in Legal Profession

What does PQE stand for and how important is it to law firms?

PQE stands for ‘Post-Qualified Experience’, and is usually given in years or half years for solicitors and also for legal executives as well. For example, if a solicitor was admitted to the Roll in England and Wales in September 2005, he/she would have 5 years PQE by September 2010.

It usually refers to every year a solicitor holds a practising certificate for, whether or not they have actually practised during that year.

In terms of job advertisements, it was envisaged by various experts on age discrimination that it would no longer be an accepted method of describing vacancies by law firms, as it should not matter how many years experience you have for a post, rather it should be more based on your ability.

However since 2006 and the new law, very little has changed, because in reality solicitors need certain levels of PQE before they can undertake certain tasks. For example, a 1 year PQE solicitor is legally unable to supervise an office – they have to be 3 years PQE before they are allowed to, and also have passed a management course recognised by the Law Society (some solicitors believe the latter to be a simple moneyspinning venture by various course providers, but we could not possibly comment).

So if you see a requirement for PQE in a job description, chances are it specifically relates to the salary levels the firm envisage offering, and this is now the way we advise firms to describe posts. It works quite effectively, because it means that if a 25 year PQE solicitor applies for a job advertised for a 1 year PQE solicitor, they are aware that the salary level is going to be somewhat lower than they expect for the level of experience…

We would not usually recommend an NQ (Newly Qualified) Solicitor applying for a post advertised as being for partner level!

Overseas experience does not usually count for any calculation of PQE. Solicitors returning to the profession carry on where they left off.

Author: Jonathan Fagan MIRP MAC Cert RP LLM Solicitor (non-practising) – Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment ( – save time, skip the legal job boards and register with us! Jonathan Fagan is a specialist legal recruitment consultant, author of the Complete Guide to Writing a Legal CV and the Guide to Interviews for Lawyers. He has recruited for law firms across the UK and overseas in all shapes and sizes. If you have any questions that we have not covered above, please email us at

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at