PQE stands for ‘Post-Qualified Experience’. This is usually represented as years or half years for solicitors. It’s also applicable to legal executives.
E.g. If a solicitor was admitted to the Roll in England and Wales in September 2005, they would have 5 years PQE by September 2010.
PQE refers to each year a solicitor has held a practising certificate for, regardless of whether they have 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 how many years experience you have for a post shouldn’t be relevant – rather it should be more based on your ability.
Since a new law passed in 2006 though, not much has changed, because in reality solicitors need certain levels of PQE before they can undergo certain tasks. To give an 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 must also have passed a management course recognised by the Law Society.
If you see a requirement for PQE in a job description, it likely relates to the salary levels the firm consider offering. It works well, 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…