THE DISCREPANCY bet ween the routes barristers and solicitors have to take to win rights of audience amounts to discrimination, say two senior City solicitor advocates.
Mark Humphries, of Link laters & Paines, and Richard Slowe, of S J Berwin & Co, are to present a proposal to the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates this month calling for radical changes to the system for granting higher-court rights.
They argue that a six-month training seat in a law firm's advocacy unit is comparable with the experience of a barrister undergoing a pupillage.
“The higher-courts qualification Regulations 1992 should be amended to provide that a higher-courts qualification may be granted to a solicitor who has served six months of training with a solicitor who holds a higher-courts qualification,” they say.
Rory McAlpine, head of Wilde Sapte's advocacy unit is also backing the proposals. His unit has just doubled in size by taking on two recruits, barrister Justin Jowitt, and Mark Parkhouse, an insolvency specialist. But he said the shortage of solicitor advocates made recruitment difficult.
Humphries said he hoped to get the backing of the advocates group as well as the City of London Law Society for his initiative.
Last week a Law Society delegation announced it had received a positive response during a meeting with the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct over new Law Society plans to amend the qualification rules.
Humphries said the society's proposals to make the existing qualification procedures less onerous “were not radical enough to make any significant difference”.
Several leading figures within the advocate's group have also expressed astonishment they had not been consulted about the initiative.