Solicitor advocates await green light to apply for silk

SOLICITOR advocates are set to be given the go ahead to apply for silk by the Lord Chancellor.

The Solicitors' Association of Higher Court Advocates has written to the Lord Chancellor with details of 12 solicitors who have 10 or more years advocacy experience in the High Court.

The group says the Lord Chancellor promised at a meeting in January to open the competition for silks up to solicitor advocates if it could identify solicitors who met the 10-year advocacy experience rule which currently applies to barristers.

Since the January meeting, in which the association also put its case for wearing wigs, the association has identified a dozen solicitor advocates whose extensive High Court experience stems from their days practising as barristers.

Paul Hampton, chair of the advocates' association, says: “We are writing to him with details of advocates who we believe meet the criteria.

“What I expect he will then do is to change the wording of the announcement to invite applications from solicitors and barristers.”

Hampton says experienced solicitor advocates should have the same chance as barristers to obtain silk and all the benefits that go with it.

Judith Naylor, chair of the Criminal Lawyers Solicitors Association, was also at the meeting with the Lord Chancellor.

“I very much welcomed his response, he made his support for solicitor advocates abundantly clear,” she says.

Naylor says she is satisfied with the formal apology circuit judge David Bentley QC offered her last week following his earlier remark that a defendant should not “stoop so low” as to hire a solicitor advocate.

She thinks such “blatant prejudice” among judges is exceptional although she recognises it will take the courts time to get used to what is still a new phenomenon.

The Lord Chancellor is consulting on whether solicitor advocates should be able to wear wigs.