Whatever walk of life we're in, we tend to make age-related judgments. You’re either too young to have any experience or too old to be relevant or quick enough to keep up.

I work in a sector that - at least superficially - makes judgments based on time served. In legal services we talk about PQE - post qualification experience. We describe a person as 5 PQE, meaning they have five years of post qualification experience.

So what’s wrong with that? It’s a way of describing or categorising people. People like categories - they are convenient buckets that allow us to compartmentalise. Compartments are helpful to navigate and enable us to make quick choices and judgements.

And yet...

What if a lawyer's 5 years of post qualification experience had seen them spending a lot of time researching or being a team member working on one huge case? Compare that to a lawyer who had handled lots of small to medium sized matters directly in the same five years.

Assessing the quality of PQE depends on the reason for the evaluation. Obviously! But a compartment is a poor descriptor here. It’s the actual experience that counts, not the years or the age.

And the same is true at the other end of the age spectrum. It’s the experience that counts and not the age.