In this article, Ian Kelcey, well-known criminal advocate and one of the Bristol area representatives on The Law Society, alerts practitioners about the proposed introduction of QASA and also sets out his fears as to where this may lead.
Many practitioners will be unaware of the SRAs intention to bring in Quality Assurance for Advocates in relation to those who appear in the Magistrates Court. It may be that many of you may say this will not affect me, my advice is read the small print.
What the SRA proposes is that any Solicitor upon qualification will be able to represent clients in the Magistrates Court for the 1st year after qualification; thereafter you will have to be accredited by the SRA, with no doubt a fee being payable. So in effect our regulator says that for the 1st year after qualification you are deemed fit to represent clients in the Magistrates court but thereafter you will have to be accredited; to my mind this seems to be nonsense.
What are the ramifications that flow from this, what value is there in the qualification of SOLICITOR. I have a great fear that if this comes about it will in due course impact on all of the profession.
How long, for example, before a solicitor is required to demonstrate they have dealt with injunctions before they can practise in Family Law? What about the Conveyancer or Company lawyer – they too may well have to undergo accreditation? This will in due course spread to the whole profession unless we can stop this now; it will not stop at Criminal Defence Lawyers.
The Law Society Criminal Law Committee has opposed this as has the Advocacy Section. It will mean that moving between disciplines will become harder, the Qualification of Solicitor is likely to be devalued but worse still it will mean those firms in rural areas providing a WHOLE service to clients will give up leaving the potential for ” access to justice deserts “. Firms in the city will not be prepared to travel as they are no longer paid for doing so on legal aid.
The requirement to register initially if you might be interested, is to do so from early July until September. I would urge all solicitors to register, the SRA needs to understand that this will be a major exercise which if past experiences are anything to go by they will find difficulty in managing.
Lastly the SRA are coming to Bristol at the College of Law on the 3rd July at 5pm. Please make sure you attend to ask the appropriate questions and then join in for a drink and nibbles afterwards. We are hopeful that a significant number of the Judiciary will also attend so it will be a good opportunity to socialise with them as well. It is your future make sure you are informed about it and protect it.