Solicitor, Michael Vora, talks about his journey to qualification through the SQE, and support he's received at DWF.
Attributed largely to its infancy, the SQE pathway is still somewhat of an unknown quantity to individuals, course providers and law firms alike. There is simply no set of historic precedents, policies, examples, or even past paper questions for individuals to fall back on when seeking to understand the pathway. This can often result in a vast amount of uncertainty for all parties involved.
Given this unavoidable ambiguity, my overarching piece of advice would be to do your research on your personal eligibility and the most applicable route to qualification based on your individual circumstances. I've had countless phone calls and emails with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), Kaplan, course providers and the internal DWF teams in the last 18 months to seek clarification on their guidance relating to the SQE, as a means of ensuring that I am leaving no stone unturned in my preparations to qualification.
Ultimately, each candidate is in a unique position, so you need to be fully aware of all the published guidance available to put yourself in the best position possible to make informed choices on the most time, cost and quality efficient route to qualification.
The part that surprises people the most about my SQE journey is the fact that I opted to self-study for the exams rather than enrol with one of the established course providers. Upon the day of the assessments it did quickly become apparent that I was the only candidate to opt for the self-study route in my specific examination hall, however I was confident that with the assistance of textbooks, YouTube videos and my practical experiences I had covered the entirety of the SRA syllabus.
Ultimately, this won’t be the right choice for everybody but in all my conversations with the SRA, the key differential (to the traditional LPC route) that had been emphasised is the SQE's focus on practical application. From that perspective, I viewed my QWE as the most applicable and useful type of preparation for the exams. With the benefit of hindsight, I can undoubtedly say that the practical experience that I obtained prior to sitting the exams was invaluable to my success.
I appreciate it is somewhat of a double edged sword as studying around full time work is inevitably extremely time demanding however it enabled me to harness my practical experience and the resources available as a DWF employee to holistically build my knowledge and work through the SQE syllabus.
Upon being offered the opportunity to join the Advocacy team in December 2020, I immediately expressed my intention to qualify via the SQE to my management team. To combat the mystique around the pathway, I set out a coherent business case explaining the timescales of my career progression plan and how this would benefit both my team and the wider business. Upon this justification, my management team of Stephen Pritchett, Dan Monaghan and Chris Hudson were all extremely encouraging and went the extra mile to reassure me that they would do everything in their power to support me through the process, including allowing me paid study leave around the assessments.
Support from senior members of staff can be crucial in qualifying via the SQE. Whether it's the QWE sign off, the opportunities available on qualification or just the extra moral support (and study leave) that is available, I would encourage anyone considering the SQE to tap into this support system at the earliest opportunity.
The primary reason for sharing my story, was to help counter the vast amount of ambiguity and reservation regarding this new pathway to qualification. For myself personally, the primary benefit of qualification is that I can now accept instructions on higher value and more complex matters as part of the Advocacy team. I hope that sharing my experiences can go some way in assisting future candidates to navigate their own journey to qualification through the SQE.
"My management team were all extremely encouraging and went the extra mile to reassure me that they would do everything in their power to support me through the process."