Expected Levels of Solicitor Competence

The following threshold standards are set by the SRA which requires all newly qualified solicitors to have reached Level 3. However, we think at different stages of legal careers, different threshold standards are expected.

Level 1
We believe a paralegal or legal assistant should have reached the level 1 threshold for him or her to be a good fit for this role.

  • Recognises some of the standard legal issues relevant to the particular case or transaction area of practice.
  • Unlikely to be satisfactory unless closely supervised on a task by task basis.
  • Needs close supervision or instruction.
  • Unable to do more than simple routine tasks.
  • Tends to see actions in isolation.
  • Works within given procedures or instructions.


Level 2
We believe a seasoned paralegal or legal assistant with over 3-5 years of paralegal experience should have reach the level 2 threshold.

  • Recognises some of the standard legal issues relevant to the area of practice, and begins to see how they apply to a particular case or transaction.
  • Straightforward tasks likely to be completed to an acceptable standard.
  • Achieves some steps using own judgment, but supervision needed for overall case or transaction.
  • Able to deal effectively with straightforward cases and transactions.
  • Sees actions as a series of steps.
  • Uses experience to check information provided.


Level 3
Newly qualified solicitors are expected to have reached the level 3 threshold. All aspiring solicitors are required to demonstrate this level of competence in order for their experience to be counted towards qualifying work experience (QWE).

  • Identify the legal principles relevant to the area of practice, and applies them appropriately and effectively to individual cases.
  • Acceptable standard achieved routinely for straightforward tasks. Complex tasks may lack refinement.
  • Achieve most tasks and able to progress legal matters using own judgment, recognising when support is needed.
  • Able to deal with straightforward transactions, including occasional, unfamiliar tasks which present a range of problems and choices.
  • Understand the significance of individual actions in the context of the objectives of the transaction/strategy for the case.
  • Use experience to check information provided and to form judgments about possible courses of action and ways forward.


Level 4
We believe a seasoned solicitor with 3-5 years of post qualification experience should have reached the level 4 threshold.

  • Applies a depth of understanding of the area of practice and a broad background awareness of legal principles to solve problems and progress the case.
  • Full acceptable standard achieved routinely.
  • Takes full responsibility for progressing the case or transaction.
  • Deals with complex transactions through deliberate analysis and planning.
  • Develops a strategy for the case/transaction to deliver the overall objective and uses it to analyse individual steps.
  • Produces innovative solutions and ways forward.


Level 5
We believe a solicitor should have reached the level 5 threshold before becoming a partner or taking up a more senior role.

  • Uses mastery of the area of practice and a broad background awareness of legal principles to develop and critically evaluate a range of options to overcome dilemmas and problematic situations.
  • Excellence achieved with ease.
  • Takes full responsibility for outcomes of case or transaction.
  • Deals with complex transactions intuitively and with ease; confident decision-maker.
  • Understands clearly the strategy for the case/transaction and alternative approaches to deliver it within a vision of what may be possible.
  • Develops innovative solutions and ways forward in complex and unpredictable situations.


These expected levels of competence serve as a guide for solicitors throughout their careers, ensuring they provide high-quality legal services while maintaining professional and ethical standards. Solicitors are required to continually assess and develop their skills to meet these competence requirements and to provide effective legal representation and advice to their clients.

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