Equivalent means information pack
Updated 21 December 2016
Information on the exemptions available from education and training requirements
The education and training requirements which an individual must complete to gain admission as a solicitor are set out in the SRA Training Regulations 2014.
To be admitted as a solicitor you must have completed:
- the academic stage, and
- the vocational stage.
To complete the academic stage you must have either a qualifying law degree (QLD), or if you have a first degree which is not a qualifying law degree, then you must complete the Common Professional Examination (CPE), sometimes also called the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). You can find more details in the Academic Stage Handbook (PDF 46 pages, 415K) and the Students information pack.
To complete the vocational stage you must complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC), undertake a required period of recognised training (PRT) and complete the Professional Skills Course (PSC). You can find more details in the Information pack for trainees about training and the PSC. Full details about the LPC are contained in the Information pack for LPC providers.
Each of these stages, and their constituent parts, has a set of requirements or outcomes. In some cases the requirements relate to specific knowledge. For example, to be a qualifying law degree, the programme must include study of the seven Foundations of Legal Knowledge. There are also requirements relating to the amount of academic credit that must be allocated to the study of law on the degree and the number of assessment attempts a student is permitted.
The seven Foundations of Legal Knowledge are the key areas of law and legal principles which will provide students with a sound body of knowledge from which to study other specialist areas of law and progress towards qualification as a solicitor. They are Contract, Tort, Criminal Law, Constitutional and Administrative Law, Property Law, Equity and Trusts and the Law of the European Union. You can find more detail about this in the Joint statement on the academic stage of training.
The outcomes we specify for the vocational stage are set out in:
- The Legal Practice Course outcomes
- The Professional Skills Course Written Standards
- The Practice Skills Standards.
You must also meet our requirements for character and suitability.
Regulation 2.2 of the Training Regulations 2014 allows us to recognise that the knowledge and skills outcomes (and the standard at which they must be acquired) may have been achieved by an individual through other assessed learning and work based learning. Where this is the case, we may grant exemption from all or part of the academic or vocational stages. For example, we may agree that an individual has through a different course of assessed learning or work-based experiential learning, met the outcomes required on Stage 2 of the Legal Practice Course and so grant exemption from this stage.
We call this assessed learning and work-based experiential learning 'equivalent means'. We can recognise this learning by granting exemption from qualification and training requirements specified in our regulations.
This guidance sets out our approach to recognising that the outcomes and requirements of the qualifications specified in our regulations may have been acquired by equivalent means. See details of application process and fees
We may recognise prior learning and grant exemptions where:
- i. the level, standard, volume and content of prior learning achieved is equivalent to all or part of a particular stage of education and training; and
- ii. there is relevant, sufficient and adequate evidence of such achievement.
We may grant exemptions on the basis of prior assessed learning, often referred to as certificated learning. What this means is that you have undertaken learning, usually in a higher education or further education context, which has led to an academic award, for example a Bachelors degree or a higher education diploma. We will only recognise academic credit that has led to a qualification or an award.
If you intend to study on a QLD, CPE or LPC, and you consider that you may have already acquired some knowledge and skills that will be assessed on that course, you may be exempt from some assessment in one or more subjects. In certain circumstances, universities are permitted to recognise that a student has already acquired relevant knowledge and skills through prior leaning or experience and are able to give credit for that. This is called Accreditation of Prior Learning. If this applies to you, you should make the application directly to the provider in accordance with the provider's policies. You will usually be expected to do this at the same time as you are applying to the course. Subject to 6 and 7 below, the provider will assess whether or not you are entitled to credit for prior learning. You should not make an application to us.
If you are claiming an exemption based on an award obtained outside of the UK, the awarding body must be recognised by UK NARIC. NARIC is a UK national agency which gives advice, guidance and expert opinion on international qualifications and how they compare to UK qualifications.
We may grant exemptions based on prior experiential learning. The key principle here is that we will recognise the achievement of learning and outcomes and not simply evidence that you have had experience of doing something.
We will not grant exemptions against outcomes which relate to the vocational stage on the basis of learning gained during the academic stage. This means for example, that if on your university degree you have studied business taxation, or accounts, we will not exempt you from this element of the LPC. The reason for this is that there is a progressive element to the standard at which the knowledge and skills that we require are achieved. Knowledge and skills acquired during the vocational stage are acquired at a higher level than that obtained during the academic stage.
In relation to the LPC, providers are not entitled to award exemptions from all of either Stage 1 or 2. Providers may, however, award credit for some part of either or both stages.
If you wish to seek exemption from the part of the vocational stage relating to recognised training or the PSC on the basis that you have acquired the relevant knowledge and skills by equivalent means, your application must be made to us.
Your application must be supported by evidence which we consider to be relevant, sufficient and adequate.
When we assess an application for recognition of work-based learning against our requirements for recognised training, we will have regard to the requirements of Regulation 12.1 of the Training Regulations 2014. This will include how you have worked alongside solicitors, the legal nature of the work you have undertaken, the level of supervision, feedback and appraisals and interaction with clients or similar. We will be looking for a clear alignment between the work that you have done and the work which would be done by a trainee.
We may refuse to recognise work-based learning if it was achieved during any period when you could not meet the requirements of our character and suitability test. This is an important part of the requirements for being admitted as a solicitor and we urge you to read this information closely. If you fail to disclose something to us that you should have disclosed then this may be treated in itself as dishonesty and we may refuse to admit you as a solicitor.
Who can claim exemption
You are eligible to claim exemption if you are seeking to be admitted as a solicitor, and:
- you have undertaken assessed learning in the law of England and Wales at or equivalent to level 4 or above of the Framework Qualification for Higher Education; and /or;
- you have undertaken relevant work-based learning; and/or
- you are an EU, EEA or Swiss national who is partially qualified in another EU/EEA country (a Morgenbesser applicant).
You are not eligible to claim exemption on the grounds of equivalence under the Training Regulations 2014 if you are a qualified lawyer in a different jurisdiction (i.e. outside England and Wales) or a Barrister qualified in England and Wales – in this case you must seek admission through the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme Regulations.
We have over time granted certain block exemptions for individuals who have completed specified education and training requirements of other legal regulators or professional bodies. These are set out in the following sections. Unless otherwise stated, all exemptions require an application to be made to us first to establish your eligibility.
Eligibility for full/partial exemption from the Common Professional Examination (CPE)
If you are a Chartered Legal Executive or Graduate of CILEx, you can claim full or partial exemption from the CPE if you have passed corresponding papers in the level six membership examinations. To claim a full exemption from the CPE, you should apply to the SRA; for partial exemptions, applications should be made to a CPE provider.
Exemption from the period of recognised training
If you are a Chartered Legal Executive who has
- satisfied the requirements of the academic stage through study or exemptions granted, and
- completed the LPC, and
- been engaged as Chartered Legal Executive in the practice of law,
we will exempt you from the requirement to undertake a period of recognised training as required by regulation 5 of the Training Regulations 2014. You are also exempt from the elective elements of the Professional Skills Course. This exemption is automatic and you do not need to apply to us. However, when you apply to be admitted as a solicitor, you will need to provide us with evidence of your qualification as a Chartered Legal Executive.
Assistant Justices' Clerks
If you are employed as an Assistant Justices' Clerk and you have:
- completed the academic stage; and
- completed the LPC; and
- completed the core modules of the PSC; and
- before attending the LPC, you have served for at least five years out of the last 10 years in the Magistrates' Courts Service as an Assistant Justices' Clerk
we will exempt you from the requirement to complete a period of recognised training. You are automatically exempt from the elective elements of the PSC; you do not need to apply to us for this exemption.
Morgenbesser applicants and UK nationals partially qualified in an EU/EEA Member State outside of the UK
If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss national who is partially qualified in another EU/EEA Member State and you wish to qualify as a solicitor of England and Wales you may apply to us to assess the equivalence of your professional qualifications against the outcome required of a newly qualified solicitor. These are the Day One Outcomes.
If you are eligible to apply under this section, you should complete the form Equivalent means – Morgenbesser. You will use this form to provide us with the necessary details and evidence of your knowledge and skills to enable us to evaluate the extent to which you have met the Day One Outcomes. We will need to see evidence of your qualifications and experience and we will also require translations into English of any evidence that you are relying on.
Once we have assessed your application we may determine that you must undertake further assessment or training to meet those Day One Outcomes that we are not satisfied you have met. We may specify the form and content of any such assessment.
Mature applicants may be eligible to commence the CPE without having a degree.
We do not set age requirements around who we consider to be 'mature' students—we instead define mature students as people who wish to be eligible to commence the CPE based on work experience and general education.
If you have
- considerable experience or have shown exceptional ability in an academic, professional, business or administrative level (for instance, several years of experience as a teacher, police officer, doctor, etc, at middle-management level or more senior); and
- achieved a sufficient standard of general education (normally A-level passes sufficient to be granted admission to a full-time degree programme),
then we may accept you as eligible to commence a CPE.
Please note that a good command of both spoken and written English is required by providers for admission onto the CPE.
If this section applies to you, please complete the form Equivalent means – Eligibility to commence the CPE for non-graduates.
We also have a number of exemptions based on an individual's qualifications or experience.
Common Professional Examination
Full or partial exemption from the seven foundations of legal knowledge subjects, and from one further area of legal study, may be granted if a student has passed corresponding subjects within a degree programme.
If you wish to apply for a full exemption, you must apply to us – please see the Key principles section on what you need to prove to us.
If you wish to apply for partial exemption, you must do so when applying to provider institutions to enrol on their CPE course.
In either case, such exemptions may be granted only if the degree in question has actually been awarded.
Legal Practice Course
If you are claiming exemption from all or both of either Stage 1 or Stage 2 of the LPC, you should make your application on form Equivalent means – Legal Practice Course. Details on how to make your application and associated fees can be found below. If you are seeking exemption for some part of either Stage 1 or Stage 2 you should apply directly to your chosen LPC provider. This will be dealt with according to their policy on accreditation of prior learning.
Graduates of either the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) are permitted exemptions from attendance and assessment in some areas of the LPC. BVC graduates are exempt from the following areas:
- Stage 1 – Litigation, advocacy, drafting, practical legal research
- Stage 2 – Two vocational electives.
BPTC graduates are exempt from the following areas:
- Stage 1 – Litigation, advocacy, drafting
- Stage 2 – Two vocational electives
You should have successfully completed the BVC/BPTC not more than five years prior to your enrolment on the LPC.
We do not consider applications for BPTC/BVC exemption or grant these exemptions ourselves – the LPC provider will make the final decision whether to exempt a student from parts of their curriculum. We permit LPC providers to grant these exemptions, but we do not require them to; some providers may not offer these exemptions because of the nature of the academic award they make on successful completion of the LPC. You should contact your LPC provider for their policy on exemptions. We recommend that you raise this with your preferred provider before you decide which course to embark on.
It is also for each LPC provider to determine whether, in granting exemptions, you will study the course over less time or at a reduced fee.
Professional Skills Course
If you are a trainee, or otherwise required to complete the PSC, you may be granted exemptions from one or more of the core elements. The exemptions can be based on experience and/or training which covers the same ground as the PSC's Written Standards.
The PSC is designed to build on the LPC, so completion of the LPC cannot be used as a basis to apply for exemptions from the core elements of the PSC.
There are also exemptions available from the elective subjects on the PSC. Courses in the following topics/subjects will count as PSC electives:
- The shortened Accounts Course for trainees that have taken the Law Society Finals or the pre 1997 LPC
- The courses leading to the Higher Rights of Audience Qualification
- The Human Rights Act.
If there are assessments as part of these courses, they do not have to be passed in order for the exemption to be available, as the PSC electives themselves have no assessments.
Making an application
Applications for exemptions must be made on the relevant Equivalent means form. You should use the version of the form relevant to the exemption you are seeking: each form contains an assessment table which contains the knowledge and outcomes relevant to a particular stage. If you are claiming exemption from more than one stage, please contact us to discuss your requirements further. The forms are as follows:
All applications must provide the necessary details and evidence of your knowledge and skills to enable us to evaluate whether or not you have met the outcomes claimed. Wherever possible, you must include evidence which objectively verifies the knowledge and skills that you are claiming; for example, certificates or transcripts of academic qualifications, or records of supervised training verified by your supervisor. If the evidence provided is not relevant, sufficient and adequate, we will not assess your application.
If you are claiming that you have relevant experiential learning you must give details of:
- the duration of your work experience and the number of hours worked (e.g. per week)
- the level of employment and how much responsibility you held
- the nature of work undertaken relevant to the outcomes claimed
- the jurisdiction to which your experience relates, and
- details of how you were supervised, if at all.
All work experience claimed must be supported with references from employers which:
- corroborate the work experience evidence provided
- is written by a named person who could be contacted for verification if necessary; and
- is written for the purpose of this application.
Once we have assessed your application we may determine that you must undertake further assessment or training and we may specify the form and content of any such assessment.
The fees associated with equivalent means applications are as follows:
|Equivalent means – Morgenbesser
|Equivalent means – Common Professional Examination exemption
|Equivalent means – Legal Practice Course
|Equivalent means – Period of Recognised Training
|Equivalent means – Professional Skills Course (not CILEx)
|Equivalent means – Eligibility to commence CPE for non-graduates
For more information or advice on qualifying as a solicitor, please contact us.