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Friday, 19 February 2010

UK's Legal Services Commission advocates checked for quality

Last year I wrote about the UK's Crown Prosecuting Service and a review into the competency of CPS advocates.

This year, the Legal Services Commission — the Poms' equivalent to our legal aid — is running a pilot scheme trialling a quality assurance scheme for advocates.

The discussion paper discusses what the LSC wants to do and how it reckons it will assess advocates. It says a way of assessing advocacy is needed because, "[T]here remain advocates at all levels who appear in cases (from the simplest to the most complex) that are beyond their competence." (See 1.9.2 of the discussion paper.)

It proposes a system compatible with the CPS grading system, so advocates can easily move from prosecuting to defending agencies. (At least, in theory.)

The discussion paper isn't quite as good a read as the CPS study from last year (IMHO). And ironically for a paper about achieving good advocacy, it's full of management buzzwords and clich├ęs that Don Watson likes to pillory.

But at least the LSC is talking about assessing and improving advocacy standards. We still don't have quite the same thing here — though I'm pretty sure the Justice Department's 2006 Review of legal education report : pre-admission and continuing legal education delved into the idea of competency-based advocacy training, particular for barristers. (Has anyone got a link to an online copy of that report? It seems to have gone since the Department of Justice revamped its website.)

The most recent edition of The Bar's In Brief mentions Victoria Legal Aid is reviewing briefing practices to get the best bang for its buck, which is a start in that direction.

Given the way a lot of changes from the UK seem to pop up in our legal system around 5 to 10 years later, my tip is that we'll see more of these reviews locally in the near future.

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