By Sarah Taylor, Programme Leader at Legal Futures Associate The College of Legal Practice
In this article, The College of Legal Practice’s Programme Leader, Sarah Taylor, shares her expertise on the considerations for Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) providers.
Law firms have traditionally been the guardians of the practical training which individuals need to complete before they can qualify as a solicitor. The wider training opportunities that now exist under the new QWE route mean that any organisation which provides legal services can offer the required workplace training. This article explores some of the key considerations for QWE providers.
Meeting the regulatory conditions
While it is the individual’s responsibility for meeting and documenting QWE requirements, the organisation providing QWE also has an important role to play.
To be classed as QWE, the placement must involve ‘experience of providing legal services which enables an individual to develop some or all of the competences set out in the statement of solicitor competence’. A good placement will therefore ensure that the individual carries out a range of work that exposes them to competences in relation to:
- Ethics, professionalism and judgement
- Technical legal practice
- Working with other people
Some administrative tasks can, provided they have a legal basis, qualify as QWE although exposure to this type of work should be limited and balanced with experience that enables competences in other areas to be developed.
There is no geographical limit on where QWE can be obtained.
Duration of work experience
Individuals must undertake the equivalent of two-years full time QWE which can be carried out in up to four different organisations. There are no prescribed limits on the minimum or maximum length of experience at any one organisation for the work to be counted as QWE. What matters is whether the placement is long enough to ensure the individual has exposure to some of the necessary competences.
Support & opportunities for reflection
There should be regular opportunities during the placement for the organisation and the individual on the pathway to qualification to review work, discuss performance and reflect on areas of strength and weakness. This could be done on an informal basis or as part of a more formal Continuing Professional Development Review process. The SRA have developed continuing competence resources which provide some suggested approaches for reflection.
Accurate record keeping and effective supervision
It is a good idea, at the start of any period of work experience, for the organisation and the individual to agree and document their respective expectations for the placement, including clear information about how the individual will be supervised – for example, having a named person who will be responsible for supervising and reviewing work. This information can be recorded in a support and supervision plan for the duration of the placement e.g. documenting the frequency of review meetings, the process for checking and providing feedback on the quality of work and making sure that the individual has access to an appropriate range of work.
In addition, it is important not only for the individual to record their QWE but also for the organisation to document the work that the individual has carried out and the competences they have developed. A review of this information will be needed when the QWE is confirmed. Some organisations may already have suitable systems in place to record information in the right way but, if not, the SRA has developed a template that can be used for record keeping.
Confirming the QWE is a regulatory obligation and all QWE must be confirmed by a solicitor (practising or non-practising) or compliance officer for legal practice (COLP), regulated by the SRA. They need to satisfy themselves that:
- The details and length of the work experience have been accurately recorded by the individual
- The work undertaken by the individual enabled them to meet at least some of the required competences and
- The period of work experience did not give rise to questions as to the individual’s character or suitability to be admitted as a solicitor.
It is important to note that they are not confirming whether an individual is competent to practise.
It is anticipated that the QWE will usually be confirmed by the individual’s day-to-day supervisor as they will have the best knowledge of the individual’s work experience.
However, confirmation can be provided by another solicitor or compliance officer (COLP) (whether from within or outside the organisation) as long as they are happy to confirm that the regulatory conditions for the QWE have been satisfied, including sufficient knowledge of the individual’s work completed.
For example, this could be an SRA-regulated solicitor working for a partner firm or organisation (either in the UK or elsewhere).
While there are important regulatory and other matters for organisations to consider when offering QWE to aspiring solicitors, the new framework also provides exciting opportunities for these organisations in terms of training, development and recruitment.
We hope this article was helpful, and if you have any more questions about the introduction of the QWE, please get in touch with Dr Giles Proctor by emailing email@example.com.
For those thinking about their QWE placements, the College has put together a series on the QWE that you can read here.