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Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates in United Kingdom

Quality assurance scheme for advocates

“There has been some concern about the quality of advocacy in the courts. The quality of some solicitor advocates has been questioned, particularly by barristers. Lord Carter produced a report in 2006 in which he stated that market forces alone can no longer be relied upon to eliminate under-performing advocates. The Law Society asked a consultant, Nick Smedley, to undertake a review of this issue (2009). He concluded that the qualification process needed to be tightened up, so that solicitor-advocates received more intense training before they could undertake higher rights of audience.
The regulators of the barristers, solicitors and legal executives are together establishing a quality assurance scheme for advocates (QASA) to respond to these concerns. The details of the scheme are currently being finalised and the scheme is expected to be up and running in 2013. Initially it will only apply to criminal law advocates. Under the scheme, everybody wishing to undertake criminal law advocacy work (both prosecution and defence) will have to register under QASA. The aim is to systematically assess the quality of advocacy measured by agreed standards regardless of the advocate’s previous education and training. Advocates will be accredited at one of four levels. A Level 1 advocate will be able to undertake work in the Magistrates Court and a Level 4 advocate will be able to undertake the most serious cases in the Crown Court. Advocates may progress through the four levels (subject to rights of audience of their professional status) by demonstrating through formal assessments that they meet the required standard for the next level. Advocates who choose to remain at their current level will be required to re-accredit at that level every five years. Assessment will be by continuing professional development tests, independent assessors and judges to determine whether they are competent to act at a certain level. Trained judges in the Crown Courts may assess advocates of their own initiative if they have concerns about performance, and submit such evaluations directly to the regulators for consideration.

If there is sufficient evidence to conclude that an advocate is acting above their competence, they can undertake training to address concerns. If a regulator decides that an advocate is not competent, the advocate’s accreditation at that level can be removed and, in appropriate circumstances, they can be given accreditation at a lower level. There would be a right to appeal in these circumstances.

One area of controversy has been the involvement of judges in this process. Those in favour of judicial involvement point to the benefits of assessing advocates at work in a live situation rather than artificially in an assessment centre. Also, as the judges are already being paid to watch the advocates their involvement would be relatively cheap. Solicitors fear that, as many judges originally trained as barristers, they will favour the Bar. Others have argued that judges should be focusing on determining the innocence or guilt of the defendant before them in court, rather than being distracted by grading the quality of the advocates.”

Source: Update to English Legal System (Elliot)

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  • Article Name: Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates
  • Author: International
  • Description: Quality assurance scheme for advocates There has been some concern about the quality of advocacy in the courts. The [...]

This entry was last updated: May 13, 2013


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