The reforms to the legal training route that will come into effect from the autumn of 2021 will change the way that graduates looking to qualify as a solicitor complete their required two years’ worth of work experience.
Currently, you’ll complete a 24-month placement generally known as a training contract, which is then recognised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority as your Period of Recognised Training. It’s considered to be the all-important stage where you put into practice the technical knowledge and practical skills you’ve acquired over your training, as you make your first steps in the legal profession.
Training contracts involve a paid role in a firm where you spend time in different departments - these placements are known as ‘seats’. It’s also possible to apply for an exemption from this requirement if you can show experience in other roles of developing the SRA’s Practice Skill Standards.
SQE Qualifying Work Experience explained
Once the new SQE is introduced, the Period of Recognised Training will be replaced by Qualifying Work Experience, which will encompass a range of legal placements, beyond the traditional training contract at a law firm. Now, you can undertake work experience as a paralegal, in a voluntary legal role in a charity, or at a law clinic.
You’ll no longer need to stay with the same employer for the duration of your work experience, as the new regulation allows you to split your time between up to four organisations.
What’s more, you don’t need to undertake the full 24 months consecutively, as you’ll have the flexibility to complete work experience at any point in your training. This means you can take into account any placements you’ve done while studying, as long as you can provide a reference for it from a qualified solicitor, and you’re able to detail the tasks that you’ve undertaken and how it’s helped you develop your legal skills.