The introduction of the SQE from autumn 2021 will bring about wide-ranging changes to the ways you can qualify as a solicitor. The route will now be standardised regardless of an applicant’s academic background, meaning you’ll be taking the same qualifying exams as any other candidate, regardless of whether your degree is in law or another subject.
It also means that the definition of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) has been widened to include more than just the traditional training contracts which are currently the only route towards completing your legal training. You’ll be able to complete placements as a paralegal, in a voluntary legal role, or at a law clinic.
What’s more, you no longer have to complete the 24 months of work experience consecutively, so you can split your legal placements between different roles, at different times in your training - whether that’s before, after, or in between the time you take your SQE exams. It will be capped at four different employers, and can also include pro bono experience.
SQE Qualifying Work Experience requirements
Any legal work experience you’ve undertaken before graduating or before beginning your preparation towards SQE1 can count towards the two years, as long as it can be signed off by a recognised solicitor. The experience that you gain before the introduction of the SQE can also be taken into account, as long as it helps you to develop the ‘core competencies’ that the SRA have set out. You’ll also need to detail the ways in which the experience helped you develop your legal skills and describe the work you carried out.
You’ll still be able to qualify through training contracts though, and the current route by which law students apply for placements at law firms will still be in place - what’s more, many firms have agreements in place with providers of SQE preparation courses, meaning the assessment will be integrated into the training contract.