Law Society consults on call for easier access to advocacy

CALLS to make it easier for solicitors who have received training in busy City advocacy departments to win higher court rights of audience look set to be taken up by the Law Society.

Pressure for the advocacy training that City firms give their trainees to be treated in a similar way to a barrister's pupillage was first reported in The Lawyer in September.

Now the Law Society has included the proposal in an informal consultation paper it has circulated to selected firms and the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates.

If approved by the Society's ruling council, the plan will form part of a Law Society application to the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct (Aclec) for the current rules to be amended.

Currently, solicitors must clock up a high number of appearances in magistrates and county courts before they can qualify for the higher courts advocacy exam and test operated by the Law Society.

Solicitors, particularly in the City, have long complained that this kind of work is not readily available to them.

The Law Society paper proposes that solicitors who have undergone formal advocacy training in an advocacy department should not be required to clock up so much flying time.

The idea was originally put forward by Linklaters & Paines partner Mark Humphries, of the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates.

He said: “The Law Society is coming with sensible proposals which will give the public every confidence that all solicitor advocates have the utmost experience before being let loose on the courts.”

In September a Law Society delegation headed by vice president Phillip Sycamore reported a positive response from Aclec after informally sounding it out over less radical plans to count experience in front of judges in chambers or masters in the High Court towards the flying hours. It also proposed changes to the test and course.