Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates

I don’t think this idea would go down well in Ontario.

Under the new QASA , UK judges in criminal matters will now rate the levels of advocates appearing before them.

Cases are assigned levels and advocates will only be permitted to appear in cases assigned to their levels and below.

Advocates are assessed judicially , and by an approved assessment organization. The advocate must ask judges for an assessment prior to the hearing, and must be assessed 5 times over a 5 year period. The advocate can choose the best three scores.

Over time advocates can move up the ladder.

Only those with Level 4 rating will be allowed to appear on the most serious cases. Level 1 will be confined to magistrates courts.

There is a bewildering breakdown of over 160 ” Performance Indicators”, colour-coded and finely detailed. See Appendix 1 (p. 43) to this PDF – Statement of Standards written by the Joint Advocacy Group. It looks like could take longer to complete than the reasons for judgment. Note for example the distinction between “Deep Understanding of Law and Practice” (Level 3) , and “Superior Grasp of Law and Practice” (Level 4).

Commentators are saying a scheme such as this, designed to support advocates and improve advocacy, risks damaging the strengths it was designed to enhance.

Lord Justice Moses lambasted QASA in a speech last week. He warned of the danger of creating a generation of sycophantic advocates concerned more with protecting and enhancing their chances of preserving and improving their rating, than their client’s interests. He pointed out that the assessments made by the judges are then assessed by regulators – “…a team, under a manager employed by the regulator, will decide whether the advocate has the competence to move up a level or to be re-accredited at the same level.” Apart from promoting defensive advocacy, a poor rating given to a barrister at a hearing may provide grounds for appeal.

Although the scheme applies only to criminal matters, the intention is to roll it out across civil matters in due course.

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