Prove you will practise here, BSB to tell transferring overseas lawyers

Pakistan: Lawyers seeking status of being called in England and Wales

The Bar Standards Board could ask foreign lawyers seeking to be called in England and Wales to prove they intend to practise here, it has emerged.

The idea reflects the continuing pressure on the regulator’s authorisation team to deal with the surge of applications for admission to the Bar as a transferring qualified lawyer (TQL), mainly from the Indian sub-continent, particularly Pakistan and Bangladesh.

In December, the continuing rise in applications was said to be the BSB’s “principal” concern about its operational performance.

Speaking at yesterday’s meeting of the BSB’s main board, director general Mark Neale said: “We think the rise in applications from lawyers particularly from the subcontinent is largely driven by motives other than an intention to practise in England and Wales.

“We can surmise it is essentially to do with being able to state they have been called to the Bar in England and Wales.”

Papers before the board said the authorisations team continued to receive, on average, 50 new applications from transferring lawyers every month.

“These are the most complex and demanding types of applications handled by the team. We have now put in place a temporary task force to tackle the backlog of these claims and to free up other team members to deal with the flow of new claims.”

Alongside this, it said, a review of authorisations is considering “the introduction of a requirement that applications from transferring overseas lawyers must be accompanied by proof of an intention to practise in England and Wales”.

The BSB is also reviewing the fee it charges for handling these applications “to ensure that our policy of cost recovery is being adhered to”.

However, Jen Terry, head of the task force – for which four staff were recruited – told the board of fears that increasing the fee would trigger an “avalanche” of applications before it came into force.

She explained that there were around 650 outstanding transfer applications, of which 150 were from solicitors. The oldest dated back to October 2022, with some applications stuck because the fee has not been paid or requested information not provided.

The task force is prioritising first applicants with a pupillage or tenancy offer, and then solicitors.

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