If you’re thinking about the SQE and the Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) element it can be helpful for you to take stock of what your current skills background is and where you need to be. For example, are you currently in a legal role? Have worked in this role for years? Or are you looking at finding a role in the legal sector in the future?
QWE will form the work experience element of qualifying as a solicitor after 1 September 2021 when the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is introduced.
Let us remind ourselves of the basics of QWE:
Any experience of providing legal services that offers you the opportunity to develop some, or all, of the competences needed to practise as a solicitor can be classed as QWE
To qualify as a solicitor via the SQE, all candidates will have to complete at least two years full-time (or equivalent) QWE. (The SRA expects employers to take a common-sense view of what they mean by full-time.)
QWE can be paid or unpaid work
QWE can be obtained within a law firm, or any other organisation that provides legal services.
It can be gained in one block of time or in stages – so long as it is in no more than four organisations in total.
QWE can be obtained in England, Wales, or overseas.
QWE can be accrued before, during, or after candidates sit their SQE assessments.
A candidate’s QWE must be completed by the time they apply for admission.
QWE does not need to be carried out in one continuous two-year period, it can also be completed in stages.
It is clear from the above that this new route to qualification broadens the range of options available to aspiring solicitors, through the increased flexibility regarding both the setting and timing for QWE completion. This therefore decreases the reliance on traditional training contracts.
More information on QWE can be found on the SRA’s website.
Who can sign off QWE?
Qualifying Work Experience must be confirmed by a solicitor, though they do not need to hold a practising certificate to do so.
In a law firm, it could be the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) or another solicitor that signs off your QWE, as you will no longer need to have a training principal. However, it cannot be a barrister of England and Wales unless they are also a solicitor. It also cannot be a foreign qualified lawyer, again unless they are also a solicitor of England and Wales.
In organisations the SRA do not regulate, it will be a solicitor who works there, or one that is willing to confirm who has reviewed their work during the relevant period of work experience, or received feedback from the person(s) supervising their work.
In signing off the QWE, supervisors/employers are not being asked to confirm whether a candidate is competent to practice – the SQE will assess this through the SQE1 and SQE2. Rather, they are asked to confirm the details of the work experience that has been carried out, that this QWE provided the opportunity to develop some or all of the prescribed competences, and that no issues arose during the work experience that raised questions over the candidate’s character and suitability to be admitted as a solicitor.
Employers can read more about signing off QWE on the SRA’s website.
Where do I start with my own QWE?
Firstly, take a look at your CV – have you updated it recently? If you have an updated CV, not only will it be ready to go in the event that you see a job you would like to apply to in order to carry out your QWE, it also means that you can keep an accurate log of all the work experience you have completed in one document.
Top tip: Keep a ‘Master CV’ that you include details of all your work experience on. From there, you can tailor ‘Personalised CVs’ to suit the specific roles or activities you are applying for.
Once your CV is completed, you should work out how much time/relevant experience you have already accrued. When you are reviewing your CV and the time accumulated, run through the steps below for each experience or placement to check whether or not all this work experience would be accepted by the SRA:
- Are you able to confirm the length of work experience carried out?
- Did the work experience provide the opportunity to develop some or all of the prescribed competences for solicitors?
- Did any issues arise during the work experience that raise questions over your character and suitability to be admitted as a solicitor?
- How can your experience be evidenced? And by whom?
You will then be able to identify what gaps you have in terms of work experience, and be able to start to plan how to complete the remaining QWE requirement.
Support from Law Training Centre
The team at Law Training Centre is here to help and support you each step of the way as you work towards solicitor qualification.
When you enrol on our SQE1 Prep course, you will have access to a personal academic coach, who will be able to assist and advise you on how you can obtain the QWE you need.
Contact us today to start your qualification journey with Law Training Centre.