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Husnara Begum, editor & careers consultant

The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) route to enter the legal profession has made the process of gaining two years’ compulsory on-the-job training (officially known as qualifying work experience or QWE) more flexible than ever before.

As well as via a training contract, QWE can be gained in up to four different organisations and includes paralegalling, placement years on a sandwich degree and even volunteering at a law clinic. What’s more, QWE can be gained retrospectively.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) requires QWE completed by all hopefuls to be confirmed by a solicitor admitted in England & Wales or compliance officer (officially known as a COLP). The individual confirming your QWE needn’t be your line manager / supervisor or indeed working within the same organisation.

Confused? Fear not. I’ve set out below my top tips for getting your QWE recorded and confirmed.

  • If you’re already in a suitable role, discuss the QWE confirmation process in good time with your employer. Getting your current line manager or supervisor on side will make the process more seamless and in turn significantly less stressful. If your line manager is an England & Wales qualified solicitor, the confirmation process is likely to be relatively straightforward as they should have already seen your work first-hand. If not, they will have to review your work and obtain relevant feedback from your supervisor. It’s worth noting here that the individual confirming your QWE is not expected to grade your work or offer their opinion on your ‘level’ of competence. In other words, they are not testing or judging you or offering an opinion on whether you are suitable for admission to the solicitors’ roll. That is the aim of Part Two of the SQE assessments.
  • Check if a new role counts as QWE and never assume. If you’re in the process of securing a new legal job, it’s vitally important to discuss with your future employer whether the position they are looking to fill counts as QWE as this is unlikely to be mentioned in the job advert. Health warning: such a discussion should be handled with caution because some employers may feel less inclined to say yes, particularly as there are some hiring managers out there who are yet to familiarise themselves on the SQE route to training as a solicitor. As such, common sense should dictate at what point in the application process you ask the question.
  • Keep a training record and update it on an ongoing basis. If you or your employer are unsure what to include in your training record, I’d recommend using the SRA training template. The evidence you record in this template could be physical examples of your work (eg a portfolio) or a description of how you felt you satisfied the competences as defined by the SRA. I also recommend talking regularly to the solicitor or COLP confirming your experience, ensuring you are both clear on how you have evidenced the competences. This can be done via 121s or appraisals, for example.
  • If leaving an organisation – get your QWE confirmed before heading for the exit. It will be infinitely easier to get your QWE confirmed whilst you are still employed than after you’ve exited an organisation. Put simply, you will have ready access to your work and other relevant records as supporting evidence to run by the confirming solicitor.
  • Have an end date ready to include in your SRA application. It is only possible to make an application to the SRA once you have completed and confirmed your period of QWE. Note: you will also need to complete a separate application for each block of QWE you register. Note the last day of your period of QWE cannot be in the future or left blank. If you have been in your current role for more than two years, I recommend speaking to the solicitor confirming your QWE to agree the best date range to use. Once you’ve created an account with the SRA, other information required to register your QWE comprises the following: details of your organisation; work experience type (eg paid or voluntary); details of your placement; and the name and SRA number of the solicitor or COLP confirming your QWE.
  • Avoid the box ticking exercise and stay laser focused on employability. Though it is tempting to secure QWE placements as quickly as possible and to treat the confirmation process as a box ticking exercise keep an eye on the end game. In other words, what value is a role adding to your CV in the event you need to move on following the completion of your QWE placement and need to market yourself as a newly qualified solicitor to future employers?

 

Finally, if you’re having difficulties getting your QWE confirmed, including an employer refusing to co-operate click here for further guidance from the SRA.

Husnara Begum, careers consultant and owner of CheekyLittleCareers

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