Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme
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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 fulfil several conditions set by the SRA, as follow:
The applicant must have qualified in a jurisdiction that is recognised by the SRA
- 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 meet the SRA requirements as to character and suitability
Applicants will be subject to a full check on character and suitability when they apply for admission. This means that among other checks, the SRA will require a certificate of good standing from the applicant’s home bar/professional/regulatory body. Applicants who are aware of anything which might prevent them from meeting the SRA requirements can apply to the SRA for an early check on any character and suitability issue before commencing the QLTS assessments.
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 have the option to be individually assessed on the QLTS competency requirements, known as the ‘SRA’s Day One Outcomes’, and obtain exemptions from one or more elements of the assessments if they can demonstrate through prior work experience or academic qualifications that they meet these requirements. If EEA and UK applicants do not meet one or more of the competency requirements, they will need to complete the relevant assessments, otherwise, they can apply directly for admission as a solicitor.
EEA and UK lawyers seeking any exemptions from assessment should complete the QLTS1 application form and submit this to the SRA with the completed relevant assessment table and supporting evidence. A fee of £400 is payable with the application. If no evidence is submitted, applicants should take all of the assessments.
There is no legal experience or training to complete under the QLTS fast-track route, nor is there an English language test to take.
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. There is no restriction on the number of assessment attempts an applicant may take, nor a time limit for completing the two assessments within a certain time period.
There are no formal requirements to comply with before taking the QLTS assessments. The eligibility requirements must be met at the point of applying to the SRA for admission as an English solicitor, and not as a prerequisite to commencing the QLTS assessments.
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 eligible to apply for exemption from the MCT.
Kaplan QLTS 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.
The SRA will carry out a full financial check and require a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) standard disclosure at the point of admission, so it can check if the applicant has a criminal background.
The SRA will also conduct a character and suitability check and require a Certificate of Good Standing from the applicant’s home professional body or regulator in which he or she is registered. This must have been issued no more than three months before the SRA receives the application for admission.
Once the SRA has received a satisfactory result from these checks, it will be able to process the application for admission to the Roll of Solicitors of England and Wales and the applicant will receive his or her practising certificate.
If an applicant does not intend to practise in England and Wales following successful completion of the assessments, he or she can still maintain his or her name on the roll.