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Qualifying work experience

updated on 15 April 2024

Qualifying work experience (QWE) is one of the four requirements needed to qualify as a solicitor via the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE).

All candidates qualifying via the SQE must complete two years’ full-time or equivalent QWE, which can be undertaken before, during and/or after completing SQE1 and SQE2. QWE gives candidates the chance to experience real legal work and the opportunity to develop some or all of the competencies required to be a solicitor.

“We offer four weeks guaranteed QWE to our LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2) and MA Law (SQE1) students, to help them begin building up the practical experience they’ll need for life as a solicitor – and the feedback we've had from students has been fantastic. Our Legal Advice Clinics have covered many key areas of focus for trainee solicitors, including immigration and asylum to social security and matrimonial legal disputes. The flexible nature of QWE, and the ability to split this into four placements has been instrumental in allowing The University of Law to support students in this way.” Jim Moser, director of professional development at The University of Law

QWE was designed to offer more flexibility than the traditional training contract because it can be split over placements with up to four organisations. Candidates can decide to complete their QWE in one block, much like the two-year training contract, or split across different organisations. The traditional training contract route will remain popular but other forms of experience (eg, volunteering in a law centre or working as a paralegal) may also count towards the total experience needed to qualify.

However, it’s worth pointing out that many firms will want their future lawyers to complete the entirety of their two-year QWE with them. Therefore, in practice, the flexibility that the SQE is supposed to afford students might not be realised. It’s best to check what your shortlisted firms are doing in this regard so you’re aware of the best way to secure your QWE.

Find additional guidance on QWE, its requirements and what it means for you via the links below.