Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme
The Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) enables lawyers who qualified in jurisdictions outside of the United Kingdom to practise as solicitors in England and Wales. The scheme has been in place since 2010 and is governed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
The qualification process
In order to be able to practise in the United Kingdom, a qualified lawyer from another jurisdiction must apply to the SRA for a QLTS certificate of eligibility, which is then valid for five years from the date of issue. The following criteria must be met for a certificate to be granted:
The applicant must have qualified in a jurisdiction that is recognised by the SRA
See here for a list of SRA recognised jurisdictions. The SRA recognises jurisdictions on the basis that:
- the jurisdiction's legal education, training and qualifications are at least equivalent to English or Welsh bachelor's degree;
- legal professionals in that jurisdiction are bound by an ethical code that prohibits conflicts of interest and protects clients' interests; and
- lawyers who break that jurisdiction's ethical code can be sanctioned and barred from practice.
The applicant is fully qualified
For the SRA to acknowledge a lawyer from a recognised jurisdiction as fully qualified, that lawyer must be an officer of the court in that jurisdiction and have a right of audience there. The lawyer must also have completed that jurisdiction's general legal education and training programme, and not qualified through a specialist or fast-track route.
The applicant must pass SRA assessments on UK legal practice
The next step is different for lawyers who are qualified in the European Economic Area (EEA) and those lawyers who qualified in jurisdictions outside the EEA. A lawyer who qualified in a non-EEA jurisdiction is known as an ‘international applicant'. UK lawyers (barristers who qualified in England and Wales, solicitors and barristers who qualified in Scotland and solicitors and barristers who qualified in Northern Ireland) are treated in the same way as EEA applicants.
EEA and UK lawyers are individually assessed on the QLTS competency requirements, known as the ‘SRA’s Day One Outcomes’. If they can demonstrate through prior work experience that they meet these requirements, they do not need to complete the QLTS assessments and can apply directly for admission as a solicitor. If EEA and UK applicants do not meet one or more of the competency requirements, they will need to complete the relevant assessments. All candidates also still need to obtain a Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) check and fulfil character and suitability criteria. There is no legal experience or training to complete under the QLTS fast-track route.
The applicant must meet an English language requirement
Applicants for the QLTS (other than EEA and those who have completed the LPC) must also show that they have achieved the Common European Framework for Reference (CEFR) Level C2 in English before attempting the QLTS assessments. The English language requirement can be evidenced in one of four ways (detailed here).
The QLTS assessments are in two parts. Part One is the multiple choice test (MCT), which tests knowledge and understanding of the English legal system and European Union Law, constitutional law and judicial review, professional conduct and solicitors’ accounts, financial regulation, money laundering and taxation, contract law, tort law, criminal law, property law, equity and trusts, human rights and business law. The MCT consists of 180 multiple choice questions, divided into morning and afternoon periods of three hours each, with 90 questions in each period.
Part Two is the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), which tests five skills: interviewing, advocacy, online legal research, drafting and writing. The OSCE is conducted in the context of three practice areas: business law, litigation (civil and criminal) and property law (conveyancing and probate). The OSCE is normally offered across several consecutive days.
The MCT must be passed before the OSCE can be attempted. The two parts of the QLTS are closed-book exams – no materials are permitted to be used during the assessments. Applicants can make three attempts at each part of the QLTS. If they fail any part three times, they must wait for the five-year certificate of eligibility to expire before reapplying for a certificate and attempting the test again. Assessment results are usually made available within 12-14 weeks after the assessment date.
Exemption from one or more elements of the QLTS assessments can be granted by the SRA only to EEA or UK lawyers. International applicants must complete both parts of the QLTS. Applicants who have completed the LPC are exempt from the MCT.
Kaplan Law School is the sole assessor of the QLTS on behalf of the SRA and accordingly is not authorised to provide training courses for the QLTS assessments. The MCT and OSCE are offered by Kaplan twice a year in London. The assessments cannot be taken elsewhere.
QLTS School is a training provider for the QLTS which offers preparation courses for the two parts of the QLTS.
Admission to the Roll of Solicitors
When an applicant has completed and passed the QLTS assessments and fulfilled any other outstanding requirements set by the SRA, he or she will be eligible to apply for admission to the Roll of Solicitors of England and Wales and get his or her practising certificate.
If an applicant does not intend to practise in England and Wales following successful completion of the assessments, they can still maintain their name on the roll by paying a nominal annual fee to the SRA.