Lawyers - do you alter your PQE to account for p/t?

(31 Posts)
Mandy21 Tue 24-Sep-13 19:03:27

I qualified in 2002 and was full time until 2005 when I had my first period of mat leave. I went back in 2006 (after 9 mths mat leave + accrued holiday) 3 days per wk. Changed my contract at that point to a 3 day week.

Had 2nd period of mat leave in 2009 (9 mths again + holiday) returned on the same 3 day per week contract.

If you've done something similar, had mat leave and had periods of p/t hrs, do you count your PQE differently. Would you say I'm 11yrs PQE, or 9.5 (disallowing mat leave)? Would you only count your part time yrs as 3/5?

I've worked for the same firm throughout so its never been an issue but wondering how its viewedin other firms.

MtnBikeChick Fri 27-Sep-13 09:24:40

I am really horrified at the suggestion that someone should reduce their PQE because they work part time?! I can see that if (for example) you had some significant time out - by which I mean more than a mat leave year, a career break for example - then your firm may charge you out at a lower PQE to reflect the fact you've been out for a couple of years - but because you work PT?! As previous poster mentioned, I think this would be discrimination!

78bunion Fri 27-Sep-13 07:29:40

Just wait until you're wanting to hide it, in case people think you are too old....because it's massively long real PQE.

Mandy21 Thu 26-Sep-13 20:52:33

Its obviously a bug bear (quite rightly!) for some people, including me! I think the date you qualified isn't really relevant at all, but its the only measure that the majority of law firms seem to use angry

Chunderella Thu 26-Sep-13 20:48:51

PQE is also a crap measure for those of us who have worked in the advice sector post-qualification too. For a lot of work in social welfare law, you don't need a PC. As budgets tend to be tight in law centres, CABs, legal charities etc, organisations often don't pay for it. Or they might pay for one or two, for very senior staff, to have a solicitor about the place for judicial reviews etc. I spent about 18 months immediately post-qualifying in the advice sector, doing the same work as I do now in private practice, but it doesn't count towards PQE. Fortunately, my current employer recognises that as relevant experience. I can see that this isn't hugely relevant in most specialisms, although there are apparently more and more NQs having to paralegal now. But if you're in a social welfare, legal charity type area, it does matter.

OP, I find that in job interviews they often ask whether you were full time or part time. So it comes out anyway.

Poppyjen Thu 26-Sep-13 20:02:56

Whilst I accept that if you have had time out for maternity leave etc you may have less on the job legal experience than someone who has not, I think the point here is that maternity leave should not automatically mean a reduction in PQE.

I really don't think that it is as black and white as saying maternity leave = less legal experience = reduction in PQE. If your performance is at your actual PQE (as set out in whatever obscure competency document your firm publishes on its intranet) then there you should stay.

Also, I think it is worth mentioning that just because you are at home with children does not mean you stop developing as a person (or as a lawyer). I am I much more confident with colleagues and with clients than I was pre-children. I have a totally different perspective which I am sure makes me a better lawyer (certainly a more efficient one!). "experience " in the law is about so much more than hours at a desk and I think how "senior" you are as a lawyer depends on so so much more than hours at the coal face - it's also about how you interact with clients, how you act as a member of a team and how you manage and support more junior colleagues, all skills I think can be honed very nicely indeed outside of an office environment and what better experience of dealing with partner meltdowns than dealing with a tantrum prone toddler grin

Seriously though, I had 2 full years of maternity leave but in that time I worked incredibly hard to stay up to date in my (fairly niche ) specialism. I have managed to come back in and perform at a level equivalent to my PQE, according to the partners I work for and as against the competences they use as a reference. All I am asking for is that I be rewarded on the basis of my performance. If I have to describe this with reference to the out-dated PQE system then so be it - 6 PQE, no reduction because of maternity leave.

That seems to me to be entirely reasonable.

AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters Thu 26-Sep-13 13:03:51

Experience has naff all to do with PQE though. I have never heard a defence of PQE that doesn't basically boil down to 'I don't want to do the work to figure out what skill set and experience this employee/candidate has'. Though I am always open to hearing one.

It isn't comparable with A-levels. A-levels is at least measure how you did on a particular test. PQE is just a measure of time - not any measure of what you have actually done or how you have performed.

78bunion Thu 26-Sep-13 12:55:27

I think experience is a reasonable measure just as A level grades are a reasonable measure too. Not perfect of course but works reasonably well.

AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters Thu 26-Sep-13 11:57:30

'Women lawyers'? I think you'll find you could just have used 'some lawyers' or 'certain people' in that sentence, since gender isn't relevant to someone's view on this and not all 'women lawyers' will share the same views. Seems a very odd and somewhat dismissive choice of language.

My point is not that you don't get better at something by doing more of it, but that PQE is a poor and deeply flawed measure of how good or senior someone is. Experience is only very loosely related to months and years since qualification - by your reckoning a magic circle assistant who has routinely worked 60 hour weeks is more qualified than an assistant who did 40 hour weeks in another firm. In fact, the hours spent tell you nothing about the quality or nature of what they have done.

PQE is not fit for purpose. Preventing those who take breaks for parenting responsibilities being disadvantaged by an idiotic system is, quite frankly, the least we should expect in the 21st century.

78bunion Thu 26-Sep-13 09:34:05

We live in a very topsy turvy world if women lawyers think you do not get better at something by doing more of it. Whether you are a milkman, factory worker or lawyer if you spend 48 weeks a year in your first year or two doing the work rather than 2 weeks you are bound to be better. Anyone thinking otherwise should not be practising law.

However as I said above 3 months off fine and if you were 20 y ears qualified and had 2 lots of maternity leave perhaps even of a year I don't think there is a big difference between `18 years of experience and 20. However in the early years it matters and awful lot. Experience is absolutely vital. you are so much better with 3 years of work than with none.

AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters Wed 25-Sep-13 21:19:14

Oh indeed, I've seen a few of those in my time too. Physician heal thyself and all that. smile.

Lizzylou Wed 25-Sep-13 20:58:11

Amanda, Law is catching up and needs to. But yes, some of the worst cases of breaches of Employment Law I have ever seen have been made by so called Employment law specialists.
Outside of the Magic Circle and the national multi office heavyweights, the world is very different.

AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters Wed 25-Sep-13 20:42:49

Sorry *Lizzy

AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters Wed 25-Sep-13 20:42:34

I wish more would follow suit Lizzie. Too many of the big firms still grimly cling to the idea, often whilst giving lip service to some other system.

Honestly, it was one of my biggest gripes about people management in law. I do get quite annoyed over it blush

Lizzylou Wed 25-Sep-13 20:38:26

A lot of law firms don't stipulate PQE anymore, some actively discourage talk of it.

AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters Wed 25-Sep-13 20:24:32

It isn't lying. It's perfectly accurate. The fact that is doesn't reflect actual experience is just another way of exposing the ridiculousness of the PQE system, which is designed for upper class men with linear careers from an era where most firms were passed down the generations.

I hate PQE. Even the accountants have had the sense to mostly get rid of it. Just the dinosaurs in law grimly clinging on.

78bunion Wed 25-Sep-13 20:21:43

Indeed although if you had a baby just as you qualified and then took a year off and said you had 1 year PQE that is hardly accurate. Instead you have no post qualification experience so it is 100% wrong no matter what the employment lawyers might say. If you had a year off for each baby over 6 years the reality is you have 3 years not 6 years of actually practising.

Plenty of women with these very long maternity breaks might prefer to be honest because of their own personal morality even if employment law encourages them in effect to lie.

Lizzylou Wed 25-Sep-13 20:21:42

I work in Legal recruitment (sorry blush ).
Your PQE is your PQE, mat leave/part time whatever.
PQE s are fairly skewed now anyway due to the number of Solicitors who can spend years as a fee earner pre-training contract.

AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters Wed 25-Sep-13 20:15:04

But actually, even a year off on maternity leave should be treated differently to a year off travelling even if it was the exact same length of absence because of the way discrimination laws work.

You aren't allowed to treat women less favourably because they have taken maternity leave (or men either now it can be shared). And because everything around law is based on PQE, it would be effectively penalising women for taking maternity leave if you deducted it.

78bunion Wed 25-Sep-13 20:06:22

That's consistent with what I said. 3 months off to have a baby and then back full time means you worked most of that year so it's neither here not there. however if you take 5 years off full time work it would be very deceptive to imply you have 5 years of experience when you don't. So I think it depends.

AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters Wed 25-Sep-13 17:05:38

No you fecking don't reduce it, and it would almost certainly be unlawful sex discrimination if you were made to.

You would normally reduce for actual career breaks - e.g. a year spent travelling, etc though. Though that isn't automatic.

Grrrrr, PQE makes me angry for so many varied reasons. It's a shitty way to measure seniority in a modern workplace.

Sorry, rant over. Can you tell it's a bug bear?

78bunion Wed 25-Sep-13 17:01:54

Always check the definition if there is one in the context in which you use the term PQE. It may go into detail as to what that means. It does stand for post qualification experience. If a male lawyer had one year of that experience then worked for 7 years on a sheep farm in Australia and then said he had 8 years PQE you would say he was a liar who should be up before trading standards. if you've had 3 months off twice to have a baby in and did a lot of CPD etc in those 3 months each time I think not losing any PQE would be reasonable by contrast.

minipie Wed 25-Sep-13 16:11:23

I don't think your pqe level on paper reduces - after all you've still been qualified for X years whether it was part time or full time. However, your job title, pay and the level the firm charges you out at may well be reduced.

I know someone who is 15yrs plus pqe, but has been part time for years - because of this she is restricted in what kind of work she does, so her experience is less broad than a 15yr lawyer and she doesn't get put on the mega projects that require constant availability and clients will pay top whack for. So she is only charged out and paid as something like 4 or 5 yrs pqe.

personally I think the main thing is that your salary level and your job title/pqe rating keeps pace with your charge out level. Firms will charge you out at the max they think you are worth. so if you are being charged as a Level X at £Y per hour, you should be being paid the same and given the same job title/pqe as anyone else being charged out as Level X. hope that make sense!

Mandy21 Tue 24-Sep-13 22:14:43

Its useful to know how everyone views the issue. I hope as you say Poppyjen that remuneration is based on capability and experience. In fact the only person who suggests I reduce my PQE on account of mat leave and p/t hours is my sister - a partner in a magic circle firm!

Poppyjen Tue 24-Sep-13 20:48:43

Yes I know - they are certainly making a lot of profit out of me at the moment, and this is at a large City practice who are lauded as being one of the most pragmatic and forward thinking, emphasising performance based pay etc etc angry

Needless to say I am currently exploring what other options are out there wink

As you were. Rant over.

madamepetitchou Tue 24-Sep-13 20:41:04

Hi there, just thought I'd add my tuppence worth. I agree with poppyjen. In my mind, your PQE is a fixed amount, being the number of years from the date that you qualified. Certainly any periods of maternity leave should not be discounted from your PQE - this would never apply to a man, so why should it apply to a woman.

Further, like anything, PQE is a subjective test: a 6 year PQE from a small firm will have very different experience to a 6 year PQE from a large firm. Whilst I appreciate that PQE is used by the legal industry to peg salaries of associates, I would suggest that your experience and capability can be illustrated from examples of the work you have done and feedback from clients and colleagues that you have received.

All that said, law firms are going to try and 'discount' PQEs as often as possible to get a bargain for the associates that they employ. Oh well.

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