So You Want to Be a Lawyer in England: The QLTS

This article is about the somewhat complex journey for a licensed attorney to become a qualified solicitor in England and Wales. From the costs, to the format of the test itself, and a brief description of my experience, click through to find out if becoming a qualified solicitor in the UK is right for you.

So You Want to Be a Lawyer in England: The QLTS

When I passed the Texas bar exam in 2012, I swore that I would never take another bar exam again. Fast forward 5 years when I had an English husband whose oil & gas job required a move to the United Kingdom. In order to become qualified to practice there, I would need to take another bar exam – this time, the Qualified Lawyers’ Transfer Scheme (QLTS).

What is it?

It is a two-part exam. The first part is a multiple choice exam that can be taken in multiple locations around the world. Candidates must pass this first part of the exam before they are allowed to sit for part two. Part two is a practical assessment (called the Objective Structured Clinical Examination) and is modeled after medical assessments. It takes place over the course of eight days and right now, is only offered in London, UK.

Part One requires you to know 12-15 subjects in depth, often in excruciatingly memorized detail. If English is not your first language, you must become fluent before you can attempt the exam.

Part Two still requires a firm foundation of knowledge; however, it is also a test that examines your ‘soft skills’. How do you handle clients or judges? Can you write a professional and thorough letter, or argue your position before the court? Do you understand how to undertake legal research?

How Long Does it Take?

Both parts of the QLTS are offered twice a year – usually once in the spring and once in the fall. If you pass both parts on your first attempt, then you could be eligible to become a solicitor within a year. Part Two has a long waiting period after the examination for purposes of grading. The administrators advertise results will be released 12-14 weeks after the exams.

However, once the exam is completed, you must then apply to be on the Roll of Solicitors before you may begin practicing. You must fill out an application, and send in a certificate of good standing from your home jurisdiction. There will be a suitability test of your character, including background checks. The entire process can take 4-6 weeks.

How much does it cost?

The assessments are not cheap, and the prices continue to fluctuate each year. For 2017, the Multiple Choice examination cost around $1000.00. Part Two was $4,700.00. This is the cost of the examination alone, not including costs of travel and accommodation for Part Two. Additionally, there are books and materials that should be purchased, even if the candidate chooses to self-study. Books can cost anywhere from $200-300.

If you choose to select a course provider, there are multiple options, but they usually cost upwards of $1000.00 for each exam. It is not a cheap undertaking, and it is just as stressful as the bar exam, except you will likely be working full-time. However, if you are a practicing attorney, most of the concepts will already be familiar to you, so you may not need to spend as much time learning the concepts, but just memorizing their applicability to scenarios.

Wow! That is Expensive – so why do it?

First, nearly half of all corporations involved in international commerce use English law to govern their transactions. In fact, London is the preferred seat of international arbitration, used by 1/3 of international corporations. Dual-qualified lawyers offer a unique perspective and advantage to any corporation or business involved in global commerce.

When I sat Part Two, there were around 650 candidates by my estimation. I met people from New York, the Channel Islands, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Pakistan, India, Tanzania, Switzerland, France, Germany, Australia – you name it. Having a qualification in one of the oldest jurisdictions in the world can be valuable, particularly if you are involved in commercial litigation, maritime matters, shipping or cross-border transactions. It is a serious test with a serious monetary and temporal investment but has the potential for a serious payoff.

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