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PROBLEMS facing solicitors and barristers practising advocacy, including the obstacles presented by awkward judges, will be examined in a major three-phase research project.
The research will be commissioned by the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct (Aclec) with the aim of monitoring developments in the market for advocacy services following the extension of higher court rights of audience to solicitors.
The Law Society's research and policy planning unit has won a commercial tender to carry out a six-month pilot study which aims to establish the best means for monitoring current and future developments.
Carole Willis, head of the unit, says the pilot will gather data from both branches of the profession as a starting point for more focused research.
Barristers' interests will be represented equally with those of solicitors, she stresses.
"I'm anxious that barristers do not feel that the Law Society is able to nobble this research by putting solicitors' interests to the fore. It is independent, fact-finding research and I will need as much help from the Bar as from solicitors."
The society's team won a competitive tender for the pilot, for which it will be paid enough to at least cover costs.
A major strength of Willis' team is the mass of completed and on-going research work since the application for extended rights was first made. Most recently, it surveyed the existing practice of advocacy by private practitioners.
Among its findings was the common problem faced by solicitor advocates, particularly in rural areas, of difficult judges who were unwilling to recognise them.
Aclec's other two projects will be detailed studies of the effect of changes in advocacy provision in London and Bristol. These will start next Easter and finish in 1996.