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Cardiff Law School pilots new scheme

19 March 2009

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Cardiff Law School has launched a ground-breaking pilot project to quality assess criminal lawyers.

The team of lawyers from the School are now inviting solicitors and barristers who carry out criminal legal aid to take part which could lead to widespread improvements in the quality of criminal lawyers across the UK.

If successful, the ‘Quality Assurance for Advocates’ pilot will support the development of the eagerly anticipated four-tier grading scheme, which provides a ‘fail-safe’ assessment of criminal lawyers across the board.

The pilot is a significant step forward in terms of increasing public confidence in the competence of lawyers and in their ability to conduct cases of differing complexity. Though it was initially prompted by one of Lord Carter’s legal aid review recommendations, the level of transparency and standard of criminal advocates has been a hot topic among lawyers and judges for several years.

Instigated by the Legal Services Commission and Ministry of Justice, the pilot has been developed in collaboration with the Law Society, Bar Council, Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bar Standards Board, the Crown Prosecution Service and members of the judiciary.

The Cardiff Law School team include Angela Devereux, head of the Professional Development Unit, and Professor Richard Moorhead, alongside Professor Ed Cape at the University of the West of England. Over the next five months the team will assess up to 280 barristers and solicitors using a range of different assessment methods at centres in Cardiff, Birmingham and London.

The Centre for Professional Legal Studies at Cardiff Law School has a strong track record and reputation as a leading provider of vocational legal training. Professor Ian Brookfield, Director, says, "We are delighted to have the opportunity to develop this vitally important measure. We are confident that, if successful, the pilot will be a significant development in the future of the legal profession, and go some way to ensuring a higher level of confidence in legal aid advocates."

For those taking part, the pilot offers a unique chance to shape the future quality assurance of criminal lawyers. The eventual quality assurance scheme will depend on the findings of the pilot, as well as political funding. If successful the pilot will result in a fair, credible and proportionate scheme that provides a single track career path for any criminal lawyer, and could therefore replace the current disparate range of qualifications for defence and prosecution advocates.

It is important for a wide range of advocates to take part in the pilot. Anyone interested should email Sinead Reynolds at qaa@legalservices.gov.uk

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