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Career lessons

Planning your next career move: what do you want to achieve?

The legal industry has a reputation for being highly competitive when it comes to securing a coveted training contract. However, for many lawyers, the real competition begins post qualification in the race to progress to senior associate and potentially make partner. With the recent pandemic turning the legal industry on its head and sector winners and losers emerging overnight, career prospects have also become ‘make or break’ for many.

However, while uncertain times are unsettling, they can also provide a unique opportunity to rise to the challenge and showcase the reasons why you’re a valuable asset to your firm. With everyone from trainee to senior partner having to react and adapt as we emerge from the pandemic, demonstrating an agile mindset and the key skills you bring to your firm (or a potential firm) is more important than ever to make sure you stand out.

 

Build relationships

Your technical skillset and legal knowledge may be similar to that of your peers. However, your ability to build strong relationships with clients and colleagues as you climb the ranks is where you have an opportunity to shine. Even if you have exemplary knowledge of a certain area of law, if you can’t earn the trust and respect of others and build rapport, your career prospects will suffer. The adage ‘people buy people’ is as true for professional services as any other sector.

Research by legal software company Wolters Kluwers in 2020 found that ‘meeting changing client/leadership expectations’ was one of the biggest challenges international lawyers predicted they would face post-pandemic. In times of a challenging economic climate, this is never truer as you rely on the strength of your relationships with clients and colleagues to manage expectations and navigate unchartered waters. With this in mind, developing your softer skills is very important in achieving your career ambitions.

 

Find your USP

Another way to break from the ranks and progress your career is to think about what you can offer that is different from others. In marketing, this is called your ‘Unique Selling Point’ or USP. It might sound corny but identifying and exploiting it is how many household names have won out above their competitors. Do you speak other languages? Do you have a voluntary role outside of work, such as trustee of a local charity or chair of a local business group, that could bring kudos to your firm? What skills have you invested in? Have you undertaken any additional professional qualifications? The key is to find something that you have a genuine passion for and to harness this to your advantage – and of course that of your employer!

 

Take an international outlook

One way that lawyers who are interested in working internationally have expanded their horizons is to cross qualify so they can practice in other jurisdictions. This enables them to fulfil their career ambitions and benefit their clients and firm by offering a higher level of service and better ROI. The Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS), which is the SRA recognised qualification for lawyers seeking to cross qualify and practice law in England and Wales, has been specially designed to allow legal professionals to study and work at the same time.

In many cases, lawyers qualify in under a year, which means those already working can still enhance their career prospects and take advantage of the increased demand for cross-qualified lawyers. One further point to note is that the QLTS is changing in October 2021, so many savvy lawyers are getting ahead and enrolling now.

 

Turn to technology

If technology is your thing then there has never been a better time to build your expertise and position yourself as the ‘go-to’ person in the firm. Despite recognising its importance and potential, pre-pandemic, many firms hadn’t seized the opportunity provided by new technologies. However, having had no choice but to embrace tech to keep operations going when lockdown first hit, this sentiment has rapidly changed, and for the better.

Homeworking technologies have been embraced, and this shift in attitude has also opened the door to other emerging technologies. From live chat to AI through to Cryptocurrency – there are many areas of technology where an associate with a keen interest and knowledge in a particular topic could easily become the expert in their firm and play an important part in its future, as recently noted by our own Chris Jorgenson.

For more information about the QLTS prep course and to speak with one of the team, get in touch today: https://barbriqlts.com/contact/

 

Preparing for the QLTS exam

Preparing for the QLTS exam – 5 things you need to know

The Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) is the qualification required by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for international lawyers seeking to cross-qualify and practice law in England and Wales. In fact, 15% of all admissions to the Roll of Solicitors in England and Wales are through the QLTS and with the UK legal services industry worth £30bn, it’s easy to see why so many people are keen to sit the exams. But preparation is key.

The QLTS exam itself comprises of two parts, the QLTS MCT, which is a multiple-choice test, followed by the QLTS OSCE – Objective Structured Clinical Examination. The good news is that the QLTS has been designed to allow legal professionals to work and study at the same time and in most cases qualify in under a year! Which means those already working can still enhance their career prospects and take advantage of the increased demand for cross-qualified lawyers.

To help those thinking about undertaking the QLTS exam here are ‘Five things you need to know’…

1. Don’t miss the boat

Don’t miss the opportunity to undertake the QLTS in the first place! Did you know that from September 2021 the qualification route for solicitors in England and Wales is changing? This means lawyers wishing to practice internationally from other jurisdictions will have to sit the new SQE To take the exam component of the QLTS in January 2021 and undertake the MCT portion first as is required, you need to enrol with a recognised provider as soon as possible!

 

2. Choose wisely 

Make sure you choose a reputable, established provider to undertake your QLTS with so that you have the best possible chance of passing. At BARBRI, we have been in the legal training business for over 50 years and have helped more than 1.3 million people pass the U.S. bar exam and become attorneys around the world. We’ve been running the QLTS since 2018 and have helped over 700 people pass the exams through access to the best teaching and learning support and technology platforms.

 

3. Establish good habits

It’s not always easy combining work and study, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve studied. Many of our most successful students find that setting aside regular time before work, at lunchtimes or in the evenings, or at weekends, and sticking to the routine helps them to stay focused and fit in their studies around the rest of their work and life commitments without it becoming overwhelming. Find what works for you and stick to the plan to avoid cramming!

 

4. Take the help on offer

As part of the BARBRI offer, all students undertaking the QLTS have access to continued one-to-one mentoring and support. Make sure you use this to both help with content for the QLTS exam and to organise your study. We even offer our students an online PSP or Personal Study Plan, which organises the material and expedites the learning process, increases retention and heightens comprehension.

 

5. Draw on your experience

Drawing on the experience you’ve had in your career to date can really help to bring your QLTS studies to life. Many of our students find that despite having to fit their studies around a busy working life, the fact they can relate much of what they are focussing on back to real situations they’ve encountered really helps to consolidate their learning. Don’t underestimate what you’re capable of!

 

For more information about our QLTS prep course, please get in touch today: https://barbriqlts.com/contact/

Why QLTS now?

Why take the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme now?

The legal industry is becoming increasingly competitive worldwide, with firms proving to be even more selective about the professionals they choose to bring on board. As the sector prepares for the further globalisation of the legal industry, cross-qualification is becoming an important requirement for individuals looking to get ahead and firms who wish to expand their offering. The Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) allows legal professionals to dual-qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales, a prestigious addition to any CV. However, the method for cross-qualification will be changing from September 2021 with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) meaning that the QLTS route into qualification will eventually be phased out. So why should you choose the QLTS now and why should BARBRI be a part of your journey? Well, here are five reasons…

 

1. Reach your goals quickly

Have you set your professional aspirations and long-term goals? If this sounds like you, you’ll already know how important it is to put measurable benchmarks in place and to implement various (realistic) steps to help you get there. If you’re looking to demonstrate your practical skills and practise law across a variety of regions to support your firm’s global impact, the QLTS can help you get there now instead of waiting for the SQE in 2021. Nearly 15% of all current admission to the roll of solicitors in England and Wales are through the QLTS, proving its success thus far.

 

2. Take advantage of virtual learning

With many countries across the world still under lockdown restrictions due to COVID-19, it has put a halt to business operations and for some, this has also included team development time. However, BARBRI offers a complete suite of online legal courses (and have been doing so for quite some time), including QLTS Prep. This means that students can still get the full QLTS experience from the comfort of their own homes – and they’re encouraged to. With a mix of online learning materials and tutors to help keep learners engaged, distance learning isn’t a problem.

 

3. Experience a supportive, personalised approach

You may have already worked alongside BARBRI in the past for your bar exam or perhaps you’ve not yet had the pleasure. But we’ve been operating in the legal training industry for over 50 years and have the experience needed to get you over that line. Over 1000 people take the QLTS annually and the pass rates can vary but at BARBRI, our pass rate is 78% among first-time takers. Plus, we receive positive feedback time and time again from our students worldwide, particularly regarding the one-to-one support they received. So, when working with us, you can rest assured that you will get a personalised experience with all the guidance and support you need to get the results to succeed.

 

4. Accelerate your career progression

You may have set your own goals, but your manager/leader will also look to align your personal objectives to that of the firm’s business targets and growth plans.  It’s always good to bear this in mind and to be able to demonstrate what you bring as an individual to the firm to aid progression.  Whether you want to cross qualify for practical reasons including relocation or perhaps you’re looking to add a competitive edge, it will make you invaluable to your employer. QLTS will allow you to act on behalf of all clients in England and Wales and will allow you to practise under a wider jurisdiction, supporting clients on international legal matters, which will undoubtedly support your career prospects.

 

5. Access the support you need

No matter how capable we are, we all need a little extra support sometimes. Plus, it can be daunting to start any new training programme, particularly if it is a financial investment in your career. But with BARBRI, you can access support throughout the QLTS process from the moment you sign up with our sales team. Our pastoral care programme includes a mentor who is individually assigned to you for your MCT course to provide motivation and guidance throughout your study. Plus, you’ll be provided with a tutor for the OSCE who will be able to supply one-to-one practice with scheduled practice sessions through four scheduled calls. You’ll also receive written feedback from your tutor on any practice submissions, meaning our team will be with you throughout.

 

Your decision will ultimately be driven by timelines – how quickly do you want to cross-qualify? What professional goals do you already have in place? If you sign up now to the QLTS, you can rest assured that you won’t be disregarded once the SQE is introduced in 2021 and you won’t have to change qualification routes. Those who have cleared the QLTS MCT will be able to sit for the OSCE until 2022. So if you’re worried that you won’t have time to complete the full course by Autumn, there are considerations in place for you.

 

If you have any further questions, we’re here to help. So, for more information, speak to our team today>>>

Preparing for the QLTS as a Working Attorney

Preparing for the QLTS While Working

[ By Claire Flores , Senior Legal Manager, Americas, BARBRI International ]

Preparing for the QLTS

There is no single right way to simultaneously work and study when becoming dual-qualified as an English solicitor. Every individual is different. With that being said, I am happy to share my personal story of what it has been like to work full-time and study for the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) as a licensed Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) attorney.

I will confess upfront that the thought of re-engaging in a study routine was a little unnerving. I sat the state bar exam in 2014―I can’t believe it was half a decade ago! This summer, however, I decided to take the multiple-choice portion of the QLTS, known as the MCT. It had been five busy years since I had taken an exam of any kind.

The MCT exam assesses your knowledge on 11 subjects in English Law. There is a lot of material that can come up. From knowledge of the English and European judicial review process to understanding the European Human Rights Act of 1998. Thankfully, the QLTS Prep by BARBRI Personal Study Plan (PSP) made it easy for me to organize my time and work through the program like a to-do list. My online PSP gave me the right combination of substance and skills learning, so I could expedite my studies while still boosting my understanding and retention.

If you are a working attorney with the desire to take on the QLTS, I’d like to offer a few tips from my own experience to help reintroduce you to studying and exam-taking after some time away.

Set a Routine, and Stick with It

My typical workday runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., so I had to make time around these hours for my QLTS studies. The MCT exam started at 8 a.m. sharp, or 7 a.m. in my time zone, and my brain works better in the morning. For this reason, I made a conscious decision to rise at 6 a.m. during the week to complete a couple of hours of study until work began.

This routine might not be your cup of tea. It’s important to find a consistent study pattern that won’t become disruptive to your job or other commitments. Find what works, and stick with it.

Channel Your Best Efficient Self

For me, creating a mini cheat sheet was the best way for me to process and remember the information in a timely fashion. I found it immensely helpful to create my cheat sheet after watching a lecture and reading the outline to internalize the rules in my mind.

When I was asked to “revise” something, I would then quiz myself from my cheat sheet. If I truly didn’t understand a concept, I would go back to the outline to review the chapter again. Afterward, I used practice questions and mixed sets to drill the information into my memory. Seeing the different ways a certain fact or word would distinguish one answer from the next was incredibly helpful.

This was my approach to my bar exam studies using the QLTS Prep by BARBRI PSP, and it worked well for me. Essentially, you want to reflect on your most efficient techniques for reviewing, and keep them up.

Make It Fun

Consider the subjects that you most enjoyed in law school and think about how the English system is different. The differences between the U.S. Constitution and the U.K. “Constitution” (Hint: They don’t actually have a document called the Constitution) was fascinating to me. Learning about those differences felt more like a fun method of discovery than rigorous studying of new subjects. Being curious about the various areas of law helped me better remember topics in the long run for the MCT.

Lean On Your Mentor While Preparing for the QLTS

QLTS Prep by BARBRI provides you with a one-on-one mentor who is available throughout the program to discuss your study habits and how you are doing as you are preparing for the QLTS. They will be honest with you on your progress, good or bad, and provide guidance as to how to improve. My mentor was great at recommending assignments that helped me spend my study time where it would yield the best results. I could tell my mentor was deeply committed to helping me pass the MCT exam―and it paid off.

I recently learned that I passed the MCT portion of the QLTS!! Thank you, BARBRI. Now on to the OSCE.

Solicitor: Internationalize Now to Make Life Easier Later

By Victoria Cromwell, Head of U.K. Programmes
BARBRI International


Solicitor Qualifications

The introduction of the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) in Autumn 2021 will mark the end of the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS), the current route to admittance as a solicitor in England and Wales for foreign-qualified lawyers.

The SQE will introduce a common, national examination that all prospective solicitors. Whether U.K. graduates or foreign-qualified lawyers―they will need to pass to qualify in England and Wales. The SQE is in two stages: SQE 1 will focus on legal knowledge and procedure; SQE 2 will focus on practical legal skills.

As things stand, the Multiple Choice Test (MCT) portion of the QLTS exam will no longer be available after July 2021. There will be a year grace period for the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), however. This means there are several opportunities for foreign-qualified lawyers to sit and pass the QLTS before the SQE is implemented, and there are advantages to taking this route while you still have the time.

Qualifying Work Experience

Passing the QLTS exam is currently the only requirement for qualification as a solicitor in England and Wales. There is no need to undertake any period of training or work experience. Post-2021, foreign-qualified lawyers may need to prove a minimum of two years’ professional experience in order to satisfy the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) requirement of competence to practice.

On the plus side, the SRA is considering whether this experience might qualify as an exemption from some or all of the SQE exams. The reality is that it will be difficult for the majority of foreign-qualified lawyers to be able to demonstrate the required competence and knowledge of English and Welsh law, particularly if they have trained in a civil law country.

The English Language Test

The current SRA proposal for the SQE includes an English language test requirement, where necessary. There is currently no such requirement for admittance as a solicitor in England and Wales after passing the QLTS assessments.

Exam Format

The current QLTS MCT exam consists of 180 multiple-choice test questions examined in one day over two sittings of 2 hours and 45 minutes each. This means students have roughly 1.8 minutes to answer each question. MCT students study purely substantive law, spread over 11 outcomes.

By contrast, the first stage of the SQE, SQE 1, is expected to be two exams each of 180 questions administered over two days. This is double the requirement of the QLTS MCT. The subject coverage is also greater, incorporating the procedural law of dispute resolution, property practice, and business practice.

The current OSCE exam covers the skills of:

  1. legal writing,
  2. legal research,
  3. drafting,
  4. advocacy, and
  5. client interviewing and preparation of an attendance note.

The skills assessed as follows: in the context of business law and practice, property and probate, and civil and criminal litigation. Over six half-days, there are eighteen assessments requiring students to not only become competent in the procedural law not covered by the MCT exam but also to  master the skills.

While following a similar format to the OSCE, SQE 2 will require students to be competent in:

  1. client interviewing,
  2. advocacy/persuasive oral communication,
  3. case and matter analysis,
  4. legal research and written advice, and
  5. legal drafting.

The context of the assessments will be set in dispute resolution, property, business practice, criminal practice, and wills and the administration of estates and trusts. Current understanding is that each of the skills will be assessed twice, making for a total of ten assessments. On paper, this means the SQE 2 may be slightly less onerous than the OSCE, and all of the law required to be studied will have been covered in SQE 1.

Timetable for Passing

Candidates will have three attempts to pass each SQE 1 assessment. Currently, there is no restriction on the number of times a candidate can sit the QLTS MCT (although there is obviously now a stopping point for the taking of this exam).

Exam Cost

The provisional fee range for the SQE exam has been confirmed as between £3,000 and £4,500 (up to nearly $4,995) for the two stages of the assessment. The QLTS exam currently costs £3,490, or just over $4,000. If the SQE assessments come out at the top end of the SRA’s estimate, which is our prediction given the extra complexity of the SQE 1 exam, this will be significantly higher than the current QLTS exam fees.

This alone is a good reason to start the process now to qualify as an English solicitor. You will likely save money and time by taking the QLTS path to internationalize your legal career.

The Legal Profession in England & Wales Explained: Solicitors & Barristers

By Victoria Cromwell, Head of U.K. Programmes, BARBRI International

What does it mean to be a lawyer in England and Wales?

Here, the legal profession is split into two distinct branches: solicitors and barristers. While these roles overlap to an extent, they represent two very different qualification paths for aspiring lawyers. Let’s take a look at both routes to legal practice.

The Role of the Solicitor

Solicitors provide legal advice to their clients over a wide range of practice areas, ranging from buying and selling houses to helping businesses with the legal issues arising from commercial transactions. Solicitors are able to represent their clients in lower courts and, with training known as Higher Rights of Audience, can become solicitor advocates and represent them in higher courts. This is usually a right only given to barristers.

If you chose the path of solicitor, you may work in private practice in a law firm, as part of the legal department of an organisation (known as working “in-house”), or for local or central government. Currently, there are around 136,000 practising solicitors in England and Wales regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Route to Qualification as a Solicitor

There are two primary routes to qualification as a solicitor in England and Wales for domestic students: via a qualifying law degree or a non-qualifying law degree. Legal apprenticeships are also available, as is a route to qualification through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx).

After obtaining a qualifying law degree, law students sit the Legal Practice Course (usually a year in duration) and then undertake a practice-based two year period of recognised training, or a training contract, as a trainee solicitor. Those students with a non-qualifying law degree need to do an additional period of study and take a course known as the Common Professional Examination (CPE) or a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), which is effectively a conversion course, and then progress on to the Legal Practice Course and training contract like students with qualifying law degrees.

All prospective solicitors also need to undertake the Professional Skills Course, which is usually completed during the period of recognised training. On completion of the training described above, an aspiring solicitor can be admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in England and Wales.

It’s worth noting that after autumn 2021, the opportunity to take the existing domestic routes to qualification (CPE, GDL, LPC), and the current route to qualify as a solicitor in England & Wales for foreign-qualified lawyers, the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS), will be limited due to the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). The SQE is due to replace all previous routes to qualification. For more information on the SQE and how it will affect your route to qualification, view the BARBRI SQE calculator.

The Role of the Barrister

The Bar Council which regulates barristers in England and Wales in the public interest defines barristers as:

“…specialist legal advisers and courtroom advocates. They are independent, objective and trained to advise clients on the strengths and weaknesses of their case. They have specialist knowledge and experience in and out of court, which can make a substantial difference to the outcome of a case.”

Barristers (or Counsel, as they are often referred to) are usually self-employed and take tenancy in a set of chambers. Chambers are occupied by groups of barristers who often specialise in the same practice area and share the cost of premises, etc. Currently, there are around 16,000 practising barristers in England and Wales. These are the lawyers who wear the wigs and gowns!

Unlike solicitors who are retained or instructed directly by their clients, barristers are typically instructed by solicitors to act on behalf of their clients. Although clients can now instruct barristers directly, this practise is still unusual.

Barristers were historically the only lawyers permitted to represent clients in the higher courts. However, this is no longer the case with the introduction of solicitor advocates. Barristers often specialise and advise on complex areas of the law, and advise solicitors on points of law on complicated or unusual cases. This is known as obtaining an opinion from counsel.

All barristers are initially known as ‘Junior Counsel’ until they become Queen’s Counsel (QC for short), which is a recognition of outstanding ability. The process of becoming QC is known as “taking silk”, on account of the different (silk) robes that QCs wear. Barristers are all members of one of the four Inns of Court based in London: Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple, and Middle Temple.

The General Council of the Bar is the approved regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board.

Route to Qualification as a Barrister

Much like solicitors, barristers can start their qualification journey by undertaking a qualifying law degree or a non-qualifying law degree and CPE/GDL course. Aspiring barristers must then successfully pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test and join an Inn of Court before commencing the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), which can either be taken over one year full-time or two years part-time. The BPTC is a vocational course designed to give students the skills required for their careers as barristers. It includes advocacy and exercises in drafting legal documents and writing opinions. Having completed the training requirements set out above, a student would be “called to the Bar”. At this time, they are considered a qualified barrister but will not be permitted to practise until they have completed pupillage.

Pupillage is the final stage of training to become a barrister―a period of training under the supervision of a barrister. Pupillage lasts for 12 months and is usually undertaken in a set of barristers’ chambers. Pupils are required to complete an Advocacy Training Course in their first six months and a Practice Management course in their second six months. After the pupillage year, a pupil would hope to be offered tenancy in the chambers where they undertook their pupillage.

Your 1:1 Study Guide is Ready to ‘Show You the Ropes’

By Anastasia Kalinina, Legal Coordinator, QLTS Prep by BARBRI

You are making a sound investment in your legal career by taking the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) assessments. Way to go!

You undoubtedly see the value in dual qualifying as a solicitor in one of the preferred legal jurisdictions for global trade and dispute resolution. By passing the QLTS, you will have the capability and expertise to work with international clients, deal with cross-border transactions, and understand the differences between U.K. and international law.

Admittedly, passing each QLTS assessment will take detailed and intense preparation. The best way to ensure you are well-prepared is to invest in a proven and focused QLTS training provider―one that will get to know your individual needs for learning and provide you with the right guidance. Why not rely on the largest legal exam and education company in the world to get you there: QLTS Prep by BARBRI.

Receive MCT Support from Professional Mentors

When you prepare with QLTS Prep by BARBRI for the Multiple Choice Test (MCT), you learn from the best faculty in exam preparation, including experienced English solicitors and barristers who teach you the substantive law for each subject tested and who mentor you throughout your time in the programme. I encourage you to speak with a BARBRI team member prior to enrolling in the programme to make the most of your studies to sit the QLTS exam.

Becoming a solicitor requires hard work and conviction; however, you can rely on the support of our expert 1:1 BARBRI mentors who are all deeply committed to helping you pass the QLTS. Think of the dedicated mentor you receive when you enrol with BARBRI as your personal study coach. Together, you develop a study plan to suit your strengths and weaknesses and individual circumstances.

This person is with you every step of the way and knows where you are in the study process at all times. That way, they are able to offer tailored help based on what you are studying, can see where you might need a bit more focus, and can step in with the proper resources and inspiration.

Because your one-on-one mentor has often been through a similar learning experience to get where they are, they are in a good position to “show you the ropes”. But what’s especially unique about our mentors, is that they are able to provide you personalised feedback throughout the course.

I’ve had candidates tell me they got great value out of their mentor in such areas as learning how to approach systematic problem solving, or gaining confidence in answering tons of multiple-choice questions under time pressure. But most of all having, the support of someone “cheerleading” you throughout the whole process makes it seem somehow less daunting.

On to the OSCE: Meet Your Dedicated BARBRI Tutor

So you passed the MCT portion of the QLTS exam. Great job!! Your 1:1 support from BARBRI does not end there.

As you embark on the next stage of the QLTS, the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), you will receive the support of a member of our dedicated team of tutors for the duration of your studies. BARBRI’s OSCE tutors are experts in preparation for the skills assessments you will face in this portion of the exam, including client interviewing, advocacy, and legal drafting/research/writing. In addition to this regular support, your tutor will also conduct 1:1 practice and feedback sessions on all of the skills covered in the OSCE exam.

Our tutors build a strong rapport with their students throughout the course, and regularly receive high marks for their attention to detail and personalised guidance. When you decide to enhance your career as an international lawyer, you really can’t go wrong with BARBRI as your study partner.

Common Law vs. Civil Law: An Introduction to the Different Legal Systems

By Victoria Cromwell
Head of QLTS Prep by BARBRI

The legal systems of different countries around the world typically follow either the common law or the civil law, or, in some cases, a combination of the two.

Broadly speaking, a common law system is based on the concept of judicial precedent. Judges take an active role in shaping the law here, since the decisions a court makes are then used as a precedent for future cases. Whilst common law systems have laws that are created by legislators, it is up to judges to rely on precedents set by previous courts to interpret those laws and apply them to individual cases.

In certain common law countries, courts (such as the Supreme Court of the United States) have the ability to strike down laws that were passed by legislators if those laws are deemed unconstitutional in violation of federal law. By contrast, in the United Kingdom, the concept of parliamentary sovereignty means that legislation can only be amended or revoked by Parliament, not the courts.

Civil law systems, on the other hand, place much less emphasis on precedent than they do on the codification of the law. Civil law systems rely on written statutes and other legal codes that are constantly updated and which establish legal procedures, punishments, and what can and cannot be brought before a court.

In a civil law system, a judge merely establishes the facts of a case and applies remedies found in the codified law. As a result, lawmakers, scholars, and legal experts hold much more influence over how the legal system is administered than judges.

How We Got Here

Both civil law and common law systems originated in Europe. Prior to 1066 and the Norman Conquest, the United Kingdom had no coherent legal system, and was instead made up of customs that applied to different parts of the country. William the Conqueror was the first King to unite these accumulated customs and traditions and create courts and a legal system common to the whole country, hence the term “common law”.

The common law system developed alongside the courts of equity which devised remedies to legal issues based on fairness and equality to counter the sometimes rigid common law. The decisions of these courts were recorded and published, and it therefore became possible for the judiciary to look at previous decisions (precedents) and apply them to the case at hand.

Judicial precedent therefore works on the basis of the principle of stare decisis, a Latin phrase which means “let the decision stand”. The common law now has certain rules. For example, only certain parts of a judgment becoming binding precedent, and only if handed down by a superior court.

By contrast, civil law can be traced back to Roman law. The use of a codified system here allows for primary sources of law to be recorded in legal codes, which are intended to cover the law in a particular area.

The legal system of the United Kingdom is classified as a common law system, similar to the U.S., although there are many codified laws in the form of statutes. This is in contrast to our European neighbours such as France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, where the legal systems are entirely codified and therefore operate on a civil law basis.

Taking the QLTS as a Civil-Qualified Lawyer

Although there are fundamental differences between the two systems of justice, both common law and civil law have become global legal traditions that continue to effectively shape the justice systems of hundreds of countries. Both affect how business is conducted within a specific jurisdiction. Both affect how international business is carried out.

Because common law and civil law are basic concepts for justice systems around the world, they are essential to understand for anyone who wants to learn more about legal tradition, either at home or abroad, and who may be on a path to dual qualification. The biggest challenge for a lawyer coming from a civil law background who wishes to qualify in England and Wales is understanding the concept of judicial precedent and judge-made law itself. This is tested in the MCT portion of the QLTS exam, as a fundamental part of the English Legal System. Similarly, civil law jurisdictions do not have the concept of equitable principles or trust law, so these are areas where civil law-qualified lawyers might struggle.

French employment law attorney Crésence Agbattou knows this struggle all too well. “At first it was quite challenging to wrap my head around differing concepts, such as the rule of precedent, and especially the lack of a Constitution as the basis of the law,” she said. “QLTS Prep by BARBRI helped me master common law rules, and the MCT, by having me commit to practise exercises on a daily basis. Once I overcame the early learning challenges, I found it very interesting to navigate between civil law and common law to improve my work expertise.”

BARBRI offers prep courses for the QLTS to help lawyers with varying backgrounds better understand the globalised legal system to qualify as solicitors in England and Wales. Find out more or enrol here.