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Learn Welsh — regulator demands of newly-qualified solicitors

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Don’t panic England — the latest suggested edict from the Solicitors Regulation Authority will apply only to those poor buggers actually practising in the Principality

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Young solicitors are soon to be freed of requirements to have any management skills — but they will have to learn Welsh.

At least those practising in the principality will be obliged to say “Yes, that’s right, my fees are £200 an hour plus vat and we’ll need some funds on account” in the tongue of Cerys Matthews and Duffy.

The latest wheeze from the profession’s regulator suggests that mandatory management training should be jettisoned, while Welsh language skills should be a training and regulation “outcome” for those practising in Wales.

So the message from the Solicitors Regulation Authority appears to be — young solicitors can run their practices into the ground financially, as long as those in Wales do so while signing “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” (that’s “Land of My Fathers”, for those of you reading in England).

Earlier this week, the SRA released a consultation paper setting out proposed changes to its education and training regulations for newly-qualified solicitors, which form part of the watchdog’s “red tape challenge”, a slogan that has something of a washing powder advert about it. The regulations deal with requirements for solicitors with up to three years’ post-qualification experience.

The SRA is saying out with the requirement for solicitors to wrestle with an old favourite, management course stage 1. Officials maintain ditching it will allow solicitors “to choose when to undertake management training and to decide the level of training that they need”. With the likely answer, of course, being: never in a month of Sundays, and none at all, thanks.

Another SRA-mooted landmark move in the consultation is the ditching of requirements for overseas qualified lawyers to have a certificate from the regulator confirming eligibility to sit the qualified lawyers transfer scheme assessment.

But it is the Welsh language requirement that will dominate pub chat from Cardiff to Colwyn bays and everywhere in between. If adopted, it will put young Welsh solicitors streets ahead of the wider population.

According to the most recent UK census figures, slightly fewer than 20% of Wales’s 3.1 million residents are able to utter several sentences in the language. And only slightly more than three-quarters of those are classed as being fully literate.

Perhaps the SRA sees itself in the vanguard of the campaign to save a clearly struggling language. Over the last decade, the number of those classed as Welsh speakers at some level has dropped by 2%.

The SRA is accepting responses to its consultation — available here — until 17 November. Comments submitted in Welsh will doubtless be afforded additional weight.