Global reputation of UK law ‘under threat’ if qualification is watered down, says Law Society’s Global Competitiveness report

Jonathan Smithers
Jonathan Smithers, president of the Law Society

The Law Society of England and Wales has warned that proposals being developed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to change the way solicitors qualify could damage the global competitiveness of UK law.

Detailed research with City members conducted by the Law Society and published in a report today looked at the spectrum of training options being considered by the SRA.

The report assessed the impact these options could have on the international reputation of solicitors and the UK as a global centre of legal excellence.

Of particular concern to firms is the possibility that the internationally respected period of workplace learning may be abolished.

Jonathan Smithers, president of the Law Society said: “The solicitor training contract contributes to developing practical professionally trained commercial lawyers and is the global gold standard, distinguishing the England and Wales qualification from its international rivals. UK law is respected globally.

“This reputation has been established over centuries based on the quality of legal practitioners, their excellent education, and the independence and standard of the courts and judiciary.

“There is a significant risk that the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s proposed changes to qualifications could chip away at our reputation as a centre of legal excellence - an industry worth more than £30 billion to the UK economy and supporting 300,000 jobs.”

The training contract is viewed highly by firms as a period of time dedicated to trainees learning how to work with clients and learning ethical judgement from more experienced mentors within the profession.

One firm observed: “The commercial antennae are much sharper compared to those who did a short placement or no training contract”.

This move by the regulator seems to be at odds with the ambitions of the Ministry of Justice and Department of Business Innovation and Skills, which are focused on increasing the export of legal professional services.

Read the full report here.

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