Do I need to have done SQE1 before starting Qualifying Work Experience?
One of the main benefits of the new SQE route to qualification is that you no longer need to do a training contract. Previously, you would need to have applied for training contracts two years before if you were studying law, or three years if you are a non-law student. Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) is extremely flexible, so it can be completed anytime before you apply for qualification as a solicitor.
When should I start my QWE?
There is no set date that you should start QWE, as you can do it before, during, or after your SQE exams. Some suggest that it’s better to do it before, as you will learn more about law and not have to juggle studying and working, but it really is your personal preference. You can even start gaining experience now and noting it down for when you begin studying for SQE.
You must, however, complete all your work experience by the time you apply to become a solicitor, but this can only be done after you pass both exams.
What counts as QWE?
Unlike the previous system which required a training contract to qualify, QWE includes any sort of legal work experience, paid or volunteered. Examples include: pro bono work, paralegal work, or working in a law clinic. Despite this, If you are still interested in doing a training contract, several law firms have stated that they will continue to offer them.
It must be varied and diverse and allow you to develop skills associated with Solicitor Competence. This consists of a list of skills that all solicitors should be able to demonstrate. It includes aspects such as recognising ethical issues, knowing when to seek expert advice and responding effectively to questions or differing arguments.
Are there any restrictions on QWE?
The only restrictions are that it must total two years of full time work and be done in no more than four separate organisations. It must also be signed off by a qualified solicitor (not barrister or paralegal) who can practise in England and Wales.
Whoever signs off your QWE confirms that the work happened, that you had the chance to develop some of the Solicitor Competency skills, and should have no concerns about whether the candidate should practice law. The new SQE was designed to be more flexible and accessible, and the limited restrictions surrounding QWE are just one example of this effort.