Toward a new assessment framework for admission as a solicitor
Transitional arrangements - Questions and Answers
15 July 2015
Q1. Why are the SRA Training Regulations 2014 (the Regulations) changing?
In October 2013, we announced Training for Tomorrow, our review of education and training designed to take forward the recommendations of the independent Legal Education and Training Review. Through its review, we want to assure standards more rigorously whilst at the same time encourage more flexible routes to qualification as a solicitor.
The first stage of this process was the publication in April 2015 of the Statement of Solicitor Competence (known as the Competence Statement), which captures the key activities required for effective performance as a solicitor.
For a solicitor, meeting the competences set out in the Competence Statement forms an integral part of the requirement to provide a proper standard of service in accordance with Principle 5 of the SRA Principles (2011).
The next stage of our work is to develop a new assessment framework, aligned to the Competence Statement, which will enable us to assess in a consistent, rigorous and fair manner that intending solicitors can demonstrate the competences set out in the Competence Statement. In due course, this will mean that we would need to change the regulations which specify how to qualify as a solicitor. It may mean that the main, current, way to qualify (Qualifying Law Degree or Common Professional Examination + Legal Practice Course + Recognised Period of Training) changes and/or that it becomes just one way to qualify among others.
Q2. What will the changes to the Regulations look like? And when will we know for certain what the new assessment requirements look like?
Because our policy development work is at an early stage, we are not in a position to say exactly what the changes to the Regulations might be and we are not going to be able to do so until the summer of 2016 at the earliest, after we have carried out a formal consultation later in 2015.
We are considering a number of options which include:
- continuing to specify routes to qualification matched against our new Competence Statement, to be taught and assessed by authorised training providers;
- permitting education and training providers to design and assess their own programmes, provided that they are matched against our new Competence Statement; or
- introducing a new common professional assessment of the competences in the Competence Statement, which all intending solicitors must take.
Q3. How long will the current qualification structure remain in place? How will we know when the changes to the regulations are introduced?
As we have said in the statement on transitional arrangements, any new regulations and assessment requirements to qualify as a solicitor would not be introduced before the beginning of the 2018/19 academic year. We will provide any updates, regularly, on our T4T and SRA websites and will let universities, employers, schools and colleges know what any changes are and when they will be introduced.
Q4. What will happen to qualifications or training I have already started or partially completed? Will I have to start again?
As we have said in the statement on transitional arrangements, in any new assessment framework, we would take account of qualifications or vocational training that an intending solicitor has already committed to, started or partially completed by the time that any new regulations are introduced. Students and trainees would not have to repeat any stage of training that they had committed to, started or partially completed, nor would they be required to start their training from the beginning in order to qualify as a solicitor.
Q5. How might the proposed changes affect (i) the recruitment of trainee solicitors; and (ii) universities and training providers, authorised or recognised by the SRA?
Firms which are considering making an offer of a Period of Recognised Training, starting after September 2018/19, may wish to think about how the introduction of any new regulations might affect their recruitment practice and what provision they might need to make to manage any transitional period whilst any new regulations are introduced.
Similarly, universities and training providers, authorised or recognised by the SRA, which are making offers of places on courses, starting before September 2018/19, may wish to inform their prospective students that we are undertaking a review of the Regulations and that this might result in changes to the existing assessment framework to qualify as a solicitor.