Number of solicitor-advocates set to triple following approval of third training route

The number of City solicitor-advocates with higher court rights of audience is expected to triple over the course of next year following Law Society approval last week for a new, simplified route to qualification.

At its meeting last week, the Law Society council approved new rules, negotiated with officials from the Lord Chancellor's Department, which allow a third 'training' route to qualification.

Under existing routes, solicitors with no lower court experience have to gain that experience before they are deemed eligible to sit the advocacy exam.

City litigators have long complained that, because their firms do not handle small crime or county court cases, they can not get the 'flying hours' in the lower courts required to sit the test.

The new training route gives the Law Society discretion to set the amount of advocacy experience in the lower courts that a solicitor needs and gives it the right to make exemptions.

Mark Humphries, Linklaters partner and vice-chairman of the Solicitors' Association of Higher Court Advocates, said that the rule change did not go as far as he would like.

Ideally, he said, all lawyers – barristers or solicitors – should have the same training with a litigation option.

But he added: 'For the time being this will do.'

He guessed that about 100 of the 621 solicitor-advocates so far created were from City firms and he predicted that the new rules would triple that number 'during the course of next year'.