SQE Update – March 2021

In this bulletin find out about the confirmed SQE assessment timings, answers to common qualifying work experience queries, apprenticeships information for employers and our views on how the training market is developing. Plus, how you can get involved in our latest webinars.

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SQE assessment timings

Following extensive feedback from more than 200 stakeholders, we have published updated information on the SQE assessment timings.

In response to feedback, we have made some changes to the provisional timings we published. This has taken account of:

  • the range of stakeholder preferences
  • the desire for a consistent yearly assessment timetable
  • the call for additional sittings over time
  • the anticipated increase over time in candidates moving through SQE
  • the need to ensure the quality of the assessment.

Read our listings of the confirmed assessment timings.

#SQEready – what employers are doing

We recently launched a new campaign showcasing how law firms and other organisations are getting ready for the SQE. Our first case study is now live and features law firm Kennedys. Read more about their new SQE training programme.

If you are interested in getting involved in #SQEready, get in touch.

Qualifying work experience - answers to common queries

Our three most recent webinars on qualifying work experience (QWE) have attracted more than 3,000 viewers and more than 100 questions. Here we pick out some of the most common ones:

  • What does confirming QWE mean?

A solicitor or compliance officer for legal practice who we regulate needs to confirm QWE and:

  • the timescales for the work experience claimed
  • that it provided the opportunity to develop some or all of the prescribed competences for solicitors
  • that no suitability issues arose during the work experience that raise questions over whether a candidate should be admitted as a solicitor.

This is an important regulatory step and solicitors must be satisfied they are in a position through their own knowledge of the candidate, or their organisation’s processes, to confirm to us that it has been completed. They are not confirming whether a candidate is competent to practise or how good the QWE placement was. It also cannot be confirmed by a barrister or foreign qualified lawyer unless they are also a solicitor.

  • Does a candidate have to have exposure to all competencies for it to be QWE?
No but it's in a candidate’s interest to get as wide an experience as possible. To be considered QWE, it must be in roles where they are providing legal services and can develop some or all of the competences needed to practise as a solicitor. It must also total two years’ full time (or equivalent).

  • What cannot be claimed as QWE?

As long as it is there is an opportunity for exposure to some or all of the competences, it meets the time criteria and is confirmed by a solicitor it is likely to count as QWE. There are a couple of circumstances where experience is unlikely to count.

Firstly, if the somebody is doing an ongoing, single repetitive and limited task for the duration of a placement it is unlikely to be QWE. For example, proof reading for 24 months.

Secondly, simulated legal services will not count. It must involve doing real life legal work, so candidates get to experience how solicitors work in practice, with real clients.

  • Who can claim QWE?

Anyone can claim QWE so long as it meets the requirements. Provided it does, the confirming solicitor must sign it off. Candidates can count work experience they have already completed as QWE as there is no time limit on when it must take place.

We are opening the process for candidates to claim and register QWE in April 2021. This means that, for instance, current or previous employees could ask to have their QWE confirmed by a solicitor in your organisation.

  • Can candidates claim QWE from past roles?

Yes - candidates can claim it retrospectively, from the organisation where they worked. There is a responsibility on the candidate to provide evidence to the relevant solicitor that they had the opportunity to get exposure to some or all of the competences.

Solicitors and law firms may need to consider how they will handle this type of request after the registration of QWE opens in April. For instance, it would be sensible to think about keeping records in a way that would enable you to deal with requests for confirmation of QWE.

Find out more in our guidance

  • Does my organisation need to be authorised for QWE?

Your organisation does not need to be authorised with us to provide QWE, unlike those who provide periods of recognised training. You also do not need to have a training principal as any solicitor can confirm QWE.

More on qualifying work experience.

Apprenticeships information for employers

Did you know there is a solicitor apprenticeship? Any law firm or in-house legal team can offer one and there’s financial support and help available from the government. Hiring an apprentice can be good way to grow talent and develop your workforce. The Government have a wealth of information and useful case studies on their website to support employers and answer queries. Take a look at the Apprenticeship’s website

Latest SQE visuals

To help people easily get to grips with the elements of the SQE route and qualification, we have created infographics to help. The new graphics include requesting a reasonable adjustment when siting the SQE and solicitor apprentices. Take a look at the graphics.

SQE: we are on the right path

'It is in all our interests to support a diverse profession, where talented people from all backgrounds can become solicitors….It’s early days but the initial signs in the training market are positive.’ Read Julie Brannan's article in the Law Society Gazette on how the training market is developing and has potential to help open up the profession. Read the full article

SQE earn-as-you-learn training will open doors 

Read our latest article in Legal Futures on how the SQE is building on what works well in the current system, including the opportunities for more work-based learning and to enter the profession without studying law at university. Julie Brannan also reflects on how the SQE will open up the potential to earn-as-you learn, and blur the divide between work-based and classroom learning. Read the full article

Get involved

Qualifying work experience - what aspiring solicitors need to know (YouTube)

When: 12.30 on 15 March

Everyone looking to qualify through the SQE route, who isn't a qualified lawyer, will need to complete at least two years' work qualifying work experience (QWE). This free webinar offers the latest information on what you’ll need to do. Join us to find out about:

  • What counts as QWE – it’s not based on job titles but the work you do
  • How it fit into the new SQE route – do you need to do the assessments first
  • What getting QWE confirmed by a solicitor means
  • Recording QWE – how our template could help
  • Legal Practice Course graduates using QWE and SQE2 instead of a training contract
  • Answers to common questions.

Who: Richard Williams, Policy Manager and Benedict Fisher, Director of Communications
Book now

Apprenticeships: what law firms need to know (YouTube)

When: 12.30 on 19 April
Is your law firm interested in taking on an apprentice solicitor? We are running a free webinar giving practical advice and information on what it could mean for your firm and how to go about it. Alongside the SRA, hear from the Government’s Education and Skills Agency and learn about:

  • the practicalities of taking on an apprentice including who and how to apply
  • the financial support and help available from the government
  • how hiring an apprentice can benefit your business
  • where the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination fits in with apprenticeships.

Who: Karen Bailey, Bailey Wright & Co Solicitors, Julie Brannan, SRA and Richard Mole, Education and Skills Funding Agency
Book now

On demand webinars 

Qualifying work experience – what law firms need to know

This webinar offers law firms who currently offer training, and those who don’t, the latest information on what qualifying work experience (QWE) is and what it means for your firm. Learn more about what counts as QWE, where QWE might sit in qualification and solicitors confirming QWE.
Watch now

Solicitor apprenticeships - is it for you?

Solicitor apprenticeships offer a way to 'earn as you learn' and the cost of training and exams is also covered. This webinar will give you the facts on what you need to do qualify through the apprenticeship route. You can also hear directly from apprentices about their experience of working in both large and small law firms, as well as in-house legal teams.
Watch now

Other ways to get involved

Join our LinkedIn reference group. It will help you keep up to date with the latest SQE developments and opportunities to get involved in our surveys and events.

If you are thinking about taking the SQE, or know someone who is, please follow Career in Law for the latest information aimed at aspiring solicitors.

If you have any questions, or want more information on how you can get involved, contact us.


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Find out more about the SQE.