Busy practitioners may not have time to follow all the SRA updates, so here Legal Life summarises some recent developments.
The SRA has opened the nomination period for every firm to appoint a COLP and COFA. By 31st July every firm needs to have put up nominations for these compulsory roles. COLPs and COFAs are responsible for ensuring that you and your firm have systems and controls in place to enable you to comply with regulatory requirements. In its latest ethics bulletin, the SRA confirm that COLPs and COFAs may not delegate their responsibilities, so although deputies may (and should) be appointed internally, if the COLP or COFA is to be absent from the firm for an extended period of time, then the firm will need to report this in future to the SRA and seek to nominate a replacement.
In a further development, Solicitors and Registered European Lawyers in England and Wales wishing to undertake criminal advocacy from January 2013 will have to officially notify the SRA under the new Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (Crime) (QASA) arrangements. The notification process is the first step in becoming recognised under the Scheme which is due to be launched early in the New Year. The Scheme will introduce a system of accreditation for criminal advocacy work in the Magistrates’ and Crown Courts. The SRA will be contacting the profession in the next few weeks to ask those wishing to become accredited to express their interest from 2 July this year when the SRA’s Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (Crime) Notification Regulations come into force. The deadline for notification is 21 September 2012. There is a meeting to be held in Bristol at the College of Law on 4th July where further information will be made available.
Finally, the SRA has announced that it will soon be starting the process of gathering a more comprehensive evidence base about the diversity characteristics of the legal workforce. This has in part been driven by the Legal Services Act 2007, which includes a specific regulatory objective to “encourage a strong, independent, diverse and effective legal profession”. Individual law firms will be required to offer all employees—not just those legally trained—the opportunity to report their diversity characteristics, which include job status and role as well as the following:
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
- Socio-economic background
- Caring responsibilities
The exercise will start in July via Surveylab, an online survey company.