Law Society abandons plan for exclusive solicitor training deal

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By Katie King on

Another embarrassment for Chancery Lane bigwigs

The Law Society has ditched plans to endorse a training provider for its Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) — in the latest embarrassment for the body responsible for representing solicitors in England and Wales.

Feathers were ruffled last summer when the Law Society ran a tender to find an exclusive partner for delivering the QLTS, the exam that enables foreign lawyers to qualify as solicitors. In October, it was announced that BARBRI, a large American law school that is best known in the UK for helping British students pass US bar exams, had won the tender.

This was the first time the Law Society had specifically endorsed a solicitor training course provider, and one business particularly unimpressed by the move was the self-confessed “premier training provider for the QLTS assessments”, QLTS School. On the advice of solicitors at Asserson Law Offices, QLTS School issued a judicial review claim challenging the tender process. Now, the Law Society has said it “will not proceed with any exclusive endorsement of any training partner for the supply of QLTS training”.

A spokesman for QLTS School said:

“QLTS School is committed to continuing to play a leading role in the training of foreign lawyers for the English profession and pleased that it and other training providers can continue to offer candidates a breadth of choice and access, which would not have been possible had the Law Society not stepped back from exclusive endorsement arrangements.”

We’re sure Steven Vaughan, the former solicitor turned UCL law academic, is not alone in his take on the Law Society climb down: “Yet another pin cite in a comedy of errors.”

To run through some highlights (or lowlights) of this comedy, in June the Competition Appeals Tribunal found the Law Society guilty of abusing its dominant position in the market by requiring thousands of law firms to buy its own training courses.

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Before that, the Law Society was left both red-faced and with a £7 million bill over a failed conveyancing software project. Chancery Lane bigwigs had attempted to establish an online portal called Veyo, investing millions in new software technology before pulling the plug in spring 2016. Perhaps it’s small wonder the Law Society’s former chief executive, Catherine Dixon, resigned in January 2017, at the time saying: “It is impossible, as an effective Chief Executive Officer, to navigate the [Law Society’s] complex and often overlapping boards, (and sometimes committees), in a way which best serves the organisation and its members.”

On the QLTS front, Peter Liver, the Law Society’s executive director of member services, commented:

“The Law Society continues to review its position in respect of the provision of training generally and in particular towards QLTS… qualification and intends to consult in respect of its role in such training, including with QLTS School. As part of that consultation process, the Law Society will take account of the legal, policy and regulation issues raised by QLTS School. The Law Society believes that the opening and monitoring of the gateway for foreign qualified lawyers seeking admission as English solicitors is an integral feature of maintaining the status of England and Wales as the premier jurisdiction of choice in international commerce and enhancing the stellar reputation of the English legal profession around the world.”

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