What is a QBE lawyer?
The term QBE comes from the financial sector and is increasingly applied to lawyers as well. A number of conveyancers are QBE and so are in house Counsel. It is rare for anyone to practice in law without at least an LLB or LLM, but they do exist, particularly in the property fields.
QBE Accountants are those accountants who have no formal qualifications and the definition of QBE is Qualified By Experience. So a QBE lawyer is someone who works within the legal profession as a fee earner (ie generates fees for their employer) but who is not formally qualified.
There are a good number of accountants who have no formal qualifications, whether ACCA or ACA, although interestingly anyone who has been a student of the ACCA cannot then run their own accountancy practice without getting fully ACCA qualified.
The vast majority of small businesses in the UK need unaudited accounts – ie fall within the definition of a small private limited company with a turnover of less than £10 million and 50 staff or £5 million in assets. 99% of the 5.5 million businesses in the UK are small to medium sized. The vast majority of these require unaudited accounts if they are limited companies.
Anyone can prepare unaudited accounts for limited companies – you do not need to use a qualified accountant. Seemingly the main disadvantage to using a QBE or doing company accounts yourself is if you need to provide evidence of your income to mortgage companies, who will not accept accounts unless they have been signed off by an accountant in practice, something we found out last year!
QBE accountants tend to get paid less than qualified accountants, but they seem to do the same work in practice. Most do not get higher than semi-senior level (the equivalent to paralegal in the legal profession). QBE lawyers will experience the same ceiling at most firms – we have conveyancers who have 20 years experience but no qualifications who are regularly discounted for roles because they are not qualified. Their hourly rates are often lower than their qualified counterparts as well. The position in law is just the same as in accountancy – there are certain things that can be undertaken by non-qualified staff and QBE lawyers deal with these – the conveyancing transaction, company administration, litigation case management, etc.. It will be interesting to see if the term becomes more widely used in future as it is in finance.