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Can qualifying work experience for the SQE be completed overseas?

updated on 03 October 2023

Dear Oracle

I’m an international student and am wondering whether the legal work experience I complete outside of England and Wales can count towards the required two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE) needed for the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE)?

The Oracle replies

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The QWE element of the SQE has been designed to offer candidates flexibility when it comes to securing the experience required to qualify as a solicitor and can be completed in up to four organisations, including working as a paralegal or volunteering at a law centre. It doesn’t need to cover English and Welsh law, and can be completed before, during and/or after a candidate has completed SQE1 and SQE2.

As long as your work experience provides legal services and meets the requirements set out in the Statement of Solicitor Competence by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), you can complete it overseas, as well as in England and Wales.

Find out more about what counts as QWE via this Oracle.

Although the QWE you complete doesn’t need to cover English and Welsh law, you’ll need to have an understanding of it for the SQE assessments – this can be developed via an SQE preparation course, which the SRA is encouraging all SQE candidates to take to prepare themselves for the two-part SQE assessment.

Looking for an SQE preparation course? Read LawCareers.Net’s guide to SQE preparation courses for an overview of costs and course content.

How do I get QWE signed off and accredited?

If you decide to use work you’ve completed overseas to count towards your QWE, it’ll need to be signed off/confirmed by a solicitor of England and Wales or a compliance office for legal practice (ie, someone the SRA regulates). It’s not down to the SRA to decide whether your experience counts as QWE, but rather the person who’s confirming it and they must have direct experience of the work you’ve done.

Once your QWE has been signed off by the appropriate person, you can then register it – either in one go or in stages if you plan to build it up across multiple placements.

You can find out more about the process involved in getting your QWE accredited via this Oracle.

It’s worth bearing in mind that firms will continue to offer two-year training contracts for candidates looking to build up their QWE like this but, as set out above, it’s feasible for you to use the experience you’ve gained elsewhere and in other jurisdictions as part of your QWE.

Are you an international student? Find out more about qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales via this Oracle.

As a reminder, there are four requirements to qualify as a solicitor via the SQE. You must:

  • have a university degree or equivalent in any subject (law or non-law);
  • pass the SRA’s character and suitability assessment;
  • pass SQE1 and 2; and
  • have two years’ QWE.

Discover answers to other frequently asked questions regarding QWE in this LCN Says.