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New legal aid firms urged to seek authorisation early

SRA aware of new entrants preparing to bid for duty solicitor contracts

18 October 2016

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New criminal law firms bidding for legal aid contracts, but which are not yet authorised to practise, have been urged to make their application for authorisation as soon as possible to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

The regulator is aware of a number of bidders that are new entrants to the profession, but which have not yet applied for authorisation. Meanwhile, a handful of new firms made enquiries about the process only last week.

Jane Malcolm, the SRA’s executive director of external affairs, said: ‘Firms will need to have authorisation in place before they can practise, and deadlines are approaching. We turn around applications as quickly as we can, but some firms might have complex needs which take more time to work through.

‘By getting in touch with us now, firms will not only have a clearer picture of what they need to do to get authorised, they will make sure they have plenty of time to do so.’

The SRA said it processes most applications in 28 days, but warned that complex applications can take longer.

According to the Legal Aid Agency, applicants for the duty solicitor scheme commencing 1 April 2017 must have passed its verification process, which includes authorisation by the SRA, by 12 December 2016.

Applicants wanting to join the scheme from July, or which have failed the first verification for the duty solicitor slots starting 1 April, or will only be working under an own-client contract, have until 28 February 2017 to confirm they are authorised.

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duty solicitor scheme SRA Legal Aid Agency