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27 August 2021

Student Focus: Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) | Part 3

Published on 27 August 2021

Part 3: What should you be looking for in QWE? 

Part 1 set out the aim of QWE and how your experience in the workplace must expose you to tasks/activities that develop your skills in Competences A-D at Threshold Standard 3. The key message is that what you do in your time at a workplace is important. In Part 2, we explain the importance of keeping a QWE record. Here in Part 3, we offer some ideas on questions to ask when considering a position for QWE.

Remember, you are looking for exposure to activities that will develop your skills towards meeting the Statement of Solicitor Competence at Threshold Standard 3. Spend some time reminding yourself of the Competencies and the Threshold Standards. Use a QWE record template (see Part 2) to audit your own skills before accepting any position and after completion. You are aiming to identify the competencies you have already been exposed to and whether a placement will offer exposure to others or not. In this way, you’ll remain focused and search out positions that round off your skills across all the competencies.  

Make sure the organisation offering the place is one offering legal services. Then prepare a list of questions to elicit information about how the experience will develop your competence to practice as a solicitor. Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of ideas: 

  • What exactly will I be doing? Try to probe for specific information e.g. following a partner? sitting in on meetings with clients? Going to court? Sitting in on negotiations? Reviewing evidence? Doing activities such as photocopying or paginating trial bundles may be expected of you while you are at the organisation but those activities will not count as QWE!

  • What support will be in place for me during my time at the organisation?

  • How will I be supervised? How often? What systems does the organisation have?

  • How will I be exposed to professionalism and ethical issues? Probe for examples

  • What are your procedures for if I want to raise concerns about the experience? Who to? Obviously, this is not a position you’d want to find yourself in but an answer to this question might tell you something about how the organisation handles complaints which in itself is relevant to the competencies.

  • Will QWE with you help me get a newly qualified (NQ) position with the organisation? Remember, there is no obligation on an organisation offering QWE to employ you as a NQ solicitor even if your time with them completes your requirements for qualifying but it might help you and the organisation to have a conversation about this at the outset to avoid any misunderstandings on either side.

It can be daunting to ask these sorts of questions, but doing so, not only gives you practice in interview situations, but it will help you navigate your way through the QWE element qualifying and the QWE roles you undertake will evidence your skills when applying for a NQ role.

This article is Part 3 of a three-part series on QWE. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 on our website.

Written by Kathryn Newton, Programme Leader, The College of Legal Practice.

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