The new, standardised, way of qualifying as a solicitor gives you more flexibility in the way you gain the necessary two years’ worth of work experience in order to be admitted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Under the current system, the training contract is a necessary step, which can be restrictive given the limited number of spaces on placements offered by law firms, which subsequently creates a backlog in the following years. Overall, there was a 2% success rate in applications for training contracts in 2020, demonstrating just how cut-throat the competition is for these places.
With the SQE reform, candidates can now undertake Qualifying Work Experience in different formats and in different forms, moving away from the rigidity of the training contract system. This is currently known as the Period of Recognised Training, and can only be completed at law firms.
Is the SQE more flexible than the Period of Recognised Training?
What’s more, you’ll be able to break up the time you spend on work experience into different blocks with up to four different organisations. These can be taken at different times during your legal training, as long as you have completed the full 24 months by the time you’re applying to be added to the roll of solicitors.
As a result, there’s no obligation to have completed SQE1 before starting your work experience. Any placement you’ve done before undertaking the exam - even before the SQE comes into effect from next autumn - will count towards your two years, as long as it is signed off by a qualified solicitor and shows that you’ve completed tasks which went towards developing your legal knowledge and practical skills.
Nevertheless, with many law firms adapting their training contracts to the new specifications, there will have been agreements with specific providers regarding preparation courses for the exam. It might be the case that the firm at which you’ll be undertaking your training contract requires you to pass the exam before joining on, so it’s best to check the agreement you have in place with them regarding this.