New regime in force in two weeks time
The Law Society of England and Wales has published guidance on qualifying work experience (QWE) under the new Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE) regime.
From 1 September, the SQE replaces the current route to solicitor qualification. It involves passing two national exams, SQE1 and SQE2, as well as two years of work experience within a law firm, in-house team, law centre or other legal service provider, in order to qualify as a solicitor.
In new guidance published yesterday for firms, the Law Society outlines the conditions to satisfy the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)’s two-year QWE requirement.
The guidance states that work undertaken will qualify as QWE so long as it involves providing legal services, and gives a candidate the opportunity to develop solicitor competencies, as outlined by the regulator.
But, the Law Society guidance goes on to say that even some “highly repetitive administrative or other tasks within an office environment” may form part of a “useful” period of SQE, so long as it is grounded in legal work.
The Law Society does add, however, that the aim of QWE is to provide a broad range of experience, so “this type of work should be balanced with opportunities to experience the wider work of a solicitor and develop competencies in other areas”.
The guidance also notes that QWE may help candidates to prepare for the second SQE exam, which assesses legal skills, therefore saving them time and money should they choose to complete it beforehand. While there are SQE2 prep courses available on the market covering the skills which will be examined, the Law Society stresses there is “no substitute” for real experience for the development of skills. “If candidates can develop these skills during QWE, they may be in a position to take shorter, less expensive SQE2 preparation courses,” it said.
The guidance also considers the best way for candidates to record and structure their QWE, given that it can be completed with up to four different legal employers and that there is no minimum prescribed length for each individual placement. It also specifies the qualification route for paralegals.
Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “We hope this guidance will be a useful tool for the profession as it looks to mark the biggest change to how aspiring solicitors can enter the profession for almost 30 years when the SQE launches in September.”
In December, the SRA issued guidance warning law firms not to take “unfair advantage” of trainees qualifying under the new regime and to give them more than just “repetitive administrative tasks”.