One of the requirements of completing the SQE and fully qualifying as a solicitor is to have completed two years of legal work experience. You can carry this out at any point in your legal training, whether you’ve completed the assessment side of the qualification - as long as you’ve completed it by the time you apply for admission.
This is different to the structure currently in place, which requires candidates to complete a more formalised training contract at a law firm, for which places can be highly competitive. Under the new regulations, any professional experience that sees you provide legal services can count as a period of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE).
For the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the required two years can be completed consecutively or be split up into up to blocks at up to four different organisations. It should allow you to develop practical skills and knowledge that you’ll need to have as a solicitor.
What counts as Qualifying Work Experience?
QWE can include any time you’ve spent on a legal placement while doing your degree, working as a paralegal, in a law clinic, or in a voluntary role. Training contracts at law firms will remain a valid form of completing your work experience. You won’t be assessed on your performance by the SRA, and there will no longer be a set number of legal areas you are required to complete ‘seats’ in during a training contract, nor will there be requirements concerning the amount of contentious work you undertake.
I’ve already completed work experience. Will this count?
Although the SQE will only begin to be phased in by autumn 2021, any work experience that you’ve accrued beforehand can be counted towards your admission. This means that if you’re currently doing your undergraduate degree, the placements you undertake at this point will be taken into consideration, and the slate won’t be wiped clean when the SQE is brought in.
Bear in mind that the period of work experience must also be signed off by another solicitor, and include details on what the placement entailed and how it has helped to develop the prescribed competencies for solicitors as set out by the SRA.