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Qualifying from abroad to work in the UK
The SQE will replace the qualified lawyers transfer scheme (QLTS), serving foreign qualified lawyers who wish to requalify in the UK.
SQE1 will be available to take internationally at a range of centres.
SQE2 oral skills assessments will only be available in England and Wales, but the SRA aims to make them available internationally later.
Exemption from the SQE
Qualified lawyers with practice rights will be able to apply for exemption from the SQE on the basis of their prior qualifications or experience. Exemptions will only be granted from a whole component (or components) of the SQE.
They include a degree that is shown to be equivalent to a UK degree or equivalent UK qualification through a UK NARIC Statement of Comparability.
The SRA will recognise any qualifications (or experience) that are comparable to part (or parts) of the SQE. Exemptions will only be granted from a whole component (or components) of the SQE.
Further, the SRA is currently looking at the position for lawyers qualified in the republic of Ireland when the SQE is introduce and will publish information about this when the decision is made.
When the SRA recognises a qualified lawyer’s professional qualification as equating to part or all of the SQE1 and SQE2 assessments, the qualified lawyer will not be required to sit the corresponding components of the SQE assessment(s). This is provided for by Regulation 3.2 of the Authorisation of Individuals Regulations.
Requalification and Brexit
The SRA cannot provide any further guidance about the post Brexit position until firm decisions are made. However, the SRA and Law Society continue to monitor the situation regarding Brexit and will review its policy and regulations when any decisions are made. The SRA recently published a consultation on its proposed position in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The SRA has also confirmed that international and intra-UK qualified solicitors will continue to have the same treatment. The SRA’s principles for qualified lawyers seeking admission as a solicitor of England and Wales set out consistent principles for qualified lawyers of all professions, and of all jurisdictions other than England and Wales.
Qualified Work Experience (QWE)
QWE does not have to be taken in any specific country or jurisdiction. However, it must:
- provide the opportunity to develop the competences set out in the SRA’s Statement of Solicitor Competence
- be confirmed by a person that the SRA authorises (a solicitor or a Compliance Officer for Legal Practice)
The SRA will recognise work experience from a non-SRA regulated law firm either in the UK or overseas if the QWE is signed off by a UK solicitor who is on the roll of solicitors.
Completing QWE does not require any assessment of whether the competences have been met. That will be demonstrated by successful completion of the SQE.
Qualified overseas lawyers will not need to fulfil qualifying work experience requirement or get sign-off on it.
The transition from the QLTS
The SRA has consulted with stakeholders on the change from the QLTS to the SQE, including contacting overseas law societies and bars for their views and considering the views of QLTS providers.
As a result of the consultation, the SRA will allow part-qualified QLTS candidates an additional year to complete the QLTS. This means that if you have started the QLTS or part of it when the SQE comes in, you will be given 12 months to complete it.