The new scheme for solicitors to acquire rights of audience will finally go live on 1 April after the Ministry of Justice gave the SRA the go-ahead.
The Solicitors Higher Rights of Audience Regulations 2010 involve separate awards for rights of audience for criminal and civil advocacy. Qualification will be through an assessment based on competence standards.
The current accreditation and exemption routes will no longer be available, although there are transitional arrangements for people taking assessments under the existing regulations. The 5,461 solicitors who already have rights of audience will be automatically passported onto the new scheme.
Clare Gilligan, the SRA’s head of education and training, said: “We have consulted extensively with stakeholders on the new scheme and feel that this is a fairer way of assessing competency. The new regulations remove the need for mandatory training or experience in the assessment process, which will be run by external organisations who have been authorised by the SRA.
“We feel confident that the new rules will provide a robust system for qualification in the higher courts.”
The SRA first announced plans to reform the higher rights regime in 2007 and had originally proposed that all solicitors would automatically have higher rights and could choose whether to seek accreditation. However, it reversed that decision and made accreditation compulsory following consultation.