College of Law threatens SRA with anti-diversity suit

The Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA) has been attacked for taking action that will undermine the diversity of the British legal profession.

The College of Law has instructed Rabinder Singh QC of Matrix Chambers, who has warned that the SRA measures are “potentially in breach of the Race Relations Act and the Competition Act”.

Nigel Savage, the College’s chief executive, said “We’re not against moves to drive up standards and indeed have raised our own concerns about poor standards among some of the lawyers qualifying as solicitors. But these measures are being introduced without warning or discussion and in their present form could have a disastrous effect on recruitment to the London legal market.”

The College’s condemnation of the SRA comes in response to the regulatory body’s review of the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Regulations 1990 (QTLR).

The purpose of the review, according to the SRA, is to ensure those who qualify under the regulations have “the knowledge and skills required for practising as a solicitor of England and Wales”.

While a full review of QTLR and the qualified lawyers transfer test (QLTT) takes place, the SRA has put in interim measures requiring re-qualifiers to gain at least one year of practice under English law. This has to be under the direct supervision of a English law qualified solicitor.

In a response paper to the SRA, Savage pointed out that it is comparatively easy for western European, US and Australasian lawyers to obtain employment in a UK firm, as they have larger offices in such jurisdictions or the lawyers can afford to spend time in the UK.

Savage said: “This is less so for say young lawyers from Nigeria, India or China where fewer students are recruited by City firms.”

The SRA declined to comment.