We have responded to the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) consultation on assuring advocacy standards.

The proposals

In August 2019, the SRA issued a consultation outlining their proposals to improve on how they currently regulate advocacy and protect consumers by:

  • revising their arrangements for higher court advocacy by:
    • introducing revised Higher Rights of Audience (HRA) criminal and civil standards
    • introducing a single, centralised HRA assessment
    • requiring that the HRA assessment is taken after admission
    • requiring youth court solicitors to pass their higher court advocacy qualification where they are acting as advocates in a case which would go to the crown court if brought against an adult
  • providing resources to help solicitors meet their standards
  • supporting reporting about advocacy standards to help them act when they have concerns about a solicitor’s competence to conduct advocacy

Our view

We support high professional standards and improving standards wherever there is a need.

However, any proposals for change need to be supported by evidence that improvement is needed in the first place.

It’s unclear to us what the regulatory justifications for the SRA’s proposals are.

We strongly suggest that a robust data-gathering exercise takes place before any changes are considered further.

What this means for solicitors

Any measures that increase the cost for solicitors to conduct high court, crown court or youth court advoacy are likely to:

  • have a negative impact on the availablity of advocates
  • disproportionately impact junior lawyers who have limited means to fund courses

Next steps

The consultation closed on 13 November.

The SRA will collate and analyse all the responses before deciding which proposals to take forward.