A leading figure at the Solicitors Regulation Authority says he is confident about the future of the legal profession following the introduction of apprenticeships as an alternative route into the law.

Charles Plant (pictured), who steps down as chair of the SRA board on 31 December, made the comments as he received a lifetime achievement award from the City of London Law Society at the British Legal Awards last week.

He said: 'It has been a pleasure and a privilege to spend over 40 years in my chosen profession.

'In that time, I've been involved in some key changes, not least solicitors' rights to appear as advocates in the higher courts, and of course developing the SRA as chair.

'Looking ahead, it is, I think, the widening of access through the introduction of apprenticeships that gives me real confidence in the future of our profession.'

Plant joined Herbert Smith & Co in 1967, where he was a litigation practitioner for nearly 40 years. He has been chair of the SRA board for the past five years.

SRA chief executive Paul Philip said: 'We, at the SRA, have benefited in many ways from Charles' time with us, not only through his excellent leadership, direction and expertise, but also through the role model he has provided.'

City of London Law Society chairman Alasdair Douglas praised Plant for recognising the need, and fighting for, proportionate regulation. 'The City and the UK economy owe much to his guidance and direction,' he added.

Plant's successor, Enid Rowlands, UK chair of charity Victim Support, will become the SRA's first non-lawyer chair in January 2015.

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