Oct 13, 2021

Written By Helena Kudiabor

Does pro bono work count as SQE Qualifying Work Experience?

Oct 13, 2021

Written By Helena Kudiabor

The replacement of the training contract requirements with Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) as part of the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam means that becoming a solicitor is now becoming more accessible. QWE can be any sort of legal work, regardless of whether it is paid or voluntary work.

What is Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)?

QWE was designed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in an effort to make the route to qualifying as a solicitor easier for all. In the past, training contracts were mandatory for aspiring solicitors, which made competition fierce. In 2019, around 16,000 students graduated with a law degree in England and Wales, however there are only about 6,000 training contracts available.

This means that just over 35% of students who apply for a training contract receive one. The new QWE requirements mean you can do two years of work experience at any legal enterprise, greatly reducing the demand for training contracts.

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What counts as QWE?

You need two years of full-time work experience to satisfy the QWE requirements. It can be any legal work: a placement, pro-bono work, paralegal work or an apprenticeship, but this list is not exhaustive. The work can be done before, during, or after the SQE, so you can count work you did previously or are currently doing.

It does not have to be at the same organisation or be done consecutively, so can be done in blocks at a variety of different places. Training contracts will remain available but they will no longer be compulsory, so you can still do one if you wish.

Are there any restrictions on QWE?

QWE must be done at a legal enterprise, so if you have a part time job working in hospitality this will not count. It also must be done at no more than four different legal enterprises. In addition, the work must add up to two years of full-time work. If you worked part-time, this should be converted.

How do I prove that I’ve completed my QWE?

Your QWE will be signed off by a qualified solicitor. It must be a solicitor (as opposed to a barrister or paralegal) who is qualified and licensed to practise in England and Wales. They will confirm that the work took place, that they have no concerns about your suitability for law, and that you have been able to practise some of the skills linked with Solicitor Competence.

Solicitor Competence is detailed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and includes a variety of skills: applying legal principles to factual issues, dealing with witnesses appropriately and complying with confidentiality and security.

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