Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)

Discover how to complete the practical work you need to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales

What is QWE?

Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) is a fundamental requirement for most aspiring solicitors pursuing qualification through the SQE pathway. This requirement is designed to ensure that you’ve the opportunity to develop the competences needed to practise as a solicitor in a professional environment.

As part of your journey to becoming a solicitor, you’re required to complete a minimum of two years of full-time QWE, or its part-time equivalent. You’ve the flexibility to undertake your QWE either before, during, or after completing your SQE assessments. However, it’s mandatory to complete this experience before applying to become a solicitor in England and Wales.

Foreign qualified lawyers are automatically exempt from the QWE requirement, as the SRA recognises their existing qualifications and professional experience.

What counts towards QWE?

You can complete your work experience either in the UK or abroad, and it doesn’t need to cover English and Welsh law. You don’t need to be in the same workplace for two years. Relevant work experiences can be pulled from four different places or be gained in one block of time.

The main aim of QWE is to give you real-life experience of providing legal service in an environment where you can develop the skills you need to become a solicitor. QWE can be paid or unpaid work and can include:

  • Formal legal training contracts
  • Placements that are part of law degrees
  • Working in a student law clinic
  • Working as a legal apprentice
  • Working as a paralegal
  • Volunteering at a law centre or charity like Citizen’s Advice Bureau

Your work experience can be in-person or remote. You can undertake either contentious or non-contentious work, or a combination of both. There is no requirement to work in a specified number of practice areas, and you don’t need to have a mix of transaction and litigation experience.

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How is QWE assessed?

QWE must be signed off by an English/Welsh solicitor, or a Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP). In most cases, the solicitor signing off on the work experience will work in the same organisation as you.

For most candidates, your supervisor or someone else at the organisation you worked at will sign a declaration that confirms you’ve spent time working with them and developed your legal skills. It doesn’t have to be a solicitor at your firm though; as long as they have direct knowledge of your work (e.g. by looking at a training diary), they can sign off your QWE.

The solicitor who signs off your QWE must confirm:

  • The length of your work experience
  • That the work gave you the chance to develop some or all of the competences needed to work as a solicitor
  • There were no issues that questioned your character and suitability to become a solicitor

Firms or other organisations do not need to register with the SRA, or be regulated by the SRA, to offer QWE.

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Confirming QWE if no one at your organisation can do so

Some people might not have a solicitor who can confirm their QWE. For example, this could happen if you work abroad with no English-qualified solicitors.

In this situation, you can work with a solicitor regulated by the SRA to confirm your QWE. They’ll spend some time learning about your QWE, which can be done by reviewing your training diary, a portfolio of work, or through feedback from your supervisor, etc.

Learn more about how you can get the assistance of an external confirming solicitor.

When should QWE be completed?

You can complete your QWE before, during or after your SQE assessment journey. You must, however, have finished your two years of QWE before applying to become a solicitor with the SRA.

Any experience you’ve gained before signing up for the SQE can be banked and counted towards QWE. There are no time limits on when you can claim experience as QWE and how far back it can go as long as it fits the SRA requirements. You don’t need to register with the SRA before you start your QWE.

Questions about QWE?

If you’d like to find out more, watch our video to get QWE-relevant advice and tips.

QWE is one part of the requirements you need to complete to qualify through the SQE process, alongside passing your SQE assessments.

Take a look at our resources to see how we’ve helped thousands of candidates qualify as solicitors through the QLTS (the previous route to qualification for foreign lawyers).

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Download our SQE brochureDownload
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