SRA equivalent means
In tandem with the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) (more information about this, including our response, can be found here), which was a review of education and training requirements across regulated and non-regulated legal services in England and Wales, the SRA ran a Work Based Learning (WBL) pilot scheme to research and explore an alternative model of assessing competence at the training contract stage of qualifying as a solicitor.
In Autumn and Winter 2013 the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) published a Policy statement: Training for Tomorrow and then ran a public consultation on the proposed changes. YLAL and other groups responded to say that the consultation was relatively vague and not particularly clear in what it was asking. Our response confirmed that in principle we support the expansion of ways in which people can enter the profession, but we wanted details and expressed concern about the impact that such proposed changes to qualification routes would have on the quality of training received.
Without much fanfare, in Spring 2014 the SRA announced new Training Regulations for 2014. They came into effect on 1 July 2014. It was only from the publication of the guidance to these regulations that journalists picked up on the fact that the regulations were in force. Through the system of “equivalent means”, it is now possible to seek admission as a solicitor by demonstrating that the regulator’s training requirements have been met through other equivalent experience or qualifications. In short, the new regulations mean that paralegals can qualify as solicitors without having to do the LPC or secure a training contract. In addition, the SRA will no longer stipulate the employment terms of the training contract.
The SRA focus is on ‘outcomes’ and requirements are general and not prescriptive. Employers will be able to sign off on competencies which are outcome focused. It may assist in counter-balancing the requirement to take on debt, but there are still fees e.g. £600 for equivalent means for a training contract, but no guarantee that you will receive the equivalent means qualificationion.
Whilst this could be seen as a positive step forward to open up the profession to those from lower scio-economic backgrounds YLAL feels it is also important to know more detail about how quality will be monitored and applicants will be protected from being exploited.
If YLAL members would like to help us achieve this aim please contact us to join the sub-group that will be focussing on these issues.
Thanks to committee member Deena Blacking for this update.