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THE Lord Chancellor's decision to invite solicitor advocates to take silk has been given a warm welcome by the legal profession.
Lawyers say the announcement had been expected for many months but was still of "historic significance".
There are understood to be a handful of experienced solicitors set to apply when the rules become operative next year.
Paul Hampton, chair of the Solicitors' Association of Higher Court Advocates, says: "This is welcome news which is of great historic significance. We had misgivings about the Lord Chancellor's motives at first, but we now believe these misgivings were misplaced. We think his department is committed to parity of treatment."
Russell Wallman, head of professional policy at the Law Society, also welcomes the announcement and adds the society is reviewing its own policy.
The change in the rules was signalled earlier this year when Lord Mackay promised to open up the system if he could identify solicitor advocates with 10 or more years' advocacy experience. The advocates' association said in April it had given details of 12 solicitors who met the requirements.