Moorhead: Law Society wrong to say there is no evidence of poor-quality advocacy

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By Legal Futures

7 June 2011

Moorhead: unparalleled levels of failure

The Law Society is wrong to suggest there is no evidence of a quality problem in criminal advocacy – according to one of the academics who produced it.

Yesterday, Chancery Lane complained that no evidence had been supplied to support the assertion that advocates are falling below the appropriate standards that justify introduction of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).

But Professor Richard Moorhead, deputy head of Cardiff Law School, was part of a team that in 2009 produced a report on the Legal Services Commission’s pilot of a similar quality assurance scheme. He said the findings justified judicial concern about advocacy standards.

Some of the failure rates were at a level “unparalleled in any assessment of lawyer quality in which I have been involved in the last 20 years”, Professor Moorhead recalled.

He added: “These required either a regulatory response or further investigation. The regulators appear to accept the need for a regulatory response.”

Professor Moorhead agreed with the society that “a better quantification of the risk” would have been helpful, but added: “I do not recall any point at which they have seriously argued for that by, for instance, offering to help fund it.

“Proper research on quality is expensive and it is easier to take pot shots from the sidelines, particularly when the ‘representative’ side of the profession’s agenda is, for understandable but I believe misguided reasons, in keeping the cost of regulation as low as possible.”

He suggested that the regulators had instead seen “a reputational hole for the professions opening up and decided to stop digging and start erecting some fences”.

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