BARBRI. Students receive a maintenance grant of £20,300 for the PGDL and SQE years as appropriate (or £18,300 if studying at a regional campus or online).
Charles Russell Speechlys
The firm covers the fees of both the PGDL (for non-law students) and the SQE LLM at the University of Law, paying a maintenance grant of £8,000 if studying in London and £6,500 if studying elsewhere or online.
The firm allows current LPC students to qualify via the LPC route, but no longer sponsors the LPC course or the graduate diploma in law (which foreshadowed the PGDL).
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
Non-law students have their PDGL course fees paid and receive a £12,000 maintenance grant. All students then undertake a fully funded SQE preparation course and receive a maintenance grant of £17,000. Future trainees can also apply for an interest-free loan of up to £8,000.
Costs for the PGDL are fully covered if study is undertaken at the University of Law; Clifford Chance may not be able to fully fund courses studied elsewhere, although all students will receive a maintenance grant (previously reported to be £12,500).
The firm fully covers the costs of the SQE preparation course at the University of Law and provides a £17,000 maintenance grant.
Students undertaking the PDGL, the LPC or the SQE preparation course will receive a £13,000 maintenance grant outside of London and a £15,000 maintenance grant inside it.
The firm offers unspecified financial assistance for law school (the PGDL and the SQE preparation course), plus a maintenance grant of £15,500 for each academic year.
Covington & Burling LLP
Covington pays the fees for the PGDL and SQE tuition, along with a maintenance grant of up to £15,000 for the PGDL and up to £17,000 for the SQE.
Dentons covers the full fees of the PGDL and the SQE preparation course and also provides maintenance grants, but hasn’t disclosed how much they are.
The PGDL course fees will be paid for. Students on the SQE preparation course will have their fees paid for and receive a maintenance grant of £5,000–£7,000.
The firm pays for the PGDL and SQE preparation course fees and provides an £8,000 maintenance grant for each.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Non-law students have their PGDL fees paid and receive a £10,000 grant for living costs; all future trainees then join the city consortium training programme (CCP) for their SQE preparation, for which their fees are paid and they receive a £20,000 grant.
Some tuition fees may be reimbursed.
The firm also offers a discretionary grant of up to £2,500 to put towards completing legal internships: for example, with charities or NGOs.
The firm supports both the LPC and SQE qualifying routes as well as the PGDL, paying the appropriate course fees and providing a maintenance grant of £7,000 in London and £5,500 in Birmingham.
Herbert Smith Freehills
All law school fees will be paid for or reimbursed. Students who are studying the PGDL will receive a £10,000 maintenance grant in London or £9,000 elsewhere, while SQE students will receive a £17,000 grant.
The firm provides a £10,000 maintenance grant for full-time study of the PGDL outside of London and £12,500 within it. Students then sit a special SQE preparation course known as the city consortium training programme (CCP), for which there is a maintenance grant of £20,000.
Course fees will be paid for the PGDL and the firm will provide a £10,000 maintenance grant while studying it. SQE examination fees will be paid for, as will the tuition fees for a four-month SQE preparation course.
Applications from current LPC students who wish to qualify via the LPC route will be accepted, but, from 2024–25, the firm will no longer pay the LPC costs.
The firm pays for the PGDL for non-law students and provides a £12,500 maintenance grant. All future trainees then study for an LLM legal practice (SQE1&2) with the University of Law, plus an SQE top up course. Fees are paid and you receive a maintenance grant of £17,000.
Kennedys structures its support differently from many other firms: you start working for the firm straight away as a graduate apprentice. This means you earn the trainee salary and gain qualifying work experience while also studying with the BPP for one day a week over 30 months. You then sit the SQE1 and SQE2. The SQE training is fully paid for, but non-law students must have completed a conversion course before applying.
Latham & Watkins LLP
Students will have their full course fees paid and receive a £20,000 maintenance grant for each course they undertake. Non-law students will complete a PGDL at BPP before joining other students in sitting an SQE preparation course, which also includes a syllabus tailored to the firm.
If you have already completed the PGDL and/or the SQE assessments, the firm will reimburse your fees.
Conversion course, LPC and SQE costs are paid for (or reimbursed if already completed) and students will be offered an £8,000 maintenance grant for each course.
The firm will cover the costs of the PGDL for non-law students and provide a £13,000 maintenance grant. Non-law and law graduates then sit a bespoke SQE training course, for which the fees are covered and a £17,000 maintenance grant is provided. Students who have undertaken the LPC will not have to attend the SQE preparation course.
Mayer Brown LLP
Fees are paid for the law conversion course and the SQE preparation course, with conversion course students receiving £12,500 and SQE students £17,000 in maintenance grants.
Mishcon de Reya
The firm supports students through both the LPC and SQE qualifying routes; it will pay the fees for the LPC and SQE preparation course and provide a £9,000 maintenance grant.
Moore Barlow LLP
The firm supports students both through the LPC and the SQE route, contributing £5,000 towards the cost of the LPC or the SQE2 preparation course and examination.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius UK LLP
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius UK LLP pays full fees for the PGDL and SQE preparation course, plus a £10,000 maintenance grant for each course.
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe (UK) LLP
The firm pays for future trainees to sit a tailored SQE preparation course and provides a maintenance grant of £1,000 per month.
Osborne Clarke LLP
The firm covers the full fees of both the PGDL and an SQE preparation course, along with the first sitting of the SQE examinations. In addition to this, it provides you with a maintenance grant of £10,000 for each course.
Fees are paid for the PGDL (for non-law students), a masters in legal practice (which prepares you for the SQE) and the SQE examinations. An additional £10,000 maintenance grant will be paid for each course.
Shearman & Sterling LLP
The firm sponsors you through the PGDL (if appropriate) and the SQE preparation course, paying a maintenance grant of £11,000 for each course.
Shoosmiths provides financial support towards the cost of your law postgraduate studies – for example, the PGDL or SQE LLM – but only discloses the amounts when making a training contract offer.
Sidley Austin LLP
Non-law students have the PGDL fees paid and receive a £13,000 maintenance grant; all future trainees will receive £17,000 as a maintenance grant for the SQE preparation course, as well as have their fees paid.
Simmons & Simmons
The firm covers the fees of law conversion course and provides a £9,000 grant for its Bristol trainees and £10,000 in London. It also pays the fees for the SQE preparation course and provides a maintenance grant of £10,000 for Bristol and £15,000 for London.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Skadden pays for the PGDL for non-law students, providing a £12,500 maintenance grant. It also pays for the SQE preparation course and examinations, providing a £15,000 grant.
Slaughter and May
Course fees are paid for the PGDL and students receive a £12,000 maintenance grant. Slaughter and May is part of the city consortium training programme (CCP), for which they pay the fees and provide a £20,000 maintenance grant.
The firm also offers an interest-free financial hardship loan of up to £3,000, while all new trainees can apply for an interest-free loan of up to £3,000 one month before starting their training contract.
The firm pays full fees for the GDL (for non-law students) and the SQE preparation course, with a £12,000 maintenance grant for each course.
Taylor Wessing covers the fees of the PGDL and SQE preparation course, providing a £12,500 maintenance grant for each.
The firm covers the cost of the law conversion cost and the SQE preparation course, while also providing maintenance grants of £13,500 and £20,000 respectively.
The firm supports students through the qualifying process differently than many other firms do, running a graduate solicitor apprenticeship, through which you gain your qualifying work experience and study for the SQE assessments while working at the firm. You receive a salary of £27,000 (£34,000 in London) during year one, with a rise in year two, plus benefits.
The firm still runs training contracts for current LPC students, but publishes no details on sponsorship and grants.
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
The firm fully covers the costs of the PGDL and SQE preparation course. It provides a maintenance grant of £20,000 for each year of study.
White & Case LLP
The firm pays the full fees of the PGDL and SQE preparation course and provides a £17,000 maintenance grant for each.
The firm pays the fees for the PGDL and the LLM in legal practice (SQE1 and SQE2 prep), but only provides a maintenance grant in exceptional circumstances.
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