If you are a foreign qualified lawyer from Ukraine, Russia or Belarus (and other ex-Warsaw Pact or Soviet Union countries), the set up of your legal profession, inherited from soviet days, would appear to present a problem if you are seeking exemption from the SQE2 exam on your route to qualifying as a solicitor of England & Wales.
Amongst other things, you are required to provide with your application for exemption a 'Certificate of Good Standing' from your professional regulatory body. In these countries the profession is divided into 2 segments. 1) people who pass a law degree are permitted to practice law and are 'lawyers', but have no regulation or professional regulatory body; 2) there is second group who pass further exams and are then called 'Advokats' and do have a professional regulatory body. Group 2 should have no problem complying with the requirement for providing the 'Certificate of Good Standing' to accompany their application to the SRA for exemption form the SQE2 exam. But what about group 1? They have no professional body to issue that certificate.
We wrote to the SRA asking for clarification on this issue. Below is the email we sent and the reply we received. However, in summary - they will accept other evidence. So this is good news. The SRA have previously confirmed to us that both category 1 & category 2 above of lawyers are regarded as 'foreign qualified lawyers and so may apply for exemption from the SQE2 exam and will be exempted form the QWE requirement. [Please note that people in the above categories may not qualified as advokats may not qualify through the QLTS route.]
(See below for help if you are NOT qualified & need your QWE confirmed to the SRA)
Subject: SQE2 exemption question
I spoke with a colleague of yours in Admissions today. She did not know the answer to my question and suggested I email you.
Someone has asked me and I am trying to find out for them. He is a Russian qualified lawyer. In Russia the are 2 tiers of lawyers:
The gentleman who I am enquiring for falls under category a) above. Your colleague confirmed to us that the SRA would regard him to be a Foreign Qualified Lawyer for SQE2 purposes. Which is fine.
However, obtaining a ‘Certificate of Good Character’ is a problem – they do not have a professional body to which they may apply for this. Can you suggest what he can do to meet the requirement for the ‘Certificate of Good Character’?
Our ref: AUTH/SQE/SP/Hunnings
Thank you for your email of 9 February 2023.
In the absence of a certificate of good standing they can provide a copy of their admission certificate or any additional documentation to confirm they have the required title. This could include for example the academic qualifications that lead to them being recognised as a qualified lawyer in Russia.
All applications are reviewed by a caseworker to determine if the required documentation has been provided. If further information is needed we will let the applicant know before reaching a decision.
If you have any further questions please let me know.
Solicitors Regulation Authority
0121 820 2463"
Another point worth making: if you are qualified but not as an advokat, you might not have practice rights to conduct criminal litigation. If that is the case, you will have to complete section 8 of the exemption application form (see the section below for more info about applying for exemptions from SQE2 and to be able to download the application form.)
SQE2 Exam Exemptions in General
For further information about applications for exemption from SQE2 exam please see this link: https://www.hunningsconsultancy.co.uk/sqe2-exemption-for-foreign-lawyers-review-advice/
Service - External QWE Confirming Solicitor
If you need or know of anyone who needs an external solicitor to confirm their QWE to the SRA, we can help. Please see here a link to our service: https://www.hunningsconsultancy.co.uk/external-qwe-certification-service-2/