SRA scheme threatens end of training contracts

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has unveiled its long-awaited work-based learning pilot, which may result in the abolition of training contracts.

The regulator is piloting two separate models. The first, which is expected to generate the most controversy, will enable paralegals to qualify as solicitors while working in their current roles. The paralegals will take responsibility for their own training and development and will be assessed externally by Nottingham Law School.

The second model being piloted will work similarly to the training contract, but qualification as a solicitor will no longer be automatic, with trainees being subject to more rigorous assessment criteria.

Tim Pierce, development manager at SRA Education & Training, said: “This is an experiment so we can’t ­predict what will happen, but there’s no question of creating a two-tier system. We want to improve standards while at the same time creating greater flexibility.”

Firms participating in the pilot include Beachcroft, Freeth Cartwright, Jones Day and Linklaters. The new structure is expected to be rolled out in 2011.