SRA overhauls qualified lawyer transfer test

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has finally confirmed its revised guidance for foreign lawyers looking to practice in England and Wales after more than two-years of delay.

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has approved the new Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) set out by the SRA for introduction in September 2010.

The changes to the guidelines confirm that the test will be opened up to lawyers from a wider range of jurisdictions, compared to the current arrangement, which gives preferential treatment to Commonwealth countries.

But the new framework stipulates that transferees will have to pass a basic English language test before they can go on to take the QLTS.

The SRA’s head of education and training Clare Gilligan said: “It will allow lawyers to apply from a larger number and wider range of jurisdictions than at present. The new scheme is objective, transparent and fair so the profession will be able to recruit with confidence.”

The current experience requirement has also been removed from the scheme and instead candidates will be expected to take practical exercises as a way of being assessed.

The SRA has said that it will also be drawing on methods used by other regulators, such as the General Medical Council, to carry out the assessments.

The revisions were originally supposed to come into force two years ago, however consultation into the amendments caused controversy for discriminating against diversity when the SRA sought to put in a requirement for re-qualifiers to gain at least one year of practice under English law.

At the time the College of Law and others from the legal profession claimed the SRA’s measures were “anti-diversity” and restricted foreign lawyers’ abilities to work in the UK.