The Law Society yesterday usurped the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) plans to announce details of this year’s practising certificate (PC) renewal exercise.
The 2011 renewal exercise was dogged by delays and IT problems which did the SRA’s reputation with the profession a considerable amount of damage.
The SRA is due to make its announcement on Thursday, but in an open letter to the profession, Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said yesterday that renewal will definitely start on 1 November. “It is not negotiable,” she said, a reference also to the delay in starting this year’s staying on the roll exercise.
She said: “The last renewal was the first time that the SRA had attempted online renewal and payment and even though we all got there in the end, after a lot of frustration and disruption, the system still needed a good deal of work to make it user-friendly and reliable.
“Further money had to be allocated to the project for this work, and of course we needed to know that the money would be well spent and produce the desired result.”
Ms Scott-Moncrieff added that the society has provided funding to change the system so that administrators can complete the renewal process for the whole organisation, rather than requiring individual solicitors to apply for their new certificate.
This system is still being tested, however, and Ms Scott-Moncrieff said a fallback system has been prepared if problems emerge, and this would be announced during October. She said her main focus “is to ensure that you are aware of the current situation and planning to enable you use the time between now and 1 November (armed with the further information that will follow as to the roll-out of the improved system) to plan and prepare for renewal from 1 November”.
An SRA spokesman said: “Our understanding is that following requests from members, the Law Society took the decision to announce the start dates for the practising certificate renewals exercise ahead of the SRA’s planned communication, which will include the dates for the process, on 20 September.
“This announcement will be followed by a comprehensive communication to all organisational contacts and authorised signatories on 25 September.
“A further communication will follow to all those who have activated a mySRA account on 2 October. These communications will be supported by an extensive web resource. Rather than call the SRA’s Contact Centre, we ask that firms delay making contact until they have seen the detailed information that we will be sending out.”