Leading criminal law solicitor Tony Edwards has attacked barristers for their “arrogance” and “verbosity”.
The attack came during a call for the introduction of new standards for advocacy at the Solicitors' Association of Higher Court Advocates' (SAHCA) first annual conference.
Edwards, senior partner of London firm TV Edwards & Co, told the conference in Coventry earlier this month that, while block contracting pilots imposed quality standards on many areas of law, advocacy had been left out.
He said barristers often showed an “unwillingness to advise promptly and an inability to meet an obligation to represent a particular client” and a “lack of client care”.
He said barristers at their best provided “great experience”, “independent review” and “brilliant advocacy”, but that solicitor-advocates could do the job equally well.
Edwards called for two standards to be introduced for advocacy: a portfolio of cases in which an advocate shows the stages of preparation; and a tape or video recording him or her in action.
Edwards also warned of his fears for the criminal block contracting pilot, due to begin at the end of this month.
Contracting of criminal work could lead to firms bidding at prices which continually undercut one another, leading to a declining standard of work, he said.
He compared this scenario to that of conveyancing, where “the standard of work has fallen to such depths that the future of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund is under question”.
Edwards also said the independence of solicitors participating in the pilot could be jeopardised by government “noises that firms who are seen to be too adversarial [too aggressive in putting forward their client's view] may not be granted a contract”.