The news on rights of audience, when it came, was not good. Yes, employed solicitors could have wider rights of audience. But when the small print was unveiled, this did not translate into very much at all.
Crown prosecutors will still not be able to appear in Crown Court trials. Local authorities will not be able to send their in-house lawyers to deal with care proceedings. Indeed, there is very little to whet the appetite of an employed solicitor in the Lord Chancellor's announcement other than the granting of permission to appear in the higher courts in very limited circumstances, such as pleas and directional hearings.
The debate on the rights of audience issue in past years has dragged out and it is obviously disappointing for all employed solicitors who see little difference between their position and that of their private practice compatriots.
The Law Society, which played a major part in the debate, was taken unawares by the decision and only found out through a press release circulated by the LCD.
All in all, the debate has turned into a shambles. It has taken four years to get to this position, the course of which have been anything but smooth. Aclec was unable to agree on the issue, unlike the Bar and most judges, who were uniformly against the idea. The compromise which has been finally reached simply leads to the conclusion that some things never change.