Yes. The qualifying work experience plays an important role in developing trainees intending to qualify as solicitors of England and Wales, and as such, domestic candidates must complete a minimum two-year period of legal work experience before they can apply to become solicitors.
There is not, however, any work experience requirement that must be fulfilled prior to taking the assessments. The work experience requirement could be fulfilled at any point ahead of qualification and would be required by the point of admission, not as a condition of eligibility to sit SQE1 or SQE2 assessments.
Candidates can therefore sit the SQE assessments and complete the qualifying work experience after passing the assessments; however, it is expected that the bulk of the experience requirement will be completed before sitting SQE Stage 2 to give candidates the best possible chance of passing.
Foreign lawyers are exempt from the qualifying work experience requirement.