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Indian lawyers can’t apply for practice in UK anymore (also Canadians, NYers)

London Underground
London Underground
Indian qualified lawyers will currently not be able to apply to practise law in England and Wales under the new Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) since yesterday (1 September), due to an oversight by the Bar Council of India (BCI), said the countries’ Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

The QLTS replaced the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (QLTS) and Qualified Lawyers Transfer Regulations (QLTR) yesterday and is required to allow overseas lawyers to become qualified as solicitors in England and Wales.

An SRA spokesperson told Legally India: “The SRA conducted a survey of international Law Societies and Bars at the end of April and none of those contacted in India have yet responded.”

“Only those jurisdictions whose regulatory bodies have replied and been assessed as meeting the SRA's criteria have been included on the list that appears on the SRA website www.sra.org.uk/qlts.”

He confirmed that Indian qualified lawyers would not be able to apply to be admitted to the UK, unless they had previously made a valid application for admission under the QLTT or QLTR rules before 1 September. However, he added that the SRA was “keen to point out” that it is only because the Indian regulator had not responded to the survey and that there were “other notable omissions” such as Canada and New York.

Indian law school graduates who get recruited by London law firms will generally have to pass the QLTS during or after their training contract.

“The QLTS covers lawyers from a wider range of jurisdictions than under the previous arrangements. A list of recognised jurisdictions is now available,” stated the SRA’s website. Many non common-law jurisdictions from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America are included on the list, including Zimbabwe, Hong Kong and Nepal, although Pakistan is also missing from the list.

The SRA spokesperson added: “We would advise lawyers in jurisdictions that have not been included, to encourage their Bars or Law Societies to either complete the survey or contact us   if they need a survey to be sent.”

The SRA would be unable to act until it had received those surveys and it was up to the regulatory bodies in jurisdiction to take action, he said. Inclusion on the list “would not be automatic” and “criteria would have to be assessed”. “However, the original surveys were only sent out at the end of April and already many countries are included on the list, so response time on the SRA's part is quite swift,” noted the spokesperson.

“I could not put a timescale on [the process] but can say that any communications will be dealt with as swiftly as possible,” he added.

One BCI insider contacted by Legally India was unaware of the development and unable to comment, while the BCI’s chairman and solicitor general Gopal Subramanium was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press. He was appointed to the BCI’s chairmanship in mid-April.

Indian laws do not permit foreign nationals to practise law in India unless the country has a reciprocal arrangement and allows Indian lawyers to practise in that respective country.

UPDATE 2 September 18:12: Gopal Subramanium commented: "I was unaware of any attempt from the SRA to contact us."

"I am taking steps to rectify the oversight immediately and will be in touch with the SRA on an urgent basis. Please reassure the community that I was not apprised and will attempt to ensure that Indian candidates will not be prejudiced," he told Legally India by email.

Thanks to Legally India blogger ratiojuris for first alerting the development.

Photo by David Sifry

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