One of the essential steps to becoming a lawyer in England and Wales is passing the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) character and suitability assessment. Unlike the other assessments on your journey to becoming a lawyer, it does not involve a rigorous exam. We breakdown what the character and suitability assessment entails, including how long the process takes.
The character and suitability assessment – what is it?
In order to qualify as a solicitor, the SRA conducts a character and suitability assessment to see whether you are suited to work in the legal profession. The evaluation considers the following factors:
- Criminal history.
- Your financial history – whether you have had issues managing your finances in the past.
- Malpractice in assessments during your education.
- Other personal disciplinary and regulatory issues in the past.
Whether you are thinking of taking the GDL and LPC route or the new SQE pathway, it is still mandatory to undergo this background check to become a solicitor that can legally practice in England and Wales.
The character and suitability assessment was introduced in 2019 and replaced the SRA Suitability Test 2011. Unlike its predecessor, you are not required to take the character and suitability assessment before you start any postgraduate law courses such as the LPC or SQE.
However, depending on your circumstances, you may want to consider doing the SRA’s background check prior to commencing any of your studies or placements.
For example, if you have had any issues with the law in the past – or you are afraid that something else may come up - it is highly recommended that you take the character and suitability assessment before you start any training.
You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you have paid for your preparation course fees and have passed all the required examinations and the SRA decides against qualifying you as a solicitor.
Before you can submit the documents and forms for the character and suitability assessment, you need to complete a pre-admission screening through the Disclosure and Barring Service. It is important to bear in mind that it may take up to 6 weeks for you to receive the results of your pre-screening test.
Even though you will not have to pay a fee for the character ad suitability assessment, the pre-screening process costs a standard £39 – relatively minimal when compared to the other fees that come along with training as a solicitor.
In most cases, applicants fail the character and suitability assessment because they did not give accurate and up-to-date information.
In this situation, it is very unlikely that the SRA will give the applicate the right to practice as a solicitor as they will view candidate’s actions as deliberate and thus not showing honesty. Honesty, integrity and truthfulness are some of the key competencies required from lawyers by the SRA.
If you feel the SRA has been wrong to fail your character and suitability assessment, you have the right to appeal. However, you must start this process within 28 days of having received the results of your application as otherwise you will not be able to follow the appeal through.
How long will it take to find out whether you pass the character and suitability assessment?
Each application is thoroughly scrutinised and considered individually by the SRA. Even though that the SRA affirms that they are able to make a decision within 30 days, they also state it could take up to 6 months to receive your results from the day you have submitted your information for the assessment.
Due to the length of time it may take to hear back from the SRA, we recommend that you plan ahead the submission of your application – whether you intend to do it before or after the completion of your legal training.