The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is considering bringing in a standardised assessment for solicitors wishing to obtain higher rights of audience, it has emerged, part of its efforts to tackle ‘concerns’ over the quality of advocacy.
The SRA told the annual conference of the Solicitors’ Association of Higher Courts Advocates today that it would begin consulting on its plans next year but that it was ‘considering several options’. However, the regulator revealed it was likely to follow the lead set by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) in abandoning the controversial quality assurance scheme for advocates (QASA).
Richard Williams, policy associate at the SRA, told the meeting there had been a number of reports on poor quality advocacy that needed to be addressed.
‘We need to look at entry standards and are moving towards looking at a single assessment for acquiring higher rates - both for civil and criminal law,’ he said.
In a reference to the recent judicial perceptions survey, undertaken with the bar regulator, Williams said it was important to ‘review and revise’ higher rights standards.
Williams said that the SRA’s plan should not be seen as a ‘witch-hunt’ adding: ‘we can only regulate if we understand the scale of the problem.’
Responding to notable anger from some delegates who said the SRA should not simply react to everything the bar and judiciary does, Williams said the regulator was fully aware that only a tiny proportion of solicitor advocates is underperforming.
On QASA, Williams added: ‘I think the general perception was that QASA was a sledgehammer to crack a nut.’