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Judicial assessment for all trial advocates ‘misconceived’

2 April 2012

The requirement for all trial advocates under a new quality scheme to have judicial assessment is “misconceived”, Law Society chief executive Des Hudson has said following the main regulators’ agreement on QASA.

“Judges exist to judge on the facts of the case, not the competence of the advocates in front of them and we are concerned that, for the advocates, there will be a conflict between their interests in receiving a good mark from a judge and their clients’ interests in being fearlessly represented,” Hudson said.

He added it was unlikely there would be sufficient trials for this to be a practical way forward and urged the regulators to rethink their position.

Hudson also raised concern in relation to non-trial advocates – solicitor advocates who rarely do a full trial but “nevertheless provide important representation for clients in other hearings”.

According to the Law Society chief there appeared to be a discrepancy between the information on the Bar Standards Board’s website and the SRA’s understanding of the agreement.

Under the proposed scheme, he said, non-trial advocates would be accredited for the full five-year period, not two years as the BSB seemed to suggest. He expressed concern too that there would be no separate category of non-trial advocate, with all advocates being eligible to undertake level 2 work and therefore having to gain judicial assessment if they undertake full trials.

After months of wrangling, the SRA, BSB and ILEX Professional Standards agreed on QASA on 23 March (see, ‘Regulators agree on QASA’).

The detail of the scheme will be finalised after a consultation to be issued shortly, but Solicitors Journal understands that advocates working at magistrates’ courts will be monitored by assessment centres. Judicial evaluation is expected to be phased in from late 2012.

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