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City lawyers issue warning on ‘inconceivable’ SRA apprenticeship proposals

The City of London Law Society (CLLS) has issued a stark warning over what it deems ‘inconceivable’ changes in the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) proposal to allow lawyers to qualify through apprenticeships and has raised concerns that standards could fall if changes are carried out.

The CLLS, which represents around 15,000 City lawyers, said that while they agreed with the broad reasoning behind carrying out the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ Trailblazer Apprenticeship scheme and the new Welsh Apprenticeship scheme, they were concerned that changes to entry requirements were not limited to these alone.

Instead apprenticeship schemes by any means, including ‘relevant employer led work experience’, could result in ‘entry with no academic qualifications at all, not even GCSEs or A Levels which is inconceivable’.

The society went on to say it was too early to make generic changes to entry regulations and that, even if changes were made so that some academic qualifications were required, it remained ‘far from being reassured that standards will be maintained.’

The proposed changes affect the regulations governing how lawyers can be admitted as a solicitor to allow qualification through the English or Welsh apprenticeship pathways. Current requirements require either completing or gaining exemption from specified academic and vocational stages of training, while lawyers from other jurisdictions can gain admittance through the qualified lawyer transfer scheme.

The SRA signed up to the government’s Trailblazers apprenticeship scheme in 2014, which is aimed at improving apprenticeships by using standards designed by the industry itself and involves the SRA working alongside firms including Addleshaw Goddard, Eversheds, Irwin Mitchell, Pinsent Masons and Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co together with BPP, CILEx and the University of Law.

The training committee of the CLLS which issued the response comprises:

  • Caroline Pearce – Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Chair
  • Rita Dev – Allen & Overy
  • Ruth Grant – Hogan Lovells
  • Hannah Kozlova-Lindsay – Slaughter and May
  • Patrick McCann – Herbert Smith Freehills
  • Catherine Moss – Fasken Martineau
  • Stephanie Tidball – Macfarlanes
  • Lindsay Gerrand – DLA Piper
  • Ben Perry – Sullivan & Cromwell