The first sitting of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is now less than a year away. With that in mind the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have published further guidance setting out what their expectations are for qualifying work experience.
Gone is the prescriptive training contract and in its place is a system whereby candidates must gain two years’ qualifying work experience of providing legal services. This can now be in up to four organisations and must enable the candidate to gain some or all of the relevant competences and be signed off by a solicitor or Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP). Further details of the competencies can be found in the SRA’s “Statement of Solicitor Competence“.
The SRA have also provided additional guidance to help firms understand how they can meet the SRA’s expected standard when offering qualifying work experience (QWE). The additional can be found at on the SRA’s website in the “Meeting our standards for good qualifying work experience” guidance note whilst information about qualifying work experience is dealt with in “Qualifying work experience for employers“. This includes making sure candidates carry out a diverse and varied range of work, have opportunities to gain exposure to ethical issues, and that they are effectively supervised. There is also guidance on what we expect when qualifying work experience is signed off to be found in “Solicitors and Compliance Officers for Legal Practice (COLPs) confirming qualifying work experience“.
Finally, the SRA have also published further guidance for candidates entitled “Getting the best out of your qualifying work experience” to help them get the most out of their experience. This includes identifying at the start of any placement who is signing off the work and getting clarity around expectations of the role. It also highlights the need for opportunities for regular reflection and the importance of developing professionalism.
Julie Brannan, SRA Director of Education and Training, said:
“The new approach to gaining work experience has huge potential. It will offer firms much more flexibility around training and recruitment, as well as the chance to offer new opportunities for staff. It should also empower candidates. It should get rid of the training contract bottleneck, which leaves too many talented people with large LPC debts but unable to qualify.
“If these opportunities are to be realised it is important everyone understands our expectations and their responsibilities. Conversations between candidates and employers will be crucial – not only to make sure both are on the same page at the start of a placement, but to assess progress throughout.”
In addition to this guidance, the SRA have also published their “SQE information strategy – implementation, opportunities and evaluation” which sets out the approach to publishing information on the SQE, including when key information will be made available, as well as the approach to evaluation.
Ahead of the first SQE1 assessment in November 2021, key dates in 2021 include the launch of the SQE website in spring, which will bring together all the information on the assessment in one place. In the summer the SRA will also provide access to the SQE portal, where candidates will register for their SQE account allowing them to book exams and receive their results. Candidates will be able to apply for admission under SQE from 1 September 2021 when the new SQE regulations come into force.
In addition to publishing sample questions for SQE2 and the assessment regulations in November, the SRA have shared further information to help people understand how the SQE will operate and have published the policy on reasonable adjustments with a Q and A, information about the registration and booking process, and what will happen on the day of an SQE1 assessment.