PQE: Post Qualification Equality?

by WardBlawg on July 30, 2010

I have written a 1400 word professional briefing article for the Journal: the members’ magazine of the Law Society of Scotland, the Online version of which is updated almost daily (see here ), and the RSS feed of which (available at is followed at the foot of this blawG on one of the four sets of columns, navigable through the left and right arrows below. My article IS NOW AVAILABLE AT Please feel free to share this article as I have already done on my twitter account at

I acknowledge and appreciate the helpful comments and insights of an MMS employment partner and Journal editor Peter Nicholson, and the immense support of several fellow trainee solicitors (they know who they are!) at law firm Maclay Murray and Spens LLP, through which I qualified as a solicitor at the end of August 2010.

Here is a preview of the introduction of the article:

PQE: Post Qualification Equality?


The coming into force of the Equality Act 2010 will bring a renewed focus on potentially discriminatory employment practices. Gavin Ward argues that the continued use of PQE figures in many legal job ads is potentially one such practice.


After at least seven years of training, many NQs and assistants, who have found themselves unemployed due to the downturn, are finding it hard to take that next critical step in their career. One hurdle for them to face is a relative lack of years’ post qualification experience (“PQE”).
A challenge for employers is that relying too heavily on PQE as a guide to suitability and competence can be problematic, both in terms of getting the best candidates and staying on the right side of the law. Indeed, using it exclusively, for example to shortlist candidates or make final selection of a candidate, could amount to unlawful, indirect age discrimination against younger lawyers. The imminent consolidation of age and other discrimination laws under the Equality Act 2010 serves as an important reminder to those in the profession to be vigilant and to focus on competence and experience in its broadest sense, rather than relying on crude “rules of thumb” that no longer reflect best practice.

Please do keep your eyes peeled for this one and, if you agree with me, support its cause by paying less attention to your years’ PQE. As I note in the second part of my conclusions,

Simultaneously, solicitors and, indeed, trainee solicitors need to shed the belief that they are, or will be, only as good as the number of years they have been or will have been qualified. Now is the time for prospective applicants in this challenging climate to avoid apathy and lack of perception by really focusing, not just on what they have learned themselves, but also on what others have experienced, such as by paying meticulous attention to the skills and experience which partners and others at the top of their profession have acquired. If they do so, their own broad experience may just land them the job they’ve always wanted!

I would also like to thank Hasan Hadi of HaHa UK for permitting incorporation of his incredible Justitia image into this post. Wrath of Justitia

Gavin Ward, July 2010.



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