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Solicitors

Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme

updated on 04 May 2022

The Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) has been replaced by the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). Only lawyers who have already started qualifying through the QLTS can continue to qualify this way.

The QLTS enables lawyers who qualified in jurisdictions outside of the United Kingdom to practise as solicitors in England and Wales, and is governed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Do I fall within the transitional arrangements for the QLTS?

If a qualified lawyer has started the QLTS but not yet passed the multiple-choice test (MCT), they will have to qualify via the SQE route as the final MCT has already taken place.

Qualified lawyers who have been granted full exemption from the whole MCT will not fall within these transitional arrangements.

If they have passed the MCT, they can continue to complete their qualifications via the QLTS by sitting and passing the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) – the final sitting for this was in March/April 2022. Once they have passed the OSCE, they must meet the SRA’s requirements and apply for admission to the Roll of Solicitors by 31 August 2022 (inclusive).

Alternatively, they can sit and pass the new SQE2 exam. Once passed, they must meet the SRA’s requirements and apply for admission by 31 August 2023 (inclusive).

More information on the SQE can be found via LCN’s dedicated hub.

Finally, if a qualified lawyer has already taken and passed both assessments, they just need to meet the SRA’s requirements and apply for admission by 31 August 2022 (inclusive).   

The SRA has more information regarding transitional arrangements on its website.

“I fall within the QLTS transitional arrangements, what next?”

“I have to qualify via the SQE route, what are the steps?”

I fall within the QLTS transitional arrangements, what next?

This information applies only to qualified lawyers who meet the transitional arrangements for the QLTS set out by the SRA.

Qualified lawyers who have passed the MCT must either sit and pass the:

  • OSCE; or
  • SQE2.

As well as meeting the SRA’s requirements, once they have passed their chosen assessment they must then apply for admission by 31 August 2022 (OSCE candidates) or 31 August 2023 (SQE candidates).

You must meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements

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 that 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.

You must pass the QLTS assessments on UK legal practice

The next step is different for lawyers who are qualified in the European Economic Area (EEA) and lawyers who qualified 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.

Bar course graduates can no longer use the system to qualify as a solicitor and must now take the SQE. To be eligible for the QLTS, barristers must have completed a pupillage. There is more information on this below.

Assessment format

The QLTS assessments are in two parts. Part One is the multiple-choice test (MCT), which qualified lawyers must have passed to continue to qualify via QLTS.

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 final OSCE will be in March/April 2022 before the SQE replaces the QLTS.

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. However, if you’re undertaking this in 2022, it’s important to bear in mind that with the final sittings taking place in Spring there is not a huge margin for error.

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 to 14 weeks after the assessment date.

If the qualified lawyer decides to take SQE2 instead, please note that QLTS exemptions do not transfer so they will need to apply for a new exemption if necessary. 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.

I have to qualify via the SQE route, what are the steps?

Qualified solicitors

The QLTS has been replaced by the SQE. To become a solicitor of England and Wales, qualified lawyers no longer need to be in one of the SRA’s recognised jurisdictions. However, they must:

  • have a degree (law or non-law) that is equivalent to a UK degree or level 6 qualification (or other qualification and/or equivalent experience);
  • pass SQE1 and 2 (unless exempt); and
  • meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.

The SRA will recognise lawyers’ existing qualifications and experience so there is no need to complete qualifying work experience in this instance.

Barristers

If a barrister wants to apply for admission to the Roll of Solicitors in England and Wales, they must:

  • pass SQE1 and 2 (exemptions are available based on previous qualifications and experience); and
  • apply for admission and meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.

Scottish solicitor

If a Scottish solicitor wants to apply for admission to the Roll of Solicitors in England and Wales, they must:

  • validate their degree (law or non-law and equivalent to UK level 6 qualification) – the SRA will outline the process for validating degrees by the end of January 2022;
  • pass SQE1 and 2 (exemptions are available based on previous qualifications and experience); and
  • apply for admission and meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.

Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland solicitor

If a Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland solicitor wants to apply for admission to the Roll of Solicitors in England and Wales, they must apply for admission and meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.

According to the SRA, they are exempt from the SQE.

CILEX practitioner or chartered legal executive

If a CILEX practitioner or chartered legal executive wants to apply for admission to the Roll of Solicitors in England and Wales, they must:

  • have a UK degree or equivalent (law or non-law);
  • pass SQE1 and2;
  • apply for admission and meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.

The chartered legal executive equivalent means route is still available to qualify through until 31 December 2032 if the applicant completed, started or accepted an offer on:

  • a qualifying law degree by 21 September 2021;
  • the Common Professional Examination/Graduate Diploma in Law by 1 September 2021; or
  • the Legal Practice course by 1 September 2021.

They must then apply for admission and meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.

Other circumstances

The SRA also welcomes applications for admission from qualified lawyers that are in jurisdictions where there is political unrest. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. If you fall within this category, the SRA’s QLTS team ([email protected]) is on hand to offer more information and discuss your personal situation so they can provide advice on your next steps. Visit the SRA's website to find out how to get in touch.

Admission to the Roll of Solicitors

When an applicant has completed and passed the QLTS or SQE assessments and fulfilled any other outstanding requirements set by the SRA, they 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 they are 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 can process the application for admission to the Roll of Solicitors of England and Wales and the applicant will receive their practicing 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.

More information on the changes taking place, the transitional arrangements and steps required can be found on the SRA’s website.