Will the SRA’s new flexibility on legal education be extended to the QLTS?

The SRA recently published the responses to its public consultation on its proposals to reform the training regime for aspiring lawyers. The proposals, which have been named Training for Tomorrow, recommend important changes to the requirements placed on students, at both ends of the process. One of the more interesting proposals, proposal 1, was to create an exemption from the academic requirements, for people who have followed an equivalent track.

Typically, a budding solicitor follows one of two possible paths in their legal education. Either they attain a law degree at university, or, after studying a different subject, ‘convert’ to law through the Common Professional Examination. They are then required to take the Legal Practice Course, followed by a training contract and the Professional Skills Course. Under this proposal, the SRA would recognise alternative educational paths, so long as they enabled the relevant candidate to meet the ‘outcomes’ at the expected standard. On the face of it, this should help improve diversity and access to the profession.

The proposal was met with almost universal approval from respondents, and the SRA will introduce this change into its regulations later this year. However, the SRA makes clear, and this is where the change may be impracticable, that applicants for exemptions under this new equivalency test will not know in advance whether their application will succeed. Each candidate will need to demonstrate that what they have done does in fact meet the required standard. It is hard to imagine many people will invest time, effort and money into a path which may not ultimately work. Realistically, most people who are serious about joining the law profession will continue to go down the tried and tested route.

From a QLTS perspective, it is pleasing to see the SRA adopt a more flexible stance towards legal education, however impractical it may end up being. Perhaps this flexibility will in turn be applied to the QLTS background requirements, which currently require a minimum of a bachelor’s level degree.