Five tips to support your SQE candidates with qualifying work experience

With the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam, legal employers are adjusting to new qualifying work experience routes. Jonathan Worrell, business development director at BARBRI and Kathryn Jack, head of employer and stakeholder engagement at Hook Tangaza, share five tips.

Jonathan Worrell |Kathryn Jack|

As the legal profession welcomes the next generation of solicitors via the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), employers are adapting to new qualifying work experience (QWE) pathways for their teams. So what do you need to know? Here are five tips from BARBRI SQE Prep and LawQWE:

1. Confirming, not authorising

As an employer, you confirm a candidate’s legal work experience, validating that they worked under your supervision. You are not responsible for authorising them to become qualified. From the SRA’s perspective, competency is demonstrated through successfully passing both parts of the SQE.

Remember, you confirm their QWE, not sign off on their qualification.

2. The candidate is responsible for gathering and submitting QWE evidence

You should not be running around gathering information, this is the role of the candidate. There are various helpful guides and templates available to make the process easier, including: LawQWE Organising QWE | LawQWE

3. To confirm QWE, the candidate’s supervisor must be a qualified solicitor or COLP

You must always review and consider if a current or former employee wants their QWE confirmed. If you do not have an eligible confirmer within the organisation, you can suggest an external confirmer’s service.

Ensure you inform the employee’s supervisor of the external confirmer’s verification process.

4. It is not mandatory to provide a two-year full-time placement to make it QWE-eligible

Whilst training contracts remain QWE-eligible, you also have the flexibility to offer more versatile posts. Whether it is part-time, full-time, voluntary, paid, long or short, any time and any hours will count towards the overall two-year full-time requirement.

For instance, if you have to fill a FFixed-TTerm CContract position for 6-12 months, these job postings are an excellent opportunity to show your commitment to supporting the next generation of solicitors by advertising as ‘QWE-eligible’ or ‘confirmed QWE guarantee.’

5. Develop your own QWE playbook

The SRA has set the rules, but it is possible to create your own QWE playbook to go the extra mile and stay competitive locally. This will help you attract the best future talent for your firm.

One approach could be to design clear entry routes and progression maps that align with your firm’s current structure, L&D programmes, and the SQE exam timetable. For instance, you can set out what an entry-level paralegal needs to do before they can apply for an NQ position.

6. Bonus tip

It’s important to manage expectations upfront when it comes to confirming QWE and whether you are able to take someone on as a nNewly qQualified after completing SQE. It’s best to be clear and transparent to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings.

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