Flex Legal's SQE Journal: A Supervisor’s Perspective
As you’ve probably seen, we launched our Flex Legal SQE Journal in May and since then, we’ve had well over 25,000 qualifying work experience (QWE) hours recorded by SQE candidates. The Flex Legal SQE Journal is the first digital record of QWE and as you can probably tell, we are really excited about it! To show you what a great tool it can be for QWE supervisors, rather than just SQE candidates, we caught up with Luana Gomes Medalha and asked her a few questions about our journal. She gave some great insight into how the SQE Journal has benefitted her in her supervisory position.
Luana is a supervisor at The National Community Law Project, an organisation which aims to provide the community with free legal support. In her role as a supervisor, Luana manages teams of volunteers, and monitors their SQE Journal entries, to ensure that the organisation’s clients receive the best possible support. As Luana is not yet a qualified solicitor, she only approves SQE candidate journal entries. To confirm a journal, which is a collection of journal entries relating to one organisation, the supervisor must be a solicitor, qualified in England and Wales.
Is the SQE Route better than the LPC/Training Contract Route?Luana expressed the view that the SQE is a ‘positive change from the LPC/Training Contract route as it allows more diversity and opportunity’. This, she believes, is because the SQE is likely to be a more cost-effective option. Whilst the financial benefits of the SQE have been contested, there is certainly a significant difference in the minimum costs for each route. The SQE examinations cost around £4,000, whereas the average cost for the LPC is £17,000. SQE preparatory course fees do vary significantly but with BARBRI offering both SQE1 and SQE2 prep courses for a total of around £6,000, the SQE is still likely to be substantially cheaper than the traditional route to qualification.
Luana also made the point that the SQE ‘will help the community as many people who choose to go down the SQE route will likely be volunteering at legal support charities to complete their experience time’. As part of the SQE, candidates are required to complete two years full-time (or equivalent) QWE. This can be completed at up to four organisations and can include paid or volunteer work. This flexibility is fantastic as it means SQE candidates have the opportunity to get involved in pro bono work, an area that is in desperate need of additional support.
What are the main benefits of the Flex Legal Journal for QWE supervisors?Luana explained that one of the main benefits of the Flex Legal Journal is the ‘coordination’ that it creates. The Journal allows her to be ‘more time efficient and organised’, which in turn enables her to ‘better manage \[her\] team’. This is because the Journal shows ‘the progress of each volunteer’, whilst also providing her with an understanding of the skills that each volunteer has, making assignment to projects easier.
At this point, it may be useful to explain how the Flex Legal Journal helps supervisors’ organisation and coordination with their candidates. As you can see from the image above, the Flex Legal Journal holds all journal entries submitted to a supervisor in one location. From here, supervisors can read, approve and reject candidates’ journal entries. The Journal also allows supervisors to track the status of each journal entry, as well as the journal it belongs to, on this page. So, as Luana said, the Flex Legal Journal fosters considerable coordination between SQE supervisors and their candidates by providing a single location for supervisors to fulfil most of their responsibilities.
How useful is the Flex Legal Journal for SQE candidates?Luana believes the Journal ‘to be extremely useful for the candidates, as often when asking about experience, a lot of individuals cannot recall all the details about what they have done. The Flex Legal Journal allows candidates to go back and look through what they have done and remind themselves of how they completed the task and what it taught them’. So, the Journal can be highly beneficial for keeping track of tasks completed over the 2 years of QWE.
The Journal is, however, not only useful for remembering past events. Luana expressed the view that the Flex Legal Journal allows SQE candidates to identify areas in which they lack experience and ‘plan their future participation in order to improve on \[these\] key areas’. This means the Journal helps SQE candidates to take control of their future work experience and ensure they get the most out of their QWE.
Luana also highlighted the comments feature of the Flex Legal Journal and explained that this ‘allows the candidates to improve on the skills that they have learned’. As part of the journal entry approval process, supervisors are encouraged to leave a comment; this may be specific suggestions on how to improve the entry or words of general encouragement, such as ‘Great job!’. So, the comment feature provides an opportunity for meaningful interaction between a supervisor and candidate, ensuring the final journal entry is a collaboration that both parties are happy with. This makes candidates’ final journal confirmation by a solicitor easier, as all of the entries have already been approved, and ensures candidates learn as much as possible from their experience.
What makes a good Flex Legal SQE Journal entry?Luana wants to be able to easily see ‘what the candidate has learned’ from their QWE in their journal entry submission. She enjoys when a candidate can ‘identify the skills that they have learned’ and ‘expressly recognise how the skills can be of value and transferred to future endeavours’.
Supervisors clearly appreciate when an SQE candidate reflects on their QWE. To ensure journal entries are as good as possible, candidates should dissect their QWE into the specific skills that they have developed. The Flex Legal SQE Journal makes this easier by encouraging candidates to select the specific SRA competences that they feel they had the opportunity to develop, but this exercise still requires thought from the candidate. Candidates should ask themselves what technical and cultural knowledge they acquired and how this will be relevant to their future work as a solicitor. It is also great for candidates to consider how their new-found skills could be transferred to an alternative project or practice area. Just remember to think outside the digital journal entry boxes and look to the future!
- The SQE Explained – This blog article explains the SQE, including the QWE component, in more detail.
- SQE Supervisors: help your candidates get a head start! – This article provides additional information on how supervisors can use the Flex Legal Journal to track their candidates’ QWE.
- The SRA’s guidelines for SQE supervisors – Take a look at the SRA’s guidelines to understand your responsibilities as an SQE supervisor in more detail.