It’s been a year since that SAHCA conference. Believe me. If you were there, you won’t have forgotten it.
On the one hand, we had Government repeating its quality mantra, saying that the public must be protected from rogue (solicitor) advocates – and on the other, Professor Philip Plowden and a chorus of solicitor-advocates banged on about needing evidence. Evidence that wildly incompetent advocates are failing their clients and that a further layer of post-qualification regulation is needed for it to stop.
We’re all still waiting for that evidence.
In the meantime, many solicitors have drawn the conclusion that the purpose of the re-qualification exercise is to enable the Bar to claw back some of the work they’ve lost to solicitor-advocates. It’s not exactly a secret that the Bar’s never been thrilled with solicitor-advocates taking “their work” – or the impact solicitor-advocacy has on availability of work for the junior Bar.
To cap it off, the Criminal Bar Association revealed its QASA colours in their letter to members, published recently in the Law Society Gazette. They say:
‘We make no apology for saying that we also want to win back the position we have traditionally held of doing the most serious cases in the Crown court, and a QASA scheme will help to achieve that.’
While the turf war over court advocacy rages, I thought I’d revisit what Government’s asking all of us to do.
Whereas in the past, once pupillage or higher rights training qualification was achieved, it was yours to exercise subject to established rules to act in the best interests of the client and not take or conduct work beyond one’s own competence.
Now, Government wants to add an extra layer of regulation and require all advocates to re-qualify every five years – with said re-qualification to be assessed by a judge. Not a judge in a class-room. A judge who scores your real-life Hearing/Trial performance.
I’ve got a few problems with that.
a) What happens if Judge Craig Revell Horwood gives me a low mark – where Judge Bruno Tonioli would have said I was magnificent?
b) Isn’t the judiciary full of, erm, Barristers?
c) Since when is it an advocate’s job to please a judge anyway?
QASA’s been put on ice whilst the powers that be attempt to avoid “unintended consequences” of favouring one branch of the profession over another.
How exactly does one make a quality scheme fair when the lack of quality it’s meant to address has never been identified?
Moses LJ elegantly skewered QASA during his 13 February speech at Middle Temple. Enjoy.