Foreign lawyers get new UK transfer rules

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is set to bring in revised guidance for foreign lawyers looking to practise in England and Wales from 1 September after a delay of six months.

The changes to the guidelines confirm that all transferees will have at least one year’s experience of English law before they can be admitted as solicitors. It will also allow requests for exemptions from the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (QLTT).

SRA chief executive Antony Townsend said the revised guidance will ensure all solicitors, however they qualified, have the knowledge of the law to be able to offer competent advice to their clients.

“There were weaknesses with the current system and the existing guidelines were vague in some areas, with the risk of inconsistency and unfairness,” said Townsend.

“The changes are designed to protect the public interest, to be fair to all solicitors, and to continue to allow appropriately experienced lawyers who qualified abroad to come and practise in England and Wales as fully recognised England and Wales solicitors,”

The revisions were originally supposed to come into force in March, however, consultation into the amendments caused controversy for discriminating against diversity (The Lawyer, 11 February).

The pressure on the SRA led to the consultation being extended by a month to allow more individuals and groups to respond. In the end, the SRA received a total of 216 responses.

Townsend added that overall, the new guidance on experience will be easier for many transferees to satisfy than the current requirements.

“We accept it will make it more difficult for some, but believe the guidance is proportionate and fair, and will help to ensure that all clients can continue to have confidence in the solicitors they instruct, regardless of their route to qualification,” said Townsend.