Quality fears prompt SRA to review foreign lawyer qualification regime
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is set to launch a formal consultation into the way in which foreign lawyers qualify into the UK, after pressure from the Law Society and education providers to tighten the regulations.The SRA will launch a full-scale consultation on changes to the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test and the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Regulations (QLTR) next week (11 November), following the first re-evaluation of the rules for 18 years.The changes will address issues including accessibility, qualification routes and competence, with the process being overseen by SRA chief executive Antony Townsend, education committee chair Jonathan Spencer and director of standards Liz McAnulty.The review follows calls by the Law Society to hasten changes to the regulations after guidance issued over the summer failed to address the issues first raised by the Society in 2007. Up until now the SRA has resisted making any significant changes to the qualification route until the Legal Services Act comes into force. However, the SRA has put a temporary hold on approving organisations that can set and mark the QLTT, pending the introduction of stricter standards.Chancery Lane is concerned that the rules could be perceived as anti-competitive and protectionist, and wants to ensure that the test complies with international and European obligations to recognise qualifications.The SRA, which estimates around one fifth of lawyers in the UK qualify via the QLTT route, has also come under criticism from education providers for making the QLTT a far easier route to qualification and not ensuring consistent standards across QLTT assessors.The news comes as the body announced this week (3 November) that it has approved Oxford Brookes and LawNet to run its work-based learning scheme, launched earlier this year. The Oxford Institute - which is part of Oxford Brookes University - and LawNet, the national network for mid-size law firms, put in a joint proposal to become an assessment organisation for work-based learning that will see them take on 11 trainee solicitors who are not necessarily suited to the traditional training contract.Under the scheme, the Oxford Institute will help trainees prepare a development plan, review their progress against SRA outcomes and provide a final assessment while LawNet operates the training programme.
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