Only one in 200 of criminal solicitors who have signalled their intention to practise advocacy in the future has signed up to the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates, the Gazette has learned.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority said that more than 10,000 solicitors notified last year of their intention to practise advocacy, but that since formal registration opened in October only 50 solicitors have signed up.
Most barristers are boycotting the scheme, with only 12 barristers so far signed up, according to the Bar Standards Board.
Meanwhile, opposition to the scheme by criminal barristers suffered a new setback last week when the High Court refused the claimants permission to appeal its decision to throw a legal challenge out. As the Gazette went to press, it was not known whether they would apply to the Court of Appeal.
The court also slapped the claimants, whose own legal team acted pro bono, with a £150,000 costs bill – ordering them to pay £112,500 towards the costs incurred by the Legal Services Board and £37,500 towards the BSB’s costs.
The other two parties – the Solicitors Regulation Authority and ILEX Professional Standards – agreed not to seek costs. The Criminal Bar Association and bar regional circuits have sought donations to help pay the costs.
As a result of the judgment, changes were made to the scheme and the registration periods were extended. Advocates in the first registration phase have until 14 May to register, extended from 7 March.