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QWE Explained

Prospective candidates can find comprehensive overview about the SQE qualifying work experience for the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).This overview will include key details about the work experience requirements, types of qualifying work placements, how to record and reflect on your experiences, and tips for finding suitable opportunities.

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SQE Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)

If you are trying to qualify as a solicitor through the SQE route, you will need to have completed at least 2 years’ full time qualifying work experience (or “QWE”) before you can apply for admission. The QWE gives candidates more flexibility with regard to becoming a solicitor as there is a wider scope for what counts as “qualified” work experience as opposed to the traditional training contract route.

What is QWE?

Qualifying work experience is any work which involves providing legal services. The exact definition for legal services can be found here

An example of this may be working as a paralegal in your local law firm or being involved in legal work at the Citizens Advice Bureau. Examples of what would not count as QWE would be acting in a judicial capacity, working in a law-firm but in a non-legal department such as accounts or taking part in virtual work experience.

There are no requirements about when to undertake QWE. You can do it before, during or after taking your SQE assessments. You must register your QWE with the SRA. You must have completed your QWE before you apply for admission to the roll of solicitors.

It must be noted that QWE does not need to be undertaken continuously and can be gained in up to four organisations whether it be paid or volunteering work. This makes qualifying as a solicitor incredibly flexible and will mean that you will learn practical skills through QWE alongside those which you will develop during your SQE studies.

Requirements and Competencies

What is needed to meet QWE requirements?

All your QWE will need to be evidenced. To evidence this you will need to have your particular role confirmed by a solicitor of England and Wales or Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP). Another solicitor or COLP from another organisation which may not be the same organisation as the one you may have worked for, will also be applicable.

However, this solicitor (or COLP) will need to have reviewed any work you have completed and any feedback you would have received from a supervisor or from the organisation which you have worked for. Therefore, it is recommended that you keep a record (through a journal or through the template on the SRA website). It must be noted that a barrister of England and Wales is unable to confirm your QWE unless they are also a solicitor.

The evidence that will need to be reviewed and confirmed by a solicitor or COLP will be the length of work experience you have completed; details on whether your work involved providing legal services as well as having had the opportunity of developing some competences for solicitors (a minimum of two will be required). They will also need to confirm that there were no issues during your work experience which would put your character or suitability to be admitted as a solicitor in question.

How many competencies should be developed?

The SRA regulations do not require someone to develop all of the competencies for their experience to count as QWE. The minimum number needed is two. The SRA also does not prescribe which competencies an individual should be exposed to during their QWE.

Solicitors Regulatory Authority Competences

The SRA competencies can be found here.

The Statement of Solicitor Competence sets out what solicitors need to be able to do to perform their role effectively. It provides everyone with a clear indication of what they can expect from their solicitor. Aspiring solicitors are tested against this by the SQE.

The competences are listed under the following headings:

  • Ethics, professionalism and judgment
  • Technical legal practice
  • Working with other people
  • Managing themselves and their own work

Confirmation and Recording

How should you proceed if your QWE is not confirmed?

You may want to consider the following:

  • Collate any documentation available if the person or organisation has agreed to confirm your QWE in the past, making sure that you have shown them how you meet some or all of the competences.
  • Share guidance for solicitor’s and COLPs confirming QWE with the solicitor or COLP. This may help remove any misunderstanding around what is being confirmed and its purpose.
  • Set up a meeting with the solicitor or COLP or email them to talk through why they will not confirm your QWE.
  • Be prepared to rectify any issues that may be raised by the solicitor or COLP confirming your QWE. For example, providing more detailed evidence of how some or all of the competences were met.
  • You may want to consider whether another solicitor or COLP within your organisation can confirm your QWE.
  • If after your discussions, and doing any further actions asked for, they continue to refuse you can contact the SRA’ Professional Ethics Team.

Confirming QWE if no one at your organisation can do so

If no one at your current organisation can confirm your QWE, you may wish to claim retrospective QWE at previous places of employment or work experience.

Ensure that you have chosen the appropriate person to confirm your QWE. They must be a COLP or a solicitor. They do not have to hold a current practising certificate.

If no one at your organisation can confirm your QWE as a result of refusal, you should follow the steps listed above.

Your QWE has been confirmed. How should you register it with the SRA?

Your QWE only needs to be registered before applying to the roll of solicitors. It is not necessary to register it prior to sitting any SQE assessments. Registration is done through a mySRA account.

How to Record Your Qualifying Work Experience

You can apply when you have a completed and confirmed period of QWE – you must enter an end date. This date cannot be in the future or left blank.

As QWE can be gained in up to four organisations, you’ll need to complete a separate application for each period of QWE you register.

You will need to make your application by applying online in mySRA.

First, you will need to create an account. If you already have a mySRA account, you will need to log in.

Once logged in, select ‘Start new applications’ on the homepage. The application is called ‘Notify us of your qualifying work experience’.

QWE Structure and Flexibility

How should QWE be structured?

The SRA has produced a helpful template for recording your QWE. This can be downloaded here.

The organisation you are working with may also have a system in place for recording QWE, and you should check with your organisation in the first instance.

How flexible is QWE?

QWE is considered as more flexible than the traditional training contract route. You can record QWE in up to four organisations and there is no time limit for recording retrospective QWE.

Part-time QWE

You are required to complete a minimum of two years of full-time QWE or its equivalent to qualify via this route. The SRA has confirmed that they will not prescribe what full time (or equivalent) means. They expect QWE providers/employers to take a common-sense view of what they mean by full time.

In England and Wales, a full time worker usually works 35 hours per week. If you work part-time for half the number of these hours, you would need to have a minimum of four years of part-time QWE.

What type of QWE should I consider?

You could consider any type of QWE that involves providing legal services such as:

  • Working as a legal researcher
  • Work involved on a training contract
  • Legal work a voluntary or charitable organisation
  • Working in a law clinic
  • Placement during a law degree
  • Working as a paralegal at a law firm
  • A legal apprenticeship

International and Foreign Jurisdictions

Can QWE take place in a foreign jurisdiction?

QWE can be gained in England or Wales or overseas, and it does not need to cover English and Welsh law. A candidate will need knowledge of this to take the SQE assessment, but they do not need to gain this specifically through their work experience.

Do lawyers qualified abroad need to complete a period of QWE before requalifying?

If you are a lawyer undertaking the SQE exams and you are already qualified abroad, you will not need to complete QWE. However, you will still be expected to complete the SQE1 and SQE2 if you wish to enrol as a solicitor in England and Wales.

Timing and Access

When should QWE be completed?

There are no requirements about when to undertake QWE. You can do it before, during or after taking your SQE assessments. You must register your QWE with the SRA. You must have completed your QWE before you apply for admission to the roll of solicitors.

When can I start QWE?

You can start your QWE at any time convenient to your individual situation. Some candidates prefer to complete their SQE assessments prior to starting QWE. Other candidates prefer to complete their QWE prior to SQE assessments. It is also possible to complete your SQE assessments alongside QWE. It is anticipated by the SRA that many candidates will take the SQE2 assessment towards the end of their QWE.

You may have already completed QWE if you have worked in an organisation and provided legal services as part of your role. Look back at your career history or work experience history to consider whether this would qualify for QWE.

How do I access QWE?

Under the SQE you can complete your QWE in up to four organisations, and there is no minimum or maximum amount of time that you need to spend at each organisation, although it will need to accumulate to two years’ worth of full-time experience. You could choose to work for one organisation for the entire two year period or up to four organisations to increase your exposure to different areas of law.

Assessment and Purpose

How is QWE assessed?

QWE is not an assessment in the same manner as SQE1 and SQE2. You will however need to ensure that the work experience you intend on recording qualifies for QWE. You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does or did your job, role or experience involve providing legal services?
  • Does or did your job, role or experience involve real life legal services provision rather than stimulated legal services provision?
  • Have you been exposed to at least two competences in the Statement of Solicitor Competence?
  • Has or will your job, role or experience be carried out in no more than four organisations?
  • Has or will your job, role or experience be at least two years’ full time or equivalent?
  • Has or will your job, role or experience be confirmed by a solicitor or Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP)?

QWE must be confirmed by a solicitor of England and Wales or Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP). They do not have to hold a practising certificate.

It can also be a solicitor that does not work for same organisation as the candidate but is willing to confirm. They will need to have:

  • Reviewed their work during the relevant period of work experience.
  • Received feedback from the person(s) supervising their work.

What is the purpose of QWE?

The purpose of QWE is to give candidates the opportunity to:

  • Develop some or all the competencies outlined in the statement of solicitor competence.
  • Experience the work of a solicitor
  • Develop knowledge and skills in the areas of ethics and professional conduct.
  • Show future employers that they have gained a well-rounded and in-depth training experience.

The development of skills during QWE can also help candidates perform well in the SQE2 assessments.

Retrospective QWE

QWE can be claimed retrospectively for a past job, placement or volunteer role. There is no limit on how far back someone can claim it so long as it counts as QWE. A candidate would need to speak to their previous employer to discuss who could potentially confirm this experience in their organisation.

The SRA expects solicitors and COLPs to take reasonable and appropriate steps to confirm any backdated requests. However, there may be circumstances when they may not be able to confirm your experience such as no records are available.

More Information

For more information about obtaining SQE qualifying work experience please visit the SRA website and The Law Society website

SQE Exam Dates

To find out more information about the SQE exam dates:

Book SQE Exam

Anybody wanting to take the SQE exams needs to register with the SRA by creating an account.

To start the SRA registration process:

SQE Notes and SQE Practice Questions

To purchase SQE notes and SQE practice questions for SQE1 and SQE2: 

Disclaimer:

Please note that the information provided herein is subject to change at any time without prior notice. Changes may occur due to modifications in policies, regulations, or other factors that impact the SQE assessments and related processes. We recommend regularly checking the official Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) website and SRA SQE Updates for the most up-to-date information. We are not responsible for any discrepancies between the information contained herein and the latest updates provided by the SRA or other official sources.

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