Experience Requirement Removal on New QLTS
The removal of the experience requirement for graduates of the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) is a sea change in how overseas lawyers are admitted to the roll of solicitors of England and Wales. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) proposed the removal of the experience requirement to ensure the practical skills of each newly qualified English lawyer meet with the necessary standards to practise as a solicitor of England and Wales.
Under the previous QLTT exams, all English, Welsh, Northern Irish barristers and non-EU lawyers seeking to become English solicitors had to demonstrate that they completed two years’ legal experience – with a minimum of one year spent practising the law of England and Wales. The QLTS programme removed this requirement and replaced it with practical assessments instead.
The SRA found difficulties in assessing the quality of each applicant’s legal experience, as some international lawyer’s experience may not have been gained in regulated conditions, such as on a training contract. This made it difficult to verify the legal competence of individual candidates. This made assessment of the practical abilities of the individual could not properly be assessed, potentially resulting in those without the necessary skills and experience being admitted to the roll of solicitors of England and Wales.
Since the experience requirement is no longer a factor, this potentially creates the possibility that some foreign lawyers will be admitted to practise in England and Wales without the necessary experience. The QLTS is structured in such a way, however, that only those with suitable aptitude will pass the tests.
The QLTS consists of numerous practical tests to measure inter alia: professional knowledge and skills; client understanding and ability; knowledge of ethics and professional conduct; and legal skills. Only those able to demonstrate throughout the QLTS training, the appropriate level required to practise as an English solicitor will succeed.
All applicants, whether from the UK or abroad, are assessed to the same standard. . The new structure also takes into consideration issues for ages and disabilities of candidates, and uses the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)) means of testing in order to minimise any risk of discrimination within the practical tests.
With the London legal market continuing to thrive, the demand for the QLTS is high and is likely to remain so. International lawyers wishing to practise as English solicitors need to first pass this conversion exam. The removal of the experience requirement in the QLTS assessments should make the process fairer for everyone. The ‘experience’ factor is no longer a barrier to qualifying for the QLTS while practical skills are more robustly tested to ensure that only the most suitable candidates qualify as English solicitors.