Time at the bar?

It’s been six years since legal executives were first granted advocacy rights for county, magistrates’ and matrimonial courts. Last week those rights were extended to criminal and youth courts and certain crown court cases.

The Institute of Legal Executives (Ilex) greeted the news with delight. But will it really make a difference? Solicitors have had higher rights of audience since 1992, but really don’t get to use those rights nearly as much as everyone had originally hoped – mainly because it is still cheaper to instruct a barrister, and also because the level of experience needed cannot be gained while practising as a solicitor.

For legal executives, the same issues will apply. While the Ilex advocacy exam is surely adequate, it will not be able to beat the day-in, day-out experience of junior criminal and family barristers handling small cases in magistrates’ and crown courts. Advocacy will remain the preserve of the bar for a while yet.