SQewing social welfare law: The SQE and the future of social welfare law
Rehal-Wilde, E. (2022). SQewing social welfare law: The SQE and the future of social welfare law. European Network for Clinical Legal Education. Brescia, Italy 13 - 15 Jul 2022
What’s the point of diversifying the legal sector, if it means fewer people can get jobs and fewer clients can get legal advice?
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) introduced the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) in 2021 to create a new route to qualifying as a solicitor in England & Wales . The SQE was a way to standardise the qualification routes for solicitors, and deal with several barriers to entry, including cost and the difficulty of getting training contracts.
I argue that, whilst a more diverse legal sector is of course an important objective, the SQE will damage the social welfare sector, the potential solicitors who want to work in it, and the clients who need it. Whilst we may see a healthier mix of people qualifying, we will see the breadth of work being undertaken, and the number of people helped, shrink.
The SQE means that time spent undertaking pro bono work in student advice clinics, law centres or advice agencies can count towards candidates’ 2-year period of qualifying work experience. This has the potential to bolster the pro bono and CLE sectors, and possibly help further develop the pipeline from law school into social welfare law.
However, there are several potential drawback. Firstly, these students will require supervision from a sector that is already stretched to capacity. Solicitors with full caseloads of chargeable work will not be able to supervise effectively the candidates undertaking the qualifying work experience. As a result, the demand will not be able to meet the supply and an enormous opportunity to bolster the social welfare advice sector, in so doing strengthening the pipeline, may be lost.
So what is the role of the law school? Is it to prepare students for life in commercial practice? Is it to ensure the legal sector meets the needs of the society at large? Or is it to provide a space for students to learn, experiment, question, reflect and challenge?
|SQE, Solicitors Qualifying Exam, Social Welfare Law, Legal Aid, Social Justice, Pro Bono, Clinical Legal Education
|Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
|13 Jul 2022
|Publication process dates
|30 Aug 2022
|Web address (URL) of conference proceedings
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