Proposals to overhaul traditional routes to becoming a solicitor will not come into force until 2017/2018 at the earliest, the Solicitors Regulation Authority says in its formal response to the Legal Education and Training Review published tomorrow. 

As revealed by the Gazette last week, the SRA’s Training for Tomorrow policy document proposes moving away from academic routes into the profession to ‘permit much greater flexibility as to how those competencies are acquired’.

However the Law Society said more details are needed. 

The SRA wants to amend regulations to enable a diversity of training, leaving it to educational providers and employers to come up with the routes that achieve ‘day-one’ outcomes.

Martin Coleman, chair of the SRA education and training committee, told the Gazette that under the new system more individuals could become solicitors without going to university.

‘They might go straight into employment and train with a vocational provider on the job, or they might go to university and do a combined academic and vocational course which includes work placements, or train to be a paralegal and acquire experience in that context.’

The timing of the changes should be staggered so as not to affect the expectations of individuals currently training to become solicitors.

Coleman said it was impossible to predict whether the changes would lead to a decline in the number of individuals taking the traditional academic route. ‘The SRA is in no better position than anyone else to know what the market will be in five to 10 years, but its important we have a [training] system in place that is sufficiently flexible to support it.’

John Wotton, chair of the education and training committee at the Law Society, welcomed the SRA’s objectives to broaden the market but said more details are needed for how they will be achieved. 

He said the SRA’s plans to implement changes by pulling back from specifying how solicitors should qualify in the future require a ‘leap of faith’.

‘When you try to work out how it will be introduced, that is where you wonder how it can be done. What is left unclear is by whom or what set of people and what means will this be done consistently,’ Wotton said. ‘No one should underestimate the level of ambition in the creation of the competency framework,’ he said.

The policy statement lays out an ‘enormous programme, which could last for a decade,’ he said. ‘The question is how dramatic are these changes going to be and how the competency framework will be administered. The SRA does not have the resources to do this itself.’

The SRA will open a consultation of its review of regulations by January, and on its competency framework in summer 2014.