The College of Law has hit out at the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) after the regulatory body proposed scrapping compulsory higher rights qualifications for solicitor advocates in favour of a voluntary accreditation process.
The proposal to introduce a voluntary accreditation scheme, which would in effect allow any solicitor in England and Wales a right of audience before the courts, follows an ongoing consultation which began in 2007. The new scheme proposes voluntary accreditation and self-audited compliance with the code of conduct, with an emphasis on what many in the profession call ‘after-the-event’ professional discipline.
However, Stephen Mayson, director of the College of Law’s legal services policy institute, argues the new proposals will not ensure high standards of advocacy. Mayson commented: “There is a clear case in the public interest and in the interest of clients that those who claim competence in higher courts advocacy should be certified in advance as having demonstrated the appropriate knowledge and skills. This would minimise the risk to an unsuspecting client and promote the effective and efficient administration of justice. Taken in the round, the SRA proposals seem to us to leave too much to market forces and client choice, in relation to services where the risk of incompetence or poor service is not adequately addressed after the event by sanctions on the practitioner or compensation for an aggrieved client.”
The new system, which is still being consulted on, is set to come into effect from 1 January 2009.
Read the full article: College of Law opposes SRA proposals at Legalweek.com.