The Law Society has been forced to withdraw from an exclusive deal to endorse a training partner for the qualified lawyers transfer scheme (QLTS) after facing a judicial review from another provider, in the latest major stumble by the body that represents solicitors.
The QLTS enables foreign lawyers to qualify as solicitors, and following a tender last summer, the Law Society announced in October that BARBRI – a company that predominantly helps students pass US bar exams – would be its exclusive partner.
The society has various endorsement deals in place with suppliers – who pay for the privilege – but this was the first time it had put its name to a training course to become a solicitor.
Another business, QLTS School, issued a judicial review claim challenging the tender process and last week it issued a joint statement with Chancery Lane that said the Law Society “has decided to step back from what was proposed in the tender and will not proceed with any exclusive endorsement of any training partner for the supply of QLTS training”.
It is the latest in a string of embarrassments for the Law Society, such as the Veyo disaster that cost the profession £7m, the botched IT project that cost £5m, and the resignation of chief executive Catherine Dixon a year ago over her frustrations with its governance.
Last May, it was found guilty of abuse of a dominant position by the Competition Appeal Tribunal and in November the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the society’s marketing of the Conveyancing Quality Scheme was misleading.
The joint statement quoted Peter Liver, the Law Society’s executive director of membership services as saying: “The Law Society continues to review its position in respect of the provision of training generally and in particular towards QLTS and [Solicitors Qualifying Examination] qualification and intends to consult in respect of its role in such training, including with QLTS School.
“As part of that consultation process, the Law Society will take account of the legal, policy and regulation issues raised by QLTS School.”
The statement said that the society believed “the opening and monitoring of the gateway for foreign qualified lawyers seeking admission as English solicitors is an integral feature of maintaining the status of England and Wales as the premier jurisdiction of choice in international commerce and enhancing the stellar reputation of the English legal profession around the world”.
A spokesman for QLTS School said: “QLTS School is committed to continuing to play a leading role in the training of foreign lawyers for the English profession and pleased that it and other training providers can continue to offer candidates a breadth of choice and access, which would not have been possible had the Law Society not stepped back from exclusive endorsement arrangements.”
BARBRI declined to comment.
The Law Society still has an interim chief executive and has not provided any detail on when it expects to recruit a full-time successor to Ms Dixon beyond saying it would happen this year.