First paralegal to qualify through non-training contract ‘short cut’ admitted as a solicitor

The first paralegal to qualify through ‘equivalent means’ has today been admitted as a solicitor.

Robert Houchill, a paralegal in the immigration department of Bates Wells Brathwaite, applied to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to qualify through equivalent means, also known as the ‘paralegal short cut’, in November and is the first person to be admitted as a solicitor.

The equivalent means route was established in July 2014 and is intended to widen access to the profession. It allows prospective solicitors to bypass a formal two-year training contract with a firm and instead apply to the SRA directly.

Only those with experience in three or more areas of law are eligible to apply through equivalent means as they are deemed to have sufficient breadth of experience to work as a solicitor. All equivalent means solicitors are required to undertake the Professional Skills Course, which is the same as trainees take on qualification.

The SRA is currently considering 28 applicants for the equivalent means qualification.

Houchill has worked at Bates Wells for the past two years, before which he worked at immigration boutique Gherson and in the family and children departments of Wilson Solicitors and the Children’s Legal Centre in Colchester. During that time, he undertook a self-funded Legal Practice Course.

Houchill commented: “I always wanted to become a solicitor. I did a law degree and then lived abroad for two years. I did one round of training contract applications when I got back but wasn’t successful so I decided to become a paralegal because I thought that would be a quicker or better way to become a solicitor.”

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