The end of the training contract?
Continuing its reforms for the profession, the SRA recently proposed a new career pathway for paralegals, meaning that those who have completed the Legal Practice Course no longer need to undertake a formal training contract to qualify as a solicitor.
From articled clerks to trainee solicitors, the transition to qualification is one of the oldest traditions in the formal legal system in England and Wales. Should it come into force, the SRA’s recent announcement is viewed throughout the profession as a ground-breaking change; it is one which will open up access to a legal career and potentially reduce the fierce competition for training contracts.
The SRA’s Training Regulations state that if an LPC graduate can demonstrate ‘other assessed learning and work-based learning through equivalent means of training’, they will not need to undertake a formal training contract in order to qualify. Under the current system, paralegals can apply to reduce the length of their training contract if they can demonstrate adequate training and experience but the new system would negate the need for a contract at all.
The Law Society is cautious about such a change and has urged the SRA to undertake a full consultation to ensure that standards are maintained; it is concerned that paralegals may not attain the depth of training that would otherwise be fulfilled by a training contract.
Amongst solicitors, all of whom have, of course, undertaken Articles or a training contract, feelings are mixed. Some believe that the proposals devalue the profession and particularly the training contract; it is so embedded in the history of the system that many do not agree with widening the doors to allow paralegals to bypass such long-standing requirements.
Others raise concerns about increased PII claims and, therefore, premiums, and some comment that a flooded market as a result of far more new solicitors joining the Roll will serve to reduce salaries and diminish quality of service.
From a more positive viewpoint, some commentators have indicated that this is a forward-thinking solution, allowing quality graduates who have been unable to secure a training contract to continue their career. Many paralegals are far more experienced than their trainee colleagues and the new proposals would allow them to be rewarded for service, knowledge and expertise gained ‘on the job’ as opposed to via a traditional training route.
Joshua Barrow, consultant at QC Legal and a specialist in recruitment at junior level, comments on the proposals:
“It is clear from recent announcements that the SRA is keen to move the profession forward and open up the Roll of Solicitors to a much wider demographic. Training contracts can be notoriously difficult to obtain and the quality of training obtained via such a route may not be up to expected standards. Some paralegals have worked for many years in their respective fields and have not pursued a training contract, perhaps because they would need to accept a reduced salary or otherwise because they do not want to participate in seat rotation when they have an established client base in their paralegal role. The new proposals, assuming that they are appropriately monitored, would reward loyalty and recognise expertise without diminishing standards which can only be a good thing.”
These proposals could increase accessibility to a profession which is often seen as non-progressive; provided that the SRA manages the system to ensure that quality of service is maintained, we believe that widening the route to the Roll may be a positive change.
QC Legal has a contact base extending nationally and internationally. We have many vacancies available throughout the UK and abroad and we work with candidates to find the most suitable role for them. If you would like to speak to us about opportunities available for you, please contact us:
Tel: 0161 880 0118