The SRA Suitability Test
The SRA Suitability Test is used by the SRA to assess a person’s character and suitability to hold a position within the profession.
The test applies to trainee solicitors applying for admission, qualified lawyers making applications under the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme, persons applying for roles as COLPs and COFAs and solicitors applying for restoration to the Roll.
The test is divided into two parts:
Part 1 – Basic test for all applicants
This sets out the basic test applicable to all applicants. The test takes into account criminal convictions, misconduct relating to educational assessments (such as plagiarism and cheating), inability to manage personal finances and previous regulatory history and other behaviour which is incompatible with membership of the profession (such as dishonesty and violence).
Part 2 – Additional test for COLPs and COFAs
This sets out an additional test which applies to COLPs and COFAs and provides that the SRA may refuse an application to become a COLP or COFA unless there are exceptional circumstances such as if the applicant:
- has been disqualified by court order from acting as a trustee of a charity or as a company director
- has been the manager or owner of a company which goes into administration or insolvent liquidation
- has a conviction for an offence relating to insolvency or the Companies Act 2006
- or is affiliated to a person who influences the applicant and is considered by the SRA to lack honesty or integrity
SRA Suitability Test application form
The SRA requires an applicant who is subject to the SRA Suitability Test to complete an application form which asks for information on the factors which are taken into account under the test (such as criminal convictions and personal financial history). It is not uncommon for applicants to tell us that they misunderstood the questions on the form they were required to complete and we recommend that any applicant should carefully read the SRA Suitability Test before completing an application form as that reduces the risk that the questions are misunderstood.
In our experience, most people who fail the test fail because they have not made full disclosure of relevant information (such as minor criminal convictions). If full disclosure is not made the SRA is likely to assert that the applicant is unable to comply with regulatory requirements and that the failure to make full disclosure was dishonest.
If the SRA wishes to oppose an application on the grounds that full disclosure has not been made or for any other reason, the SRA will prepare a report for adjudicator with a recommendation that the application should be refused. The applicant will be given an opportunity to respond to the report. Any response should be prepared very carefully and any supporting documents should be submitted to the SRA with the response.
Once the SRA has received the response, the application will be referred to adjudication. If the adjudicator decides that the application should be refused there are rights of appeal. The precise rights depend on the wording of the particular SRA regulation governing the application but in general terms there is normally an internal right of appeal followed by a right of appeal to the High Court.