Bar Council accepts need for advocacy qualification

THE BAR Council has for the first time conceded that employed barristers may have to pass a special test before being let loose in the higher courts.

At the Bar Council meeting on 14 November, Jonathan Hirst QC said that the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct (Aclec) had indicated that it would reject the council's calls for employed barristers to automatically receive the same audience rights as those recently granted to in-house solicitors.

Hirst, who is chairman of the council's professional standards committee, acknowledged that employed barristers with limited advocacy experience who wanted higher court audience rights would have to face similar qualification hurdles as those imposed on in-house solicitors.

He later told The Lawyer that employed barristers who had not practiced advocacy for several years would probably have to gain advocacy experience in the lower courts and then take a test.

A source close to Aclec said the Bar had originally tried to have it both ways.

“Having argued that solicitors without advocacy experience needed to take courses and exams, they appeared to be saying that barristers with a similar lack of advocacy experience should be treated differently,” said the source.

Hirst's stance has angered members of the Bar Association of Commerce Finance and Industry, which earlier this month threatened to refer the Bar Council to the competition authorities if it did not move quickly on the issue.