Solicitors to shun advocacy as criminal barristers strike

Solicitors will refuse to carry out advocacy in criminal cases during the forthcoming criminal bar strike, even if a court demands that they appear.

The Law Society has told solicitors that they must not act, or continue to act, if a client “cannot be represented with competence or diligence”.

Additionally, if a solicitor is not qualified as an advocate, or if the client’s instructions did not include appearance as an advocate, they can refuse to appear in court at trial or at a plea and case management hearing.

The Law Society has issued guidance to solicitors in anticipation of the criminal barristers’ October strike. The barristers are protesting over the Government’s refusal to raise criminal legal aid funding.

The Law Society says a court “does not have the power to order a solicitor to perform work that they are either unqualified to perform or that is outside the terms of their retainer”.

The guidance comes two weeks after The Lawyer revealed that solicitor-advocates will be asked to take up the slack when the barrister walkout begins. Many solicitors are as angry as the barristers over the Government’s stance on legal aid, with the issue prompting a fierce debate at last week’s Law Society Conference.