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Overseas lawyer qualifications not trusted by UK solicitors

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A anonymous comment made in reply to the Law Society Gazette’s recent feature on professional indemnity insurance PII costs fall – but attempted fraud is rampant (29 April 2016) explained how insurers believe that fraudsters from “very dubious countries” are abusing the SRA’s Qualified Lawyer’s Transfer Scheme (QLTS) to register on the Roll as a solicitor in the UK.

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Overseas qualified lawyers: Fraudsters?

To register as a solicitor in the UK, overseas qualified lawyers must not only obtain evidence of their qualification, they also need to pass a comprehensive six-hour legal knowledge test and a practical skills examination – not by any means a light touch process that is open to abuse by fraudsters.

However, the popularity of the comment (and the unpopularity of a comment made in reply stating that it was racist – shown by thumbs down voting of readers and a sneering response) highlights a more genuine problem –  a prevalent opinion by UK solicitors that lawyers who have qualified overseas may be fraudsters, and hold qualifications that are worthless.

Are overseas lawyers affected by prejudiced recruitment decisions?
Are overseas lawyers affected by prejudiced recruitment decisions?

This can only lead to a situation where a locally qualified solicitor will be hired in preference to a more able lawyer who has qualified overseas and has acquired QLTS status in the UK.

Obviously this will prejudice lawyers who have qualified overseas, but law firms are also missing out – not only on recruiting a person who may be the most qualified and experienced candidate for the job, but also, for any law firm with international clients, a lawyer who can contribute extremely valuable international knowledge, networking and language skills.

Numbers of lawyers in England Wales gaining status as a solicitor each year through the QLTS route are steadily increasing – up to 538 in the year ending March 2016, from 421 the previous year. However, the comments and voting submitted by solicitors in the Law Gazette suggests that prejudice among workplace employers may be severely affecting their prospects of being recruited and promoted.

A complaint of racism was lodged with the Gazette through the Report this comment facility. No response was received and the comment remains published.


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