QLTS Exemptions from Elements of the SRA Assessments
Who can apply for QLTS exemptions?
If you are a lawyer currently considering taking the QLTS assessments to become an English solicitor, and have been thinking about applying to the SRA to get exemptions from one or more of the elements of the assessment, this article is for you.
According to the SRA Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme Regulations 2011, European Economic Area (EEA), Intra-UK (Scotland and Northern Ireland) and Swiss applicants may apply to the SRA for exemption from assessment or part of it if they can show they possess sufficient knowledge in a particular legal area.
Nationals from these regions who are partially qualified in another EU/EEA Member State, also known as Morgenbesser applicants, may also apply to the SRA for assessment of the equivalence of their professional qualifications and experience, through the Equivalent Means route.
To apply for exemptions, you should complete the SRA QLTS Exemptions application form and submit this to the SRA with the completed relevant assessment table and supporting evidence. A fee of £400 is payable with the application (some exceptions apply). Morgenbesser applicants’ fee is £600.
The QLTS Exemptions form is for EEA and Swiss nationals who have qualified in an EU jurisdiction (i.e. lawyers who meet the requirements of European Directive 2005/36 (Recognition of Professional Qualifications)), and for lawyers who have qualified elsewhere in the UK.
You will not be able to register with Kaplan QLTS, the assessment provider, until this process has been completed and your exemptions have been assessed.
If you are required to take any of the QLTS assessments you will be issued with a document which confirms the elements of the QLTS assessments you are required to complete. You will need to show Kaplan QLTS the document before you register to take the assessments.
If, following submission of your QLTS Exemptions form, the SRA decides that you are not required to take any of the assessments, you will be eligible to apply for admission as a solicitor of England and Wales straightaway.
If you are a lawyer qualified in other countries (e.g. USA, Australia, China, Singapore, Russia and other countries outside the European Union), you are not eligible to apply for exemptions and must complete the entire suite of the QLTS assessments.
Assessment of your previous experience
Each applicant is individually assessed based on their academic knowledge and legal experience. If you believe that you can evidence that you meet some or all of the legal areas tested on the MCT (SRA outcomes), you should include this information as part of your application to the SRA. If you have LLB or LLM from a UK university that can definitely help.
Your evidence will be assessed and the SRA will then let you know which assessments or elements of any assessment (as appropriate) you will be exempt from (or alternatively, which assessments you need to complete in order to be eligible to apply for admission to the Roll of Solicitors of England and Wales.
If no evidence is submitted, you can simply take all of the assessments.
There are no restrictions on what evidence you can put forward towards an assessment, however the evidence must show how the SRA outcomes have been achieved in the context of English (or Welsh) law and practice. The higher the level of qualification and/or experience, the greater the weight which the assessor will attach to your experience (e.g. a 2 hour CPD course in English contract law will carry much less weight than an LLM).
You will need to provide translations of all of your evidence that is not in the English language.
The SRA also strongly advises applicants seeking exemptions to go through each element of indicative content listed for each of the 11 outcomes in the assessment table appropriate to your qualification to show how you have met that outcome through studying English law and/or practice, or your experience of practising English law.
If you do not specifically claim to have achieved an outcome, the SRA will conclude that you need to be assessed on that outcome.
You will need to include transcripts of academic qualifications which give details of the modules studied but only where the modules show that you have taken and passed a module in English law.
In addition, you will be asked to state the level of the qualification or the level at which the course was aimed. Theses or other written work should not be included.
Where you are relying on work experience to demonstrate that you satisfy outcomes, you must give details of:
- the duration of your work experience and the number of hours worked (e.g. per week)
- the level of employment e.g. whether employed as paralegal or as qualified lawyer, or how much responsibility you held
- the nature of the work undertaken (this should relate in as much detail as possible to the indicative content of the QLTS outcomes)
- whether your experience relates to your own jurisdiction or England and Wales, or what proportion of the experience related to English law.
All work experience claimed must be supported with references from employers. The reference should corroborate the work experience evidence that you provide. They should be written by named persons who the SRA may contact for verification if necessary. References must also be recent (within 3 months of your application being received by the SRA) and written for the purpose of your application.
Solicitors admitted by the Law Society of Scotland
The SRA has pre-determined that Scottish solicitors are eligible to get exemptions from some elements of the assessments. To get the exemptions, Scottish solicitors must first complete the QLTS – Exemptions application form and apply to the SRA. There is no fee for this application.
If a Scottish solicitor wishes to have further exemptions assessed (providing they can provide evidence they have met one or more of the outcomes they are not exempt), they should apply to the SRA and in addition pay a fee of £400.
LPC Practice Course (LPC) Graduates
Candidates who have successfully completed the LPC (which is the vocational stage for becoming a solicitor in England and Wales for domestic students), are entitled to apply to the SRA for full exemption from the MCT assessments. Candidates who meet the criteria should complete the QLTS – Exemption from the MCT application form. There is no fee attached to this form.
Is it a good idea to apply for exemptions?
While getting QLTS exemptions means less material to cover, you need to take into account several considerations:
1. There is a fee of £400 payable to the SRA for processing your application for exemptions, regardless of whether your application ultimately succeeds or not. Otherwise, you do not need to pay any fees at all to the SRA at this point. Kaplan QLTS will not offer any discounts if you have less exams to take. As for course fees, if you decide to enrol onto our training programmes, you may indeed save some of the fees but the discount will not cover the £400.
2. It may take several months to process your application for QLTS exemptions which may delay the progress of your legal career.
3. This is a point most candidates are unaware of – getting exemptions is not necessarily in your favour. You need to get a mark of around 55%-60% to pass the MCT. If you have no exemptions, that means you’ll be examined on both legal areas you’re well familiar with (which you could potentially be exempt from), and on those you are not already familiar with at all (for which you cannot get exemptions). In such a case where you have no QLTS exemptions at all, your prospects of getting a better score are much higher, as the points you’ll get for the legal areas you master will ‘cover’ for those legal areas not as well known to you.
This is in contrast to a situation where you get QLTS exemptions from the legal areas you already know, and need only pass the ones which are entirely new to you. It will be much more challenging to achieve the pass mark in this case.
So the options are to study more legal areas with a higher prospects of success, or study less but potentially have lower prospects of success in the assessments.
It is also not possible to envisage what your chances are of getting QLTS exemptions. You will need to apply to the SRA and await their decision.
To learn more about the QLTS assessments and qualifying as an English solicitor, contact us today for a free consultation with one of our QLTS advisors.
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