The Legal Services Board (LSB) has given the clearest hint yet that it is supporting the position of solicitors in the row over the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).
Legal Futures also understands that the LSB is pushing the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to accept a compromise that would not require non-trial advocates to undergo judicial assessment for the time being.
The final sticking point on QASA is whether criminal solicitor-advocates who purely conduct plea-only hearings, and not trials, should have to undergo the full QASA process, including judicial assessment. The BSB and Bar Council insist this is necessary, while the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and Law Society say it is not.
It will ultimately be for the LSB to sign off the rule changes that the Solicitors Regulation Authority, BSB and ILEX Professional Standards need to bring QASA into effect, and it has been monitoring the development of the scheme closely.
In a carefully worded statement issued to this website, the LSB said it continues to work with the three regulators on the “rapid development and implementation of a single QASA”. It continued: “We have made clear that we expect advocates to be assessed against all the standards and for judicial evaluation to be central to the assessment of all those doing trial work.”
The emphasis on trial work indicates the LSB’s thinking. We understand that it is trying to persuade the BSB to accept that non-trial advocates should just have to meet those QASA requirements relevant for such hearings, which would not require judicial assessment. This would be reviewed if evidence emerges in practice that such advocates are not up to the job.
BSB chairwoman Baroness Deech said: “The Bar Standards Board has called on fellow regulators to join with it in pressing ahead with QASA. We continue to meet with the SRA, ILEX Professional Standards, the judiciary and other stakeholders to discuss.”
SRA chief executive Antony Townsend said: “We remain committed to the introduction of a single scheme to accredit criminal advocates. Discussions continue with our partners in the Bar Standards Board, ILEX Professional Standards, stakeholder groups and the judiciary. We’re keen to start implementing the scheme as soon as possible, and hope that the BSB will join us.”