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How Factor is nurturing talent and boosting retention with the SQE

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About Factor:

Factor focuses on solving high-frequency complex transactional legal work, supporting multinational clients across industries with contracting enablement and contracting execution. The team has created a new category of legal services blending the best of traditional law, new law and in-house to deliver complex legal work at scale. Their goal is to break the forced trade-offs between expertise and efficiency, risk and cost, speed and safety, using proven processes, technology and data-driven insights.

Their mix of expertise, efficiency and integration positions them to solve transactional legal work that is both complex and recurring – the core workload that often buries in-house legal teams and contracting functions. With an industry-leading executive team and over 600 lawyers, contract experts, technologists, and process consultants, Factor operates from London, New York, Chicago, Belfast and Wroclaw and has enjoyed more than 10 years of client success. 

The challenge: Creating a path to qualification

Although Factor hosted internal training sessions provided by team members who were solicitors, and they offered their employees a route to qualification as a US lawyer via the NY Bar examination, they didn’t offer a similar route to becoming a solicitor in England and Wales. While Factor employees enjoyed the challenging, complex legal work they were doing across a variety of clients and industries, feedback indicated that qualifying as a solicitor ranked highly among long-term career goals.

The solution: Choosing SQE over LPC

Factor researched the issue with a consultant to the legal profession, Crispin Passmore, and settled on SQE as the preferred route, unanimously and quickly, for various compelling reasons: 

Firstly, given the fact that the SQE would eventually replace LPC and other legacy routes and had already begun to establish itself as the optimal path – certainly for them, given logistical and other challenges in fulfilling the more rigid requirements of, eg LPC – this seemed a no-brainer. 

And secondly, the spirit of the SQE seemed to Factor to be a great fit – they saw a natural alignment between the underlying ambitions of the SQE (to democratise access to legal qualification) and their own ambition to be the best culture in legal. They were impressed at the promise of opportunity to progress to professional qualification for those potential candidates who may, for various reasons, have found the traditional LPC to be strict and narrowly confined, eg in requiring certain seats across differing practice areas to have been completed. 

“The much more flexible SQE route and the entirely reimagined approach to Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) have proved to be a much better fit for the typical Factorian’s experience and typical day to day.”

The process: Getting buy-in and setting up the infrastructure

They started from a blank page; however, they were under an aggressive deadline given the need to stand up a cohort for the next SQE examinations. They established a dedicated internal committee chaired by one of their subject matter experts and comprising talent and people leadership. This committee took internal input as needed from other leaders across the business and other functions (such as HR, Finance and Delivery). It was guided by their external consultant who they met with throughout the design, build and rollout of the programme. 

This inclusive approach ensured they gave a voice to all interested stakeholders, while a smaller sub-group within was able to drive deadlines and provide sufficient focus to bring the initiative home in time before the first cohort was required to go live on the training with BARBRI. 

In parallel, they spoke about the SQE initiative on their periodic global and local huddles and spent a lot of time internally ensuring they obtained buy-in from their Executive Leadership Team (ELT). Once the programme was greenlighted in principle and the budget approved, the candidates were chosen via a two-stage selection process of application and interview. Then the hard work began of ensuring the successful candidates continued to have the required level of support via the establishment of a dedicated Teams channel and regular check-in calls with the committee and those undertaking the training. They also held knowledge-sharing sessions with the wider Factor community as needed. 

The success:

Talent attraction and retention

At a macro level, having a successful SQE programme enhanced Factor’s recruiting power and further strengthened Factor’s broad suite of employee offerings and points of differentiation as they continue to attract top legal talent in a highly competitive market: their first cohort of successful candidates comprises their brightest and best in terms of emerging and mid-level lawyers. 

Skills building and confidence

The current SQE cohort is developing skills such as negotiations, legal writing, legal drafting and client interviewing, which impact their day-to-day workings. One story at the micro level demonstrates this perhaps hidden efficiency for the business: a candidate has shared how the whole experience of completing the BARBRI course and undertaking the training is empowering her to feel much more confident in carrying out her role as documentation negotiator and delivering great results for her client.  

This anecdote is echoed in other student feedback too: that taking the SQE has increased their confidence of conviction and analysis in their everyday work. Some also state that completing the SQE has helped them to see the bigger picture, instead of getting overly focused on their current engagements. 

Finally, and interestingly, team members have found themselves faster at reading. Constantly reading multiple-choice questions and materials has increased their words per minute – while this may seem basic, it has assisted in their day-to-day work as they have been able to identify key information quickly and with ease. 

Client attraction

The success of the SQE programme has not only further strengthened Factor’s employee value proposition but also the value proposition for clients who appreciate and value expanded access to and partnership with UK- legally qualified talent.

Cultural value

Lastly, there’s also the cultural value created by the program: the current cohort is going through an experience together with the support of the company that fosters a strong sense of community. 

During the intensive selection process, candidates reflected on the impact they are already making at Factor, and how the skills they’ll develop on the SQE training will add more client value and contribute to the future success of the wider Factor community. 

Weeks of juggling work and study in preparation for the exams was a bonding experience for the cohort, supported by the SQE Committee who guided them through the process.  That culture of employee bonding, collaboration and mutual trust has helped to build a strong, resilient team. 

On a personal level, the experience boosted the confidence of the candidates and enhanced their self-belief. Candidates left the training with a stronger sense of conviction and a belief in their own knowledge. They felt more able to act in an advisory capacity, offering more value to clients.  

Above all, the training program reinforced client confidence by strengthening the experience of Factor’s workforce.

The future:

Coming into the second year of offering the program, Factor is thrilled that all the first cohort of participants passed their relevant exams and are continuing to progress their careers at Factor.

Given the success of the program, Factor is excited to move forward with the program, working closely with BARBRI, under the expert guidance of the SQE Committee.

Get in touch:

If you’re interested in offering the SQE to your team, get in touch with Matthew Skelding, Business Development Manager at BARBRI by email: matthew.skelding@barbri.com.


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