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Hundreds of foreign qualified lawyers could be prevented from being able to practise law in England and Wales due to an administrative blunder on the new Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS).
The new scheme, which has been undergoing revisions by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for more than two years, has neglected to list key jurisdictions such as India, Canada and New York as areas, which can take the compulsory test.
But the SRA has defended its revised framework and instead put the blame on each particular jurisdiction’s regulatory body absent from the list for not returning its survey in time.
A spokesman for the SRA said: “We conducted a survey of international law societies and bars at the end of April and none of those contacted in [countries such as] India responded. Only those jurisdictions whose regulatory bodies replied and have been assessed as meeting the SRA’s criteria have been included on the list that appears on the SRA website.”
The SRA has now urged lawyers in jurisdictions that have not yet been included to encourage their bars or law societies to either complete the survey or contact the organisation directly.
But despite some countries being left off the list, the new QLTS has in fact been opened up to lawyers from a wider range of jurisdictions compared to the previous arrangement, which gave preferential treatment to Commonwealth countries.
Many non common-law jurisdictions from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America are now included on the list, including Zimbabwe and Nepal.
The new revisions for the QLTS 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.