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qwe - qualifying work experience sqe

QWE – Qualifying Work Experience

Learn more about how you can meet the two years’ practical legal experience of the SQE

QWE – Qualifying Work Experience

Learn more about how you can meet the two years’ practical legal experience of the SQE

QWE can be completed prior to taking the SQE exams, at the time you are preparing for the assessments, or afterwards

qwe - qualifying work experience sqe

What is the Qualifying Work Experience?

Qualifying work experience (QWE) is the practical, legal experience requirement that all aspiring solicitors who are pursuing the SQE must complete. At least two years of full-time (or equivalent) QWE must be completed in order to satisfy the requirement. This means that part-time work with an organisation may also count as QWE.

Foreign qualified lawyers are exempt from QWE, as the SRA will recognise their existing qualifications and experience.

The pre-qualification QWE plays an important role in developing the competences of intending solicitors, assuring both the credibility of the SQE and the legal profession as a whole.

It is therefore one of the eligibility requirements that you must fulfill prior to becoming a solicitor.

The QWE exposes you to the realities of working as a solicitor and gives you the opportunity to practise your skills before being granted the title of a solicitor.

What counts towards QWE?

QWE replaces the period of recognised training of the phased-out LPC route and is designed to be more flexible than a training contract, as relevant work experiences can be pulled from four different places or be gained in one block of time.

It also allows for the added benefit of working part-time while studying for the SQE exams, if a candidate so chooses.

QWE can be obtained in England or Wales or overseas and does not need to cover English and Welsh law. Firms or other organisations do not need to register with the SRA, or be regulated by the SRA, to offer QWE.

It can be paid or unpaid work and could include periods of experience acquired in various roles or organisations. This may include time spent:

  • on a formal training contract
  • through working in a student law clinic
  • working as an apprentice
  • working as a paralegal
  • through placement as part of law degree programmes
  • working at a voluntary or charitable organisation such as Citizen Advice or a law centre

QWE can be undertaken face-to-face or using digital tools, such as video and virtual meetings. It must provide real-life legal service in an environment where you can develop the necessary competences to become a solicitor.

Hence, a simulated legal services environment will not count towards the QWE. Working in a finance department in a law firm or proofreading, for example, will not count.

It follows that your QWE must be meaningful. You need to make sure that any work you take on will provide you with the opportunity to develop the competences needed to practise as a solicitor.

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 or to have a mix of transaction and litigation experience.

While areas for work experience have broadened, securing opportunities is still competitive, so begin looking for roles as soon as possible. During the summer holiday season, many law firms often have placements available,  which typically can be found through workshops or open days, but other options remain year-round.

How is QWE assessed?

Law firms or other employers need not make any judgements about whether you are competent to be a solicitor. Instead, your competence will be tested via the SQE assessments.

However, your employer or the supervising solicitor (where QWE was not gained in a regulated entity) will need to sign a declaration which will be filed with the SRA that you have had the opportunity to develop some or all of the competences in the Assessments Specification through the required period of QWE.

Who can confirm QWE?

QWE must be signed off by a solicitor of England and Wales 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.

However, this is not a requirement, and where the solicitor works externally or not in your organisation, the confirming solicitor must have direct knowledge of your work. This could be achieved, for example, through reviewing a training diary or portfolio of work and receiving feedback from your immediate supervisor. The confirming solicitor, however, is not confirming your competency.

The solicitor who signs off on the QWE does not have to hold a practising certificate. It cannot be signed off by a barrister, or a foreign qualified lawyer, who is not a solicitor.

What should be confirmed on the QWE?

The solicitor who signs off on the QWE must confirm that:

  • the length of work experience was carried out
  • the work provided you with the opportunity to develop some or all of the prescribed competences for solicitors
  • no issues arose during the work experience that raise questions over your character and suitability to become a solicitor

In non-SRA regulated organisations, a solicitor who works there or one that is willing to confirm who has:

  • reviewed your work during the relevant period of work experience
  • received feedback from the person or persons supervising your work

QWE external confirming solicitor service

Some candidates may not have a person in their organisation who is able and willing to confirm their QWE. This could happen, for example, if you work in the UK or abroad in a firm, company or elsewhere, and there is no English solicitor in the workplace. It may also occur for other reasons which are beyond your control.

Alternatively, you may want to use the assistance of a competent person to ensure you complete your QWE form in accordance with the SRA requirements and avoid unnecessary delays in the approval process.

The SRA allows you to seek external assistance from a solicitor regulated by the SRA who can work with you and your supervisor to confirm that you meet the QWE requirements and complete your form properly. The process can be carried out online, following which you will be able to submit your QWE form, signed by the confirming solicitor, to the SRA for approval.

As the SRA may contact the confirming solicitor and ask questions about your QWE, it is vital that the confirming solicitor will be able to address any questions raised by the SRA during the approval process.

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

At what point should QWE be completed?

You can sit the SQE assessments prior to commencing, at the time you are undertaking your QWE, or afterwards. However, you must complete and register this period with the SRA before you can apply to become a solicitor.

You can ‘bank’ your relevant work experience even if this has been obtained before the commencement of the SQE. There are no time limits on when you can claim experience as QWE and how far back it can go. However, it must still comply with the statement of solicitor competence and be evidenced properly by a solicitor.

Even though there is no time limit for completing the QWE requirement, gaps in work, placement periods, or study can be questionable to employers, so the sooner you get the work done, the better.

You can also register any completed and confirmed QWE with the SRA if you wish to, for example, if you are due to leave a role shortly or because you want to use a past role as QWE.

You do not need, however, to register with the SRA before you start your QWE.


What happens when you complete your QWE?

Once you have finished at least two years of QWE (and had it confirmed by a solicitor), obtained your degree (or equivalent), passed SQE1 and SQE2, and satisfied the SRA character and suitability requirements, you can apply to the roll of solicitors.

After you have been admitted by the SRA and obtained your practising certificate, you can practise in any area of law and not necessarily in the practice area which was the focus of your QWE.

Qualifying Work Experience – answers to common questions

The SRA has recently held a webinar on the QWE, which offered answers to common queries such as:

  • What counts as QWE?
  • What signing off and confirming QWE means?
  • The latest guidance available for employers and candidates

Watch this webinar to learn more about the qualifying work experience requirement.

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