The Solicitors Regulation Authority has set out the timeframe for the 2012 round of practising certificate renewals, expressing confidence that last year’s much-publicised difficulties will not be repeated.
The regulator said that renewals would commence on 1 November with a closing date of 14 December.
“Extensive work has taken place over the summer months to implement a programme of improvements to the IT infrastructure supporting online renewals, and to the application forms and related guidance,” the SRA said.
The claimed improvements include making applications simpler and easier to complete. It will also be possible for ‘organisational contacts’ to process bulk applications on behalf of colleagues.
The SRA added that it had increased the support available at its contact centre.
Information and links to support will be sent to all organisational contacts and authorised signatories by the end of September. The regulator will also provide a video and webinar to guide applicants through the bulk renewal process.
Chief Executive Antony Townsend said: "Following a programme of user engagement over the summer and extensive work on both the application forms and supporting infrastructure, we are satisfied that the user experience will be significantly enhanced.
“We were not prepared to launch the renewals exercise or finally confirm dates until we were confident that the system was stable and the planned enhancements had been implemented. I am pleased to say that this threshold has been reached.”
Earlier this week legal regulation website Legal Futures reported that Law Society President Lucy Scott-Moncrieff had sent an open letter to the profession on the issue of renewals.
She wrote: “The last renewal was the first time that the SRA had attempted online renewal and payment and even though we all got there in the end, after a lot of frustration and disruption, the system still needed a good deal of work to make it user-friendly and reliable.”
The Law Society President added that there would be a fallback system if problems emerged this year as well.
The SRA admitted in March this year that the introduction of online renewal of practising certificates had “not run as smoothly as the SRA had hoped”.
The Authority had been forced to extend the deadline for renewals until the end of February 2012 after serious issues with the mySRA system.