The introduction of the controversial quality assurance scheme for advocates (QASA) has been delayed.

The Joint Advocacy Group (JAG), made up of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and Ilex Professional Standards (IPS) issued a statement today following consideration of the responses to the fourth QASA consultation.

It said: ‘As a result of the comments received in the many substantive and constructive responses, some adjustments of detail will be made to the scheme.

‘The scheme will not, therefore, commence in January. A revised timetable will be confirmed by the end of January.’

In the meantime, JAG said it can confirm that the core elements of the scheme remain, including the framework for assessment; the central role of judicial evaluation; periodic reaccreditation and phased geographical implementation.

A JAG spokesman said: ‘We would like to thank all those who provided extremely helpful and detailed responses to the last consultation. This scheme is the one of the biggest changes to the assessment of advocates in many years and we need to ensure that we listen to those who have responded, to ensure we get the scheme right.

‘While the debate has often been vigorous, this reflects our joint commitment to produce a workable scheme which meets the needs of legal consumers and takes account of the views of those whom we regulate.’

Legal Services Board chair David Edmonds welcomed the announcement, saying: ‘We welcome the continued commitment of the SRA, BSB and IPS to progressing the QASA scheme. We look forward to seeing the final details of the scheme when they are issued early in the new year.’

Meanwhile, the SRA admitted today that large numbers of firms would fail to have compliance officers for legal practice and finance (COLPs and COFAs) appointed by its deadline. Samantha Barrass, executive director, said that while the regulator is 'managing down the number' of non compliant firms 'I think to be realistic we will have several hundred firms on 1 January who will not have COLPs and COFAs in place'.

Barrass said the regulator had been 'surprised by the extent of non compliance' by law firms in nominating compliance officers.