The Solicitors Regulation Authority has expressed 'confidence' that this year's practising certificate renewal season will pass more smoothly than last year's troubled process, ahead of tomorrow's 'go-live' date.
2011 was the first year that the SRA attempted online renewal and payments, through its mySRA portal. Well-publicised difficulties with the system resulted in thousands of solicitors missing the renewal deadline.
To avoid similar frustrations this time, the SRA carried out a 'comprehensive review' that led to changes. These include making the application process simpler and quicker, and implementing new technology to enhance the capacity of the portal.
One key change is the introduction of an administrator function that will allow authorised contacts within a firm to complete the renewal process for all solicitors in the organisation, rather than each individual solicitor having to apply. A one-click 'record complete' function will allow multiple records to be confirmed as correct within the bulk renewal application.
An SRA spokeswoman said: 'We have worked closely with the regulated community over the summer to prioritise a series of enhancements so that this year's PC renewals exercise goes much more smoothly than last year.'
She said the regulator has held 'engagement sessions' up and down the country to demonstrate to the regulated community the changes that have been made in response to their feedback.
The SRA has also provided firms with support material giving them information about the process, including access to the questions that appear on the bulk renewal form and related guidance; frequently asked questions; and a readiness guide.
Essential maintenance of the mySRA website portal is under way today ahead of tomorrow's go-live date.
The Spokeswoman added: 'We are confident that the steps we have put in place will lead to a much better experience.' The deadline for registration is 14 December.