If you are a foreign qualified lawyer, the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme offers you an excellent opportunity to deepen your legal knowledge, develop your career, and join one of the most honorable law societies in the world.
The Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme, or QLTS, is one of the possible routes for foreign qualified lawyers and barristers from England and Wales to become solicitors of England and Wales. This examination is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and is provided by Kaplan QLTS, the only assessment body which is authorised to administer the exam.
In September 2010, the QLTS exam replaced the previous qualification regime, the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (QLTT), which is now no longer in effect. In contrast to the former QLTT exam, the QLTS assessment was designed to separate training and testing, so it must be administered by only one test provider, and that provider is not authorised to deliver QLTS preparation courses. The introduction of the QLTS system also extended the list of recognised jurisdictions by including countries like Iran, Kuwait, Russia, Morocco, Japan, Tunisia, and many more.
Only foreign lawyers qualified in one of the SRA recognised jurisdictions are eligible to start the qualification process through the QLTS scheme until it comes to an end following the introduction of the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) in September 2021 (see below).
In order to be able to qualify through the QLTS route in the United Kingdom, lawyers must comply with the following requirements:
- Be a foreign qualified lawyer in at least one of the recognised jurisdictions;
- Pass the QLTS Multiple Choice Test (MCT) and QLTS Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) assessments;
- Meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements;
- Apply for admission within the given deadline.
The QLTS OSCE assessments have historically been conducted in the UK twice a year. From 2020, Kaplan QLTS introduced three sittings. The final MCT administration will take place in July 2021, and is possible to sit internationally via Pearson VUE test centres. Candidates are advised to book their places in advance in order to be able to choose from the locations during the booking process. You can check out the Kaplan QLTS website to find the upcoming QLTS MCT and QLTS OSCE dates, as well as the booking requirements.
A great number of QLTS course providers and organisations help aspiring solicitors to enhance their legal knowledge and hone their practical skills before clearing the assessment. Some of them assist in preparing for both QLTS MCT and QLTS OSCE, while others specialise in one of the two stages and offer a more focused QLTS exam preparation for that stage. The Solicitors Regulation Authority is not allowed to regulate, condemn or endorse any of the QLTS training providers listed on the SRA website.
The QLTS MCT and QLTS OSCE results generally become available within 3-5 weeks and 12-14 weeks after the sitting, respectively. For prospective solicitors who fail the QLTS OSCE, there is no limit on the number of attempts they can make (until the QLTS regime is discontinued in 2022). As July 2021 will be the final administration of the MCT, candidates who fail this stage (or the final OSCE stage) can reattempt via the SQE route.
Over a year-long period up to the end of June 2020, newly-qualified solicitors who took the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme accounted for 11% of the 6,721 candidates who were admitted to the roll of solicitors, whereas the Legal Practice Course was the most popular route to qualification.
QLTS exam structure
The QLTS examination comprises two independent stages:
- MCT, meaning the computer-based Multiple Choice Test; and
- OSCE, meaning the skills-based Objective Structured Clinical Examination.
The MCT stage aims to test the application of legal knowledge in the practice areas of English law and comprises all elements of SRA Day One Outcome A.
It consists of 180 multiple-choice questions, each with 5 possible answers.
Candidates must first pass the MCT before sitting the OSCE, as the OSCE stage covers the same law concepts. The Postgraduate Diploma in Law (GDL) taught to domestic students over one academic year (full-time) or two years (part-time) is considered as equivalent to the QLTS MCT content.
The QLTS MCT assesses candidates in the 11 areas of substantive law, as follows:
- The English Legal System and EU Law;
- Constitutional Law and Judicial Review;
- Financial Regulation and Taxation;
- Professional Conduct and Solicitors’ Accounts;
- Property Law;
- Contract Law;
- Tort Law;
- Criminal Law;
- Equity and Trusts Law;
- Business Law;
- Human Rights.
In order to get ready for this stage of the QLTS, candidates are advised to practice answering sample multiple-choice questions and read QLTS MCT study materials, in particular the Oxford University Press (OUP) Law Concentrates.
The QLTS OSCE exam is focused on the main practical legal skills of overseas lawyers, and comprises all elements of SRA Day One Outcomes C, D, and F:
- Part 1/Oral Part – Client Interview, Advocacy/Presentation, Case and Matter Analysis/Attendance Note; and
- Part 2/Written Part – Legal Research, Legal Writing, Legal Drafting.
For convenience, the OSCE exam in the UK falls into two sittings and is conducted over a few days.
The OSCE stage covers the following five practice areas:
- Business Law;
- Property Law;
- Probate Law;
- Criminal Litigation;
- Civil Litigation.
Professional Conduct and Regulation constitutes an integral part of the assessment in each legal area.
The OSCE is a very practical examination, which is designed to evaluate candidates’ skills under actual legal practice conditions. So, for example, prospective solicitors will have to handle an interview with a client, prepare an attendance note or case analysis, conduct legal research and complete a record sheet, draft documents and various forms, write legal documents, and deliver a client presentation or advocacy. OSCE sample questions are available on the Kaplan QLTS website, while more information including QLTS OSCE tips, preparation time and planning can be found here.
From QLTS to SQE
In September 2021, the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme was replaced with a new common assessment that all domestic and overseas candidates will take before qualifying – the Solicitors Qualifying Examination, or SQE Exam. The SQE will also comprise two stages – SQE1, focused on testing of the functioning legal knowledge and SQE2, assessing candidates’ practical skills. The arrangements when transitioning to the SQE route will apply depending on the factors below:
If you are exempt from QLTS MCT:
Fully exempt, for example LPC graduates – must proceed with QLTS OSCE preparation, clear Stage 2 in 2021 and apply for admission until 31 August 2021, or obtain a waiver and apply for admission until 31 December 2021.
Partially exempt, for example Scottish solicitors – must clear QLTS OSCE similar to LPC graduates, or may instead pass SQE2 from April 2022.
For more details, please watch the video below.
The video explains QLTS OSCE transitional arrangements introduced by the SRA for the candidates who are fully exempt (e.g., LPC graduates) or partially exempt (e.g., those from Scotland, EU, etc.).
If you are not exempt from QLTS MCT:
Foreign qualified lawyers who have already cleared QLTS MCT – must either pass QLTS OSCE by 31 August 2022, or SQE2 by 31 August 2023.
Foreign qualified lawyers who have not yet cleared QLTS MCT – must undergo QLTS MCT preparation, pass MCT exam before 1 September 2021 and clear QLTS OSCE on the same conditions as stated in para (a) above.
For more details, please watch the below video. The video explains the transitional arrangements made on the way of introducing the SQE.
It is relevant for those foreign qualified lawyers who wish to qualify as solicitors via the QLTS, and have either passed the QLTS MCT or not.