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Rules on work experience set out ahead of SQE debut

By Jemma Slingo >>

(17 August 2021)

The Law Society has published extensive guidance for firms ahead of the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) next month, saying good work experience could offset the need for expensive courses.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s SQE will largely replace the current qualification route from 1 September. Under the SQE, candidates must complete two years of qualifying work experience in order to become a solicitor, as well as passing two sets of exams: SQE1 and SQE2.

In guidance published today, the Law Society said that candidates must consider carefully what they want to get out of their work experience and how they can best show a ‘real commitment’ to the profession. It added that even some highly repetitive administrative or other tasks within an office environment may form part of a useful period of qualifying work experience, so long as it is grounded in legal work.

‘However, the aim of qualifying work experience is to provide a broad range of experience across the competencies, so this type of work should be balanced with opportunities to experience the wider work of a solicitor and develop competencies in other areas.’

Various preparation courses have been designed to prepare students for the SQE2 assessment. However, the Society said there is ‘no substitute’ for real experience for the development of skills. ‘If candidates can develop these skills during qualifying work experience, they may be in a position to take shorter, less expensive SQE2 preparation courses,’ it said.

The guidance also covers how work experience should be recorded and structured, and the qualification route for paralegals.

Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: ‘We hope this guidance will be a useful tool for the profession as it looks to mark the biggest change to how aspiring solicitors can enter the profession for almost 30 years when the SQE launches in September.’

She added that qualifying work experience ‘has the potential to be far more flexible than the current arrangements’, with candidates able to undertake up to four placements with different firms to build the required two years’ experience.

Last month, the Society said providers of training contracts and qualifying work experience should pay a minimum salary of £20,217 for aspiring solicitors outside London and £22,794 for those in the capital.

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)