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SRA to quiz solicitor advocates about higher rights amid QASA scheme concerns

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has urged solicitors with higher rights of audience to complete a questionnaire on the way in which they exercise their higher rights.

The information gathered will then be used to feed in to the controversial Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).

The questionnaire has been designed in co-operation with key stakeholder groups, including the Law Society. It will be sent this week to all higher courts advocates with crime or crime/civil higher rights of audience.

“The responses will feed into further evidence gathering which is being conducted to find out more about the types of work solicitor advocates undertake, its nature and extent, as well as personal profile data which will be used in the analysis,” the SRA said.

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Yve Schelhaas, the regulator's Director of Education and Training, said: "The recent forum we held on QASA and the consultation on the proposals aired some key issues around the detail of the scheme. We have listened to the views expressed and as the main regulator of the solicitors' profession, we wanted to gather more evidence on solicitor advocates' work so that we can identify any factors that would tend to disadvantage them in relation to the scheme.”

QASA has been designed with four levels, which are mapped to complexity of work. Level one applies to advocacy in the magistrates' courts, for example, while level four applies to the most complex cases in the Crown Court. A single set of advocacy standards will apply across the four levels.

The original intention was to launch QASA in December 2011, but this was postponed after the regulators behind the project admitted that “valid issues” had been raised during consultation. It is now set to be rolled out in April 2012.

Local government solicitors are amongst those to have expressed concern, warning in particular that there would not be a level playing field between barristers and solicitor advocates handling regulatory work.

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