The assessment of character comes at the final stage of your legal training and is carried out once you apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to be added to the roll of solicitors, once you’ve completed all of the other components of the SQE.
It’s the only aspect of the new specification that will remain unchanged from the current arrangements once the SQE is introduced in autumn 2021. This background check seeks to assess your integrity and your fitness for the profession, which the SRA takes as seriously as your academic credentials. The authority takes into account the need to “protect the public and the public interest” as well as “maintain public trust and confidence in the solicitors’ profession”.
Nevertheless, since 2019 you are no longer required to present any potential issues both at the start of your training and when you are applying to be admitted, but instead only at the point at which you make your application. However, you can still complete an earlier test to verify if there could be any potential issues that could crop up in the assessment later on.
SRA character and suitability guidelines
Applications the SRA receive are treated on a case-by-case basis, using the information that is at their disposal. For example, under the authority’s regulations, any criminal conduct will be taken into account in judging whether you are fit to practice as a solicitor, with serious offences increasingly affecting the likelihood of being barred from practice.
Beyond criminal offences, any examples of financial dishonesty, a disciplinary hearing from a regulatory body, and providing misleading or false information when asked for evidence could count against you. The evidence that you’re asked for will depend on the nature of the issue that’s being brought up.
If you’re in any doubt regarding the character and suitability assessment, you should consult the requirements set out on the SRA’s website, which also sets out any potential mitigating circumstances that would be considered. You should also make sure that you’ve prepared all of the necessary documentation that you might need to provide as part of the application ahead of time.