‘Equivalent Means’ shaking up legal profession
A radical new route to solicitor qualification that allows paralegals to bypass the training contract stage is gaining traction.
According to Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) figures that have been seen exclusively by Legal Cheek, 105 Legal Practice Course (LPC) graduates have successfully applied for ‘Equivalent Means’ since it was launched in summer 2014.
The system — which has been nicknamed ‘The Paralegal Shortcut’ — enables paralegals to keep a record of their work across three different seats and then present it to the SRA. Provided they meet the equivalent criteria for a training contract, they then become solicitors.
SRA director of education and training Julie Brannan expressed her pleasure at the growing popularity of Equivalent Means, while also telling of her hopes to make the principle of empowering paralegals behind it more mainstream, telling us:
I am very pleased to see the numbers of equivalent means applications continuing to grow steadily. However, pulling the evidence together to make an application can be daunting. I hope that being more flexible about legal work experience but requiring all intending solicitors to take the same, rigorous assessment, as we have proposed in our SQE consultation, would encourage even more, talented people to qualify as solicitors.
The first ever graduate to qualify via Equivalent Means, Shaun Lawler, has previously spoken of the heavy burden that the route places on paralegals to keep track of their development while also emphasising the importance of “having a supportive supervisor”.
But the progress of Lawler, who is now a solicitor at respected City practice Shakespeare Martineau, and the 100+ others like him, illustrate the do-ability of the short-cut.