The Solicitors Regulation Authority has extended the time allowed for renewing practising certificates after solicitors described their ‘nightmare’ of navigating the new IT system.
Regulators today confirmed practising certificates can be renewed up to 20 November after what were described as ‘teething problems’ this year.
The number of firms and solicitors affected by problems is not yet clear. Matthew Davies, managing partner of Tottenham firm Wilson Solicitors, told the Gazette he had been trying for more than a week to renew before the deadline at the end of this month.
The biggest problem was that the application had been completed in draft but the SRA website reported an internal error every time Davies tries to log back in.
The system will not allow an application to be restarted and there is no work-around suggested and no alternative form that applicants can complete.
Davies said he was mindful that the firm must renew certificates in order for its 50 staff to practise from the start of November.
‘I have spent hours trying to get the SRA to resolve it, I get the feeling there may be a bit of an IT meltdown going on,’ he said. ‘I am trying to run a business in a pandemic and the last thing I want on my mind is not having PCs renewed on time. I could really do without that.’
The new SRA system for authorisation went live in July as part of the regulator’s IT modernisation. Last month the SRA’s chief executive Paul Philip reported to the board that ‘inevitably with an ICT project of this size and complexity’ there had been glitches and teething problems. He conceded that despite efforts to manage these issues, it was fair to say that ‘operational standards have slipped’.
Philip reported that preparations for this month’s PC renewal period were ‘progressing well across both business and technical workstreams’, with development work and testing underway.
The SRA says it has been in touch with those affected by IT problems and provided one-to-one support for completing renewals.
A spokesperson added: ‘This year we are running the [PC renewal] exercise on a new IT system and with new telephony, which has been particularly challenging against the backdrop of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on us as well as on firms.
‘We know there have been some teething problems and a small number of firms have not been able to complete their online renewal - we are sorry for the inconvenience this has caused.’