Monday 03 September 2012 by Catherine Baksi

Three weeks before the deadline under the quality assurance scheme for advocates (QASA), a quarter of criminal advocates have not yet notified the Solicitors Regulation Authority of their intention to practise after 2013, the regulator has revealed.

By 21 September all solicitors and regulated European lawyers wishing to undertake criminal advocacy in England and Wales from January next year must notify the regulator of their intention to do so. To date, just under 7,500 of the estimated 10,000 criminal advocates have completed the notification process, according to the SRA.

From spring 2013 QASA will provide a system of accreditation for all criminal advocacy working in the magistrates' and Crown courts, whether carried out by solicitors, barristers or legal executives. The notification process is the first step in becoming accredited under the new scheme.

SRA executive director Richard Collins said: 'We want to ensure that key stakeholders are aware of these important deadlines and are able to respond while there is still time.

'The SRA is committed to continuing stakeholder engagement during the consultation process and has organised a number of consultation workshops with key bodies,' he said.

The Bar Standards Board does not require barristers looking to practise as advocates to comply with any notification process before the scheme commences. Instead, the BSB says it will focus its resources on the registration process, which is due to begin in January.

QASA was designed by a joint advocacy group consisting of the BSB, ILEX Professional Standards and the SRA. A final consultation on the design of the scheme ends on 9 October.

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