Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) is one of the components required to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales under the upcoming Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) route. QWE will consist of two years of full-time legal experience in up to four positions in any variety of different organisations and will be required in addition to passing the SQE1 and SQE2 exams.
The following answers to some frequently asked questions are designed to help you gain a better understanding of QWE as you prepare for the new approach to legal qualification.
What are the differences between Qualifying Work Experience and a training contract?
QWE under the new qualification system is more flexible than the traditional training contract route. In obtaining QWE, the aim is for aspiring lawyers to have the opportunity to develop the solicitor competencies required by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). It can include voluntary work and is not limited to work in one organisation. And, unlike a traditional training contract, QWE does not require experience in three different areas of law. The qualifying legal work experience can be accumulated over a maximum of four different positions and does not need to be done consecutively.
QWE can be undertaken before, during, or after the SQE1 and SQE2 exams. This means that you could already have, or be in the process of accumulating, your time for QWE since it is possible to claim it retrospectively. If you acquire the necessary two years’ worth of QWE before the introduction of the SQE in 2021, all that would remain for you to complete qualification is to pass the two-stage SQE. You can find out more about the exam details here.
The benefit of QWE is that you have more options for acquiring the necessary experience without the obstacle of trying to secure a training contract within a very competitive environment. More firms will likely offer a wider range of options for obtaining QWE outside of a traditional training contract.
What will count as QWE?
Qualifying work experience can include:
- volunteering in a law clinic
- working as a paralegal
- interning in a legal department of a company
- legal experience as part of a sandwich degree
- doing pro bono for legal organisations
- vacation schemes and training contracts
This is not an exhaustive list of options. If you are unsure as to whether your experience will be included, you may want to check in with your supervisor against the list of skills outlined here.
Who can approve QWE?
QWE has to be signed off by a qualified solicitor or a compliance officer, within or outside of the organisation, who has knowledge of your work. The purpose of this is not to assess the competence of the skills demonstrated, but rather ascertain the time of the experience, whether it developed any of the competencies outlined by the SRA, and that there are no character and suitability issues that arose.
What else should I do now?
If you are unsure whether you need to take the SQE, you can use the BARBRI SQE Calculator to find out. If this is a route open to you, it may be worth beginning your QWE now. This will significantly shorten the time required for you to complete the necessary steps to qualify under the SQE route once it is introduced.
To keep up with the latest news on the SQE, continue to visit our SQE New Updates.