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updated on 21 March 2023
I’m qualifying via the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) and am confused about the qualifying work experience requirement (QWE) requirement. What work counts as QWE?
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The introduction of the SQE has naturally led to an onslaught of questions and some confusion for all those involved. LawCareers.Net is here to answer your queries and ensure you know what’s required of you to successfully qualify as a solicitor.
As a reminder, there are now four requirements to qualify as a solicitor via the SQE. You must:
Find out about The University of Law's SQE preparation courses via its website!
What is the QWE requirement?
As stated above, all candidates qualifying via the SQE must complete two years’ QWE. This element of the new qualification route is flexible in the sense that it can be completed in up to four organisations, rather than one law firm (ie, a formalised training contract), and it can be undertaken before, during and/or after completing the SQE1 and SQE2 exams.
Find out more about the difference between training contracts and QWE in this Oracle.
Many firms will continue to offer training contracts, which will make up a candidate’s two years’ QWE, so it’s important to check with your shortlisted firms to see how they’re planning to adopt the SQE and QWE.
Read our Meet the Recruiter profiles to find out how an individual firm is adapting the SQE.
What work counts as QWE?
QWE can be completed at a variety of organisations, including law firms, law centres and university pro bono clinics, and might include paid or voluntary experience.
The important thing to note is that to count as QWE, the work you’re completing must offer you the chance to develop:
The SRA has explained that candidates can use Section 12 of The Legal Services Act 2007 to determine whether “their roles involves delivering legal services”.
It’s not the SRA’s decision to confirm whether your work counts as QWE. Instead, this is determined by the solicitor or compliance officer for legal practice who’s signing off your QWE.
‘How do I get my QWE accredited? – find out with The Oracle.
The SRA has also confirmed that candidates can complete their QWE in England and Wales, as well as overseas.
However, if you’ve been accepted onto a firm’s training contract it’s likely they’ll want you to complete your two years’ QWE with them. Some firms might shorten the period of training you’re required to do with the firm if you have, for example, six months of confirmed QWE already, but this is very much dependent on the individual firm.
Alternatively, some firms are developing new ways of training their lawyers with the graduate solicitor apprenticeship. For example, Hill Dickinson LLP introduced its partnership with The University of Law for a new graduate solicitor apprenticeship that replaced the firm’s traditional trainee model last year. Most firms will continue to cover the cost of the SQE preparation and exam fees, and candidates will receive an apprentice salary.
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This means that Hill Dickinson graduate apprentices study and sit SQE1, while also completing a tailored, sector-focused ‘Hill Dickinson Plus’ programme aimed at preparing them for the firm’s practice groups. They then later join the firm for their QWE and prepare to sit SQE2.
So, in short, the QWE element of the SQE provides candidates with several options depending on your preferred route. You might gain your QWE on a training contract, via your apprenticeship, as a paralegal, volunteering at a law centre or working in a law clinic.
Wondering what the difference between a solicitor and graduate apprenticeship is? Check out this LCN Says.
Before you get started though, you must decide how you’d like to gain this experience (eg, one two-year training contract or via separate roles across up to four organisations). As long as the work you complete meets the requirements set out above, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be signed off as QWE.
For more information on solicitor apprenticeships, read LCN’s Law Apprenticeship Guide.