Part 1: What is QWE?
Practical training has long been a part of the route to qualifying as a solicitor. The idea is that real life experience of providing legal services is essential to acquire the necessary skills for practice. Such training has had various names, most recently ‘period of recognised training, before that ‘training contract, before that, ‘articles of clerkship’ and in its latest guise, ‘Qualifying work experience’ or QWE as it is widely known. Whatever it’s been called, it has been necessary to complete a period of practical training in order to satisfy the regulatory requirements for entry to the roll of solicitors.
QWE is a new type of practical training. In regulatory terms, the requirements are simply stated: it must be undertaken over a period equivalent to 2 years full time, it can be done in up to 4 institutions (there is no specified minimum or maximum duration at any one), and, crucially, to satisfy the regulator, it must be ‘experience of providing legal services that offers a candidate the opportunity to develop some or all of the competences needed to practice as a solicitor’.
The positive side of the simple requirements is that it offers a wide range of possibilities for experience in a workplace to amount to QWE – including paralegal work in a legal practice or in an in-house legal department and also for example, in the voluntary sector or in a university law clinic. However, there are two key factors that make any workplace experience count as QWE: first that the organisation offering the placement is involved in the delivery of legal services, and secondly, that what you do while you are there gives you the opportunity to ‘develop some or all of the competences needed to practice as a solicitor'.
The competencies are a reference to the SRA Statement of Solicitor Competence which has three parts:
- Statement of Legal Knowledge – this is the knowledge required at the point of qualification – demonstrated by passing SQE1
- Competences in relation to
a) Ethics, professionalism and judgement
b) Technical legal practice
c) Working with other people
d) Managing self and own work
- Threshold standards - there are 5 thresholds. Threshold 3 is the threshold standard you must meet at qualification - demonstrated by passing SQE2.
While the route to qualification does not require you to do any or all of your QWE before attempting SQE2, it is clear that the aim of QWE is to expose you to real life experiences in the workplace to prepare you for SQE2 assessments.
Bear in mind then, when looking for opportunities for experience, that if you want it to meet the criteria for QWE (and for it to be acceptable to the SRA when you ask to be entered on the Roll) your experience in the workplace must expose you to tasks/activities that develop your skills in Competences A-D at threshold standard 3. The bottom line is what you do when at an organisation is important.
Written by Kathryn Newton, Programme Leader, The College of Legal Practice.
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Last updated 9th November 2021