Diversity of London Law

A little over six months since the qualified lawyers transfer scheme (QLTS) came into effect, replacing the QLTT, and London is most definitely a legal centre on the international stage.

The new scheme has been designed so the public can place confidence in the ability of practising English lawyers, regardless of their background. The QLTS enables lawyers from overseas to practise in England and Wales – as well as solicitors who qualified in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and barristers.

Just like one of the main updates in the QLTS – the removal of experience as part of the selection criteria, replaced by practical exercises to test a potential English lawyer’s aptitude – the London legal scene has recently shown itself to be flexible and adaptive.

Allen & Overy (A&O) recently became the first law firm to sign up to the Government’s new social mobility initiative, and as a result will offer internships to young people from underprivileged backgrounds. The firm already runs a number of social mobility schemes, including Smart Start, a summer programme for 100 16/17 year-olds from deprived London boroughs who spend one week within the firm learning about the different legal routes.

A&O partner and social investment head Susan Hazledine told Legal Week: “The reason why the lack of social mobility is a concern is because it means a loss of talent for the profession. We have been passionate about broadening access to the legal industry for some time and there is a lot that can be done at various stages. I expect more firms will get involved in this important project”.

Similarly, the new QLTS scheme places overseas lawyers on a par with domestic lawyers, making for a fairer playing field. The testing is more rigorous, resulting in employers and clients alike having more confidence in successful candidates.

Another example of the diversity of the London legal market has been recently illustrated by the deal signed this month between QualitySolicitors and WHSmith. This deal will see a QS member of staff in 150 branches of the retailer this summer, before being rolled out to 500 branches.

QS chief executive Craig Holt said: “This move represents the future of legal services. It is a game changer, providing both the key elements required for market dominance – accessibility and visibility”.
Both the social mobility and WHSmith deal should be viewed as positive, especially for those currently studying, or seeking to study, to become English solicitors. With an adaptive and accessible London market, job prospects for qualified English solicitors should remain steady.

If you are studying for your QLTS, you can access advice on our website, www.QLTS.co.uk, which provides information about every stage to help you prepare for your QLTS assessments.