The Rights of Audience working party have drafted proposed amendments of Rule C4 of the Law Society of Scotland Practice Rules 2011 to facilitate an improved application process and better continuing quality assurance of Solicitor Advocates.
The Law Society of Scotland established the Rights of Audience working party to review procedures and standards for solicitor advocates, giving consideration to a number of factors, including recent High Court decisions and changes put in place by the Faculty of Advocates.
The remit of the working party is:
- To consider and make recommendations regarding the proposed ‘standards of the competent pleader’ with reference to the standard expected of applicants for extended rights of audience and the maintaining of standards amongst those already qualified
- To review and make recommendations regarding the application process for extended rights of audience - including considering changes to the Society’s application forms, guidance and reference request process
- To consider and make recommendations regarding the continuing quality assurance of solicitor advocates.
The agreed composition of the working party is:
- A member of the Society’s Council;
- A member of the Society’s Education and Training Sub-Committee;
- A member of the Society’ Rights of Audience Sub-Committee;
- At least two members of the Society of Solicitor Advocates (at least one civil, one criminal);
- The current course conveners (civil and criminal);
- Working party secretary: Law Society of Scotland accreditation manager
Firstly, the working party finalised the ‘standards of the competent pleader’. These standards provide a list of performance indicators which form the basis for assessment under the Law Society of Scotland Rights of Audience Requirements and Rules.
A solicitor advocate must be competent in each of these at the level required to practise effectively in the courts in which extended Rights of Audience are sought. Applicants seeking extended Rights of Audience are required to be able to demonstrate and evidence competence of these over the course of the assessment process.
In relation to applying for extended Rights of Audience and having considered the current process and determined how it could be improved to ensure that the standard of applicants coming forward for extended rights of audience are suitably experienced members of the profession; and established the need for focused CPD requirements for all Solicitor Advocates to ensure the ongoing good quality of work, the Working Party recommended the following three changes:
A requirement to attend a mandatory introductory course prior to making an application
The working party had in mind liaison between the Law Society and the Society of Solicitor Advocates who have successfully run a relevant and established course for several years.
The purpose of the introductory course is to explain the application process, and the standards and training required in obtaining Rights of Audience. The intention is that this will assist potential candidates to understand the process and critically self-appraise whether they have the necessary relevant experience to apply for the course of training for the relevant extended Rights of Audience, bearing in mind that it is not an entry level course and the applicant will be required to demonstrate a degree of experience
Greater emphasis on the sifting process
A panel consisting of professional members of the Rights of Audience sub-committee will determine whether the applicant has the necessary experience to be admitted to the course of training for the relevant Rights of Audience sought, including the taking up of references at this stage
Targeted CPD requirement for those already qualified
Introduction of a requirement that all practising solicitor advocates complete 10 hours of “targeted” CPD, (CPD related to their practice as a solicitor advocate) and that a record of that CPD is submitted to the Society annually, In the interests of maintaining standards amongst those already qualified.
On the bases of these recommendations, the working party have drafted proposed amendments of Rule C4 of the Law Society of Scotland Practice Rules 2011 to facilitate an improved application process and better continuing quality assurance of solicitor advocates, having:
At present, the amendment rules are with the Lord President for approval, following which approval will be sought from Scottish Ministers (who will consult with the Competition and Markets Authority).
This means that, if approved, changes to CPD requirements will come into effect for the 2018/19 practice year. Changes to the application process, including the introductory course and sifting of applications, will come into effect as soon as practicable following approval of the amendment rules.
Consideration of the standards of the competent pleader in the course of the assessment process will come into effect as soon as practical along with other recommendations in relation to changes to the Society’s application forms, guidance and reference request process.
If you have any comments or enquiries please email Sonia Gentile-mills.