For many Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) students, accessing the required qualifying work experience (QWE) can be challenging. However, an innovative new service from Law Training Centre is helping to address this challenge.
What is qualifying work experience?
Under the Solicitor Regulation Authority’s (SRA) SQE route to becoming a solicitor, all students must complete QWE. This must be for a period of a minimum of two years in total but can be obtained at up to four different organisations for different lengths of time.
There are no requirements about when to undertake QWE. It can be before, during or after your assessments, but you must register it with the SRA. Once completed it needs to be signed off by the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) or a qualified solicitor within your place of work. However, a nominated solicitor from outside the organisation with direct knowledge of your work could also do this.
What pressures are students under?
Whilst QWE is easier to get than the old training contracts, which required students to work for a legal provider for two years (which was significantly more restrictive), most opportunities are still likely to be standard Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm roles.
For many of our learners, the reason they undertake our online courses is their flexibility and the fact they are a much cheaper alternative to the traditional route to law. For many, that need for flexibility can be challenging when it comes to gaining the required amount of QWE.
Some students also find it difficult to get the QWE signed off by their employer. As the SQE is quite new, many employers still don’t really understand what it is and may be unsure of what is suitable to sign off. In some cases, the employer may have gone out of business, or it might just be that the employer doesn’t have a solicitor on staff to sign it off.
Unfortunately, there are also some employers who may not be able to sign off due to a variety of factors, or simply that a company does not have a solicitor on staff. The SRA is aware of this and has a system in place to support candidates to explore alternative options such as allowing the QWE sign-off to be outsourced to organisations like Access Law Clinic.
How can Access Law Clinic help?
Access Law Clinic is a new service from Law Training Centre that supports both students and the public. We are founded on the principles of providing access to justice for those who cannot afford traditional legal fees and to providing access to legal experience for those who cannot follow the traditional route to qualification as a lawyer.
Through this innovative service we are able to give law students valuable pro-bono work experience opportunities with practising solicitors by assisting those that may otherwise be unable to access critical legal advice and guidance. At the same time, we can approve qualifying work experience (QWE) for SQE candidates who have previously faced barriers in getting this approved through former or current employers.
Because Access Law Clinic is online and does not provide in-person support, the cases can be dealt with in a more flexible way. Like studying at Law Training Centre, students can work on an Access Law Clinic case in the evening or weekend when they are free, gain the QWE hours they need, and be able to fit this in around their work life.
If a student is having difficulties getting their QWE signed off, or if an employer is unable to do so, then Access Law Clinic can also sign off QWE.
What does the work experience entail?
Students of the Law Training Centre can become an online Law Clinic Associate (LCA) and gain some, or all, of their qualifying work experience with us. They will work on a range of different legal cases and be able to provide supervised legal services to develop some or all of the SRA competences required.
Not only will they practise law, but LCA’s will have the opportunity to develop their legal research, legal writing and drafting, client interview and advocacy skills. LCAs will also have access to a wide range of enhanced training workshops and resources.
For more information about Access Law Clinic – gaining QWE or getting it signed off, visit the website.