New route into profession could be a game-changer
The new route that allows Legal Practice Course (LPC) graduates to qualify as solicitors without doing a training contract is gaining traction.
Since the equivalent means provision — nicknamed the “paralegal shortcut” — was introduced in July last year, 29 LPC graduates have applied to be recognised as solicitors via this route, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has confirmed.
The SRA added that four applicants have been approved, with 20 pending and five having withdrawn from the process.
Under the paralegal shortcut, LPC graduates who have gained equivalent experience to a newly-qualified trainee can apply to become solicitors. If they are approved, they are given the status of someone who has completed their training contract but has not yet secured a job as a newly-qualified solicitor.
SRA policy manager Carol Cook describes the paralegal shortcut as “a tough process” but “fair and transparent”.
In a recent interview with Young Legal Aid Lawyers committee member Camilla Graham Wood for the print edition of the Solicitors Journal magazine, Cook outlined how she and her colleagues assess an application for the shortcut:
“We carry out an initial check on applications to see if we can provide guidance on overall quality and whether they might need additional detail or evidence,” she said. “The applicant can make further representations on the detailed assessment of their application before we make a final decision.”
Cook added that to benefit fully from this, LPC graduates working as paralegals “should plan now for future applications”, explaining:
“They need to think about evidence to support their application, work with their employers to set objectives and development needs that meet training stage outcomes, plan their work, keep a diary, and keep records of appraisals and performance reviews.”
The paralegal shortcut falls under the new “periods of recognised training” umbrella, which replaced the old — but still much-used — “training contract”. Part of the reason for the change in terminology was to facilitate the shortcut, which it is hoped will help the glut of LPC graduates stuck in paralegal purgatory to finally become solicitors.
Training contract numbers took another tumble last year, with 5,097 training contracts registered between 1 July 2013 and 30 June 2014 — a drop of more than 200 on 2012-13. Meanwhile, 6,171 students completed the LPC in 2013.
Law firms ditch training contracts in favour of ‘periods of recognised training’ [Legal Cheek]