‘I’ve completed QWE at various high street firms. Would a City firm be interested in me?’

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By Legal Cheek on


Qualification query

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one soon-to-be solicitor is concerned that City law firms will be put off by their unconventional route to qualification.

“Dear Legal Cheek.

I am a career changer (previously marketing) who is nearing qualification as a solicitor. I haven’t completed a training contract in the traditional sense, but rather undertaken spells with three law firms over a two year period. I am in the process of getting this recognised by the SRA. Briefly, I spent six months as a paralegal with a high street law firm before spending a further six months with a national law firm — again as a paralegal. The majority of this work was in property, both residential and some commercial. I then joined another high street firm where I am approaching the one year mark. Again this is property and I am basically doing the work of NQ solicitor. My question is whether a City law firm would be interested in taking me on as a NQ associate? Or would my unconventional journey put them off?”

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Your unconventional journey might put them off, yes. For one thing, they might wonder why you began your career with high street firms if what you really wanted was to practice in the city. If you have strong academics and can demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the firm and its clients then this may not be insurmountable.

A bigger problem is your background in residential real estate, of which there is little in the city. A West-End firm would be more interested in this type of experience (although by reputation they are more sniffy).

Your best bet might be to join a regional office of an international firm like ES or DLA, if your personal circumstances allow. A few years of this would improve your CV, show your enthusiasm for the work and market conditions may have improved by then.

Silver Circle Associate

To echo this, I trained at a high street firm mainly in residential property with an ambition to be a commercial property lawyer. I kept applying to regional/national law firms for commercial property NQ positions in the regions and was fortunate enough to get a role at a national firm. I then went to an international firm in the regions before making the move to an international firm in London. It is difficult, and possibly a long process but it is possible 🙂


I am in a similar position position as you. I have been working as a paralegal within residential property and have passed the SQE1 and due to sit SQE2 next year. I have seriously been considering whether I want to apply for TC again or qualify next year having completed the SQE2. Could you please let me know how you approached making moves to national firms? I feel like if I apply for a NQ role – I would struggle to show the level required for a NQ solicitor for anything else except for residential conveyancing? Any help would be really really appreciated please 🙂
Thank you.


I would say probably NOT. I know this because I work in a City (US) law firm and they ONLY take people from other City (US) law firms or Oxbridge backgrounds. The City law firms only poach people from other City law firms. If you’re not in one from the beginning of your career, it’s unlikely you will ever be accepted into a City law firm later on. I have lots of Solicitor friends working at national law firms who have been applying to City / international firms for years with no results. City law firms only take on the creme de la creme from other City law firms. Sorry to ruin your dreams. You need to be realistic about your legal career. If you work in non-City law firms, it’s likely you will have to remain working in non-City law firms. It’s the way things work. Remember the competition is fierce and incredible.

Another thing to remember is that City law firms don’t think highly of this new SQE route and they don’t believe the SQE + work experience elsewhere is enough to be working as a City law firm Solicitor. The established City law firms still want you to do a 2-year training contract where THEY train you in their firm on what you need to know to be working there.


This reads like it was written by a very early iteration of ChatGPT. Why do you capitalise every noun like you’re speaking German?


Must be a defined term. At the very least they should run a definition report for undefined terms.


NB for any students or career-changers following this note that the second paragraph is much better advice than the first

Kirkland NQ

Lol, please do apply to the ‘land, my Lambo needs a good wax job and you sound like just the person to do it.


No. Next question.

Aspiring trainee


I think you could still pursue a career at a City firm but most likely you will have to apply for an NQ role. I am not entirely sure if you would still have to apply to the classic firm TC since you already meet the QWE requirements but I think it is likely that you will have to go for the NQ role.

It’s still worth trying if it is your dream and the worst thing that could happen is that you actually get it. You will just need to explain very well why you decided to pursue a career as a City lawyer instead of continuing with a national firm.

High Street to City

I can’t speak to how the QWE will be viewed, but I trained at a high street firm (including a seat in residential conveyancing) and moved as an NQ to a regional office of ES for a couple of years before moving into another international firm in their London office. I think it would have been challenging to move straight into London from a high street firm (but not impossible). It really depends who is interviewing you/reviewing applications and how much snobbery they have around where you trained.

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