The Law Society of Ireland has instigated judicial review proceedings against the Legal Services Board and Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) over the introduction of the new regime for overseas lawyers who want to requalify as solicitors in England and Wales, it has emerged.
The proceedings have, however, been stayed pending urgent discussions between the society and the SRA.
The exact details of the claim are currently sketchy, but under the new Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme, which takes effect from 1 September, solicitors from the Republic of Ireland (as well as Northern Ireland and Scotland) no longer enjoy the automatic exemption from the qualifying test that they do now.
In a statement, the LSB said the Law Society of Ireland has recently agreed to a stay in the proceedings while conversations between the society and SRA continue. “The LSB has no further comment on these matters.”
The qualified lawyers transfer test, the four-paper exam which since 1990 has tested the suitability of foreign lawyers and English barristers to requalify as solicitors, is being replaced by a three-part assessment. The first part will be a multiple-choice test of how the applicant meets the ‘day one outcomes’, which are the knowledge and skills the SRA expects a solicitor to have at the point of qualification.
Part two is an objective structured clinical examination that will test interviewing and advocacy skills in the context of three areas of practice – business, civil and criminal litigation, and property and probate. The final part, the technical legal skills test, will test the skills of legal research, drafting and writing.
The SRA says that in future, solicitors from elsewhere in the UK and the Republic will be individually assessed against the day one outcomes. If they have, through prior learning and experience, met the day one outcomes, then they will not need to take any assessments, which the SRA says means they will be in no worse position than currently.
“However, it is possible that if the outcomes have not been met, candidates may need to take one or more of the assessments. A comparison exercise is taking place to look at the qualification requirements for EEA and intra-UK applicants. This will help the SRA to process applications from these jurisdictions more efficiently. The results of this exercise will be published.”
UK and Irish solicitors can still claim their exemption if complete applications are received by post at the SRA’s Redditch office by the close of business on 31 August.