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The Oracle

What counts as QWE?

updated on 29 March 2022

Dear Oracle

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?

The Oracle replies

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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 is 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:

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

Find out about The University of Law's SQE preparation courses via their website!

What is the QWE requirement?

As stated above, all candidates qualifying via the SQE will need to 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.

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.

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 legal skills and knowledge required to practise as a solicitor; or
  • some or all of the competencies on the SRA’s statement of solicitor competence (because most of the competencies listed will be required to deliver legal services).

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 is 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 is 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 is likely they will 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 recently announced it’s partnering with The University of Law to deliver a brand-new graduate solicitor apprenticeship that will replace the firm’s traditional trainee model.

Interested in studying at The University of Law? Find out whether they have an open day coming up!

This means that future Hill Dickinson graduate apprenticeships will 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 will then join the firm in December 2022, where they will prepare to sit SQE2 during their QWE.

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.

Before you get started though, you must decide how you would 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.