The Law Society has changed its rules to excuse solicitors from their duty to attend court in some civil and criminal cases where counsel has been instructed.
Under the old rule, solicitors could be disciplined for failing to attend, even if they were not actually needed or where clients could not recover costs from their opponent.
This meant that either the client suffered unnecessary expense or the solicitor had to provide the service free of charge.
The Law Society council acted because the new Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) allow the court to award a fixed sum for attendance of fast track civil trial cases only if it considers it was “necessary” for a legal representative to attend the advocate.
A report from the Law Society's remuneration working party points out that although the CPR do not directly conflict with solicitors' professional obligations, it sometimes presents a dilemma.
The new rule excuses solicitor attendance in most fast track civil cases and Crown court trials, guilty plea cases, sentencing hearings and appeals against conviction.