Created with BPP University

My journey to qualification without a training contract

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By Anuja Venkataramani on

Chloe Hayes, a trainee solicitor in BPP’s Social Impact Team, discusses her pioneering QWE route to becoming a solicitor

“I’m originally from South Africa and began my law degree there. After about three months, I realised I wanted to move countries, so I started again at Durham University, pursuing an LLB,” explains Chloe Hayes. Having successfully completed the SQE1 and SQE2 exams last year, she is now three and a half months into her role as a trainee solicitor at the housing clinic in BPP’s Social Impact Team—and loving it.

“Two months in, my supervisor told me we had a case in the county court and that I should represent the client — submissions, cross-examinations, the works,” she tells Legal Cheek Careers. She enjoys this fast-paced, hit-the-ground-running aspect of the clinic. “There is so much demand for our work, representing clients from lower socio-economic backgrounds who would otherwise be unable to access justice. Being thrown into the deep end has its advantages,” Hayes says. She notes that her supervising solicitor is incredibly supportive, but having to handle things independently after the initial guidance has been instrumental in demystifying the court process. “It’s not as scary as I once thought, and I now love litigation!” she says.


Hayes is one of five BPP alumni who are employed each year in paid six-month QWE placements in the university’s Social Impact Team. Recounting how she came to spend time in the housing clinic, Hayes explains that she initially volunteered at BPP’s Legal Advice Clinic while studying for the SQE, always being drawn to social welfare law and closing the access to justice gap that so many people, but especially women, face. Her current work perfectly complements these aspirations. “We only advise tenants, usually against councils — never landlords. Our clients are usually from low socio-economic backgrounds, who do not qualify for legal aid mostly due to government cuts so they come to us to close that gap, and our services are completely free,” explains Hayes. In addition to the housing clinic, there are also a family clinic, an enterprise clinic, a consumer clinic, and a welfare clinic.

“As for a typical day, it varies a lot,” Hayes tells us. A client interview, followed by research on the issue and sending out an advice letter, are typical tasks. She also assists clients in litigation, sometimes representing them before the county court and tribunals. “This involves a lot of statements of case, submissions, replies, witness statements, and evidence collection—it’s brilliant experience,” she notes enthusiastically.

APPLY NOW for this Thursday’s virtual event: How to get Qualifying Work Experience — with BPP University Law School

Hayes also flags a pro bono project called Streetlaw, where BPP’s trainee lawyers visit schools, women’s refuge centres, homeless shelters, and many other community groups to educate on certain aspects of the law. They also visit prisons to educate prison communities on matters such as probation and how a criminal record might legally affect their lives after prison. . “Just last week, we did a ‘Goldilocks session’ with a class of 10-year-olds, teaching them about the criminal justice system by putting Goldilocks on trial for burglary and criminal damage — it was fabulous,” she recounts, smiling.

We then asked Hayes what the most rewarding aspect of her time in the housing clinic has been so far. “Representing a client for the first time in the county court, definitely.  Naturally, it’s very daunting, but the judge was so nice, and you realise that it’s not about having a fight. Rather, the end goal is to find an equitable solution while still advocating for your client’s needs,” Hayes points out.

Got questions about the SQE? Find all the answers on the SQE Hub’s FAQ page

On the flip side, the most challenging aspect of her time at the clinic has been time management. “The clinic is so oversubscribed because there are so many people who need the help we offer. Initially, I tried to do as much work as possible, and it took me a  few weeks to figure out how to communicate well with my supervisor.   At first, I struggled to let him know when I was snowed under. But once I communicated that, he was very understanding and worked with me to plan out upcoming deadlines,” she says. Hayes notes that as trainees, there is often an eagerness to please supervisors by taking everything on, but stepping back and communicating when you’re overwhelmed is crucial and very normal.

Having figured out how communication and time management go hand-in-hand, what’s been Hayes’ biggest takeaway from the clinic during her first three months? “This is going to sound so cheesy,” she cautions, laughing, “but it’s that I’ve realised that I was born to do this job!” She explains that a key worry she had was starting to train as a solicitor and realising that the role wasn’t quite what she expected or enjoyed, after having invested significant amounts of time, money and effort into completing a degree and the SQE. “Luckily for me, that hasn’t been the case. Even on the bad days, I really do feel that I love this job,” she says.

Find out more about studying for the SQE at BPP University Law School

Hayes is now just over halfway through her six-month period of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) in BPP’s Social Impact Team. Under the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) regime, aspiring lawyers are able to qualify by accruing two years’ worth of QWE in up to four different organisations. This introduces greater flexibility into the qualification process by opening up additional avenues alongside the traditional training contract route. Hayes plans to seek further opportunities in a range of practice areas following completion of her QWE in the housing clinic, to stay on track to qualify in 2026.

To finish up our conversation, Hayes offers some practical tips to stay on top of recording QWE. “Keep a weekly record of what you do – you’ll need two years’ worth of records when you apply to be admitted to the roll of solicitors. Even on a weekly basis it can sometimes be difficult to remember every task you’ve worked on if you haven’t actually written it down, and you will be working on a lot– so really make sure you’re diligent about recording, because if not, you’d be shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to getting the QWE signed off at the end of the two-year period,” she advises.

Chloe Hayes will be speaking at ‘How to get Qualifying Work Experience — with BPP University Law School’, a virtual student event taking place this Thursday (11 July). Apply now to attend.

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