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Solicitor advocate is a hybrid status which is named to represent clients in higher courts.
Historically, solicitors took conduct of litigation, and undertook advocacy in the lower courts (tribunals, coroner's courts, magistrates' courts, county courts, and sheriff courts). They were not able to represent their clients in court in the higher courts: the Crown Court, the High Court, the Court of Appeal, the Court of Session, the Privy Council, and the House of Lords. Instead, solicitors were required to instruct barristers (in England and Wales) or advocates (in Scotland) to represent their clients in court.
Section 27 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990, in England and Wales, and section 24 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990, in Scotland, created a route for solicitors to qualify for a grant of rights of audience in the higher courts when they have sufficient training and experience, subject to passing additional exams. The complex rules and regulations were relaxed in England and Wales by the Higher Courts Qualification Regulations 2000 so as to establish four main routes to qualify for higher rights of audience: development (training, assessment, and a portfolio of cases); accreditation (experience and an advocacy assessment); exemption (sufficient experience); and former barrister (called to the bar before 31 July 2000). Higher rights of audience may be granted for the higher criminal courts, or the higher civil courts, or both. In England and Wales, solicitor advocates wear a gown, winged collar and bands, and may also wear a wig in circumstances where they are worn by barristers.In Scotland they wear a gown over business dress, but no wig, in line with other Scottish solicitors.
Solicitor higher court advocacy has developed significantly since its first authorisation by the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990. Although only a handful of solicitors acquired higher rights as the first batch of advocates in 1994, they included some of the most senior figures in the legal establishment of the time, such as Sir David Napley, founding partner of Kingsley Napley. Approximately 4,000 advocates have since been authorised for crime, civil, or both. They represent a wide spectrum of experience.
Whilst there has been a steady growth of numbers in recent years, the bulk of the serious advocacy is still undertaken by solicitor advocates with many years of advocacy practice behind them. Some solicitor advocates have been working exclusively in higher courts for fifteen years (or longer if former barristers) and have developed particular specialisms, for example in regulatory and disciplinary work such as Andrew Hopper QC; in family work, such as June Venters QC; in extradition cases, such as Michael Caplan QC; and elsewhere in various parts of the criminal field, such as in terrorism work and fraud; e.g., Niall Quinn QC.
Solicitor advocates are regularly appointed to the ranks of Queen's Counsel, albeit the numbers of applicants are relatively low. Solicitor advocates have also been appointed to the High Court Bench. The Baron Collins of Mapesbury, a former Herbert Smith partner, was the first appointee as a solicitor QC in 1997 before being appointed to the High Court Bench. In 2009 he was appointed to the UK Supreme Court.
The bar and Judiciary have been generally supportive of the growth of solicitor advocacy, asserting that the bar would not be threatened by individuals acquiring new skills and practices; and that the ethnic, gender and class diversity that this wider pool of advocates would bring to the profession would be welcome. But, in recent years the bar has found its work being reduced, partly as a result of Legal Aid cuts principally directed at solicitors' firms, and this has generally soured its opinion of the changes.[ citation needed ]
Instruction of solicitor advocates became more prevalent as firms saw the advantages of keeping work in-house without the need to instruct outside counsel. This pioneering approach is frequently seen across England and Wales, particularly in areas such as Birmingham. The previous monopoly of counsel in higher court advocacy led to complacency by some; late withdrawal from serious cases of the counsel of choice remain relatively frequent due to other work commitments. Occasionally this was accompanied by an attempt to foist upon both solicitor and client a new counsel with no previous involvement in the case. Practice choices such as these worked to the benefit of solicitor advocates, who had the advantage of appreciating the consequences of such behaviour and of knowing the client. Equally, the independent bar met with some limited competition from chambers of solicitor advocates, independent practitioners with common clerking and conference facilities who operated in a similar way to barristers, but with less aggressive clerking arrangements so that late return of briefs was relatively unusual.
Competition has led to criticism from the bar and judiciary of the extent of solicitor advocacy practised in the higher courts, particularly as solicitor advocates are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority or Law Society of Scotland rather than the Faculty of Advocates or Bar Standards Board.Solicitor advocates have a Code for Advocacy which is almost identical to the Bar Code of Conduct. Criticism is levelled against solicitor advocates due to the possibility that Defendants' interests may not be best protected by an advocate who also works for the solicitors employed by the Defendant. The role of Counsel is to act as an independent party and advise the Defendant if the solicitor is not acting in the best interests of the client.
Despite these arrangements, which have been in place since 1994, there have been attacks on the principle of solicitor advocacy from some quarters, both north and south of the border. In the Scottish case of Woodside v HMA  HCJAC 19,the High Court in Scotland was critical of some aspects of practice by solicitor advocates. But, the appeal in question failed on a ground related to the allegedly "defective" representation of the solicitor advocates instructed at trial. The case dealt with the conduct of a trial over 10 years earlier. In any event the decision was welcomed by the Society of Solicitor Advocates, who suggested that it would be appropriate to have a review of all issues relating to rights of audience, including those involving the Faculty of Advocates. At a SGM of the Society of Solicitor Advocates on 22 April 2009, they passed a resolution in respect of consideration of the Woodside case. The resolution stated:
The Society notes the Solicitors (Scotland)(Standards of Conduct) Practice Rules 2008 and in particular the duties of independence, to act in the interests of their clients, to avoid acting where a conflict of interest arises, and to act only where competent to do so.
The Society also notes the Rules of Conduct for Solicitor Advocates 2002 and in particular the rules relating to the acceptance of instructions.
The Society also notes that it is desirable that common principles should apply in relation to the exercising of rights of audience by all practitioners appearing before the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary – section 25A(8) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 – as are reflected in the Rules of Conduct for Solicitor Advocates and the Guide to Professional Conduct of Advocates.
The Society also notes the comments of the judges in the High Court of Justiciary in the case of 'Alexander Woodside v Her Majesty’s Advocate'  HCJAC 19
The Society affirms 1. The resolution of the 2008 Law Society AGM to seek to repeal the Solicitors (Scotland) (Supreme Courts) Practice Rules 2003. 2. The duty of solicitors to advise their clients on appropriate representation before all courts. 3. The duty of both solicitors and solicitor advocates to act on behalf of clients independently, in particularly of their own interests or the interests of their colleagues. 4. The right of solicitor advocates to accept instructions to represent clients in all courts from solicitors with whom the solicitor advocates are in a business relationship. 5. The duty of solicitors to instruct such representation in court, including such combination of representation, as is appropriate to the circumstances of the case.
The Society therefore instructs the Council of the Law Society to promulgate rules repealing the Solicitors (Scotland)(Supreme Courts) Practice Rules 2003.
The motion was withdrawn at the Law Society's AGM, due to the announcement that there would be a review of rights of audience generally, as requested by the Society of Solicitor Advocates.
The increasing workload and recognition of solicitor advocates has led to changes in the law profession. Some law students elect to train as solicitor advocates rather than barristers. The Law Society Gazette has noted that a number of solicitors decide very early in their careers to qualify as solicitor advocates.
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The South China Morning Post , a Hong Kong newspaper, reported that "[i]n 2013, only 15 out of 90 solicitors who applied to represent their clients in the higher courts were granted the status of solicitor advocates".
A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigation. Their tasks include taking cases in superior courts and tribunals, drafting legal pleadings, researching the philosophy, hypothesis and history of law, and giving expert legal opinions.
A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, canonist, canon lawyer, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counselor, solicitor, legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying the law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services. The role of the lawyer varies greatly across different legal jurisdictions.
An advocate is a professional in the field of law. Different countries' legal systems use the term with somewhat differing meanings. The broad equivalent in many English law–based jurisdictions could be a barrister or a solicitor. However, in Scottish, Manx Law, South African, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Scandinavian, Polish, Israeli, South Asian and South American jurisdictions, "Advocate" indicates a lawyer of superior classification.
A solicitor is a legal practitioner who traditionally deals with most of the legal matters in some jurisdictions. A person must have legally-defined qualifications, which vary from one jurisdiction to another, to be described as a solicitor and enabled to practise there as such. For example, in England and Wales a solicitor is admitted to practise under the provisions of the Solicitors Act 1974. With some exceptions, practising solicitors must possess a practising certificate. There are many more solicitors than barristers in England; they undertake the general aspects of giving legal advice and conducting legal proceedings.
In the United Kingdom and in some Commonwealth countries, a Queen's Counsel during the reign of a queen, or King's Counsel during the reign of a king, is a lawyer who is a senior counsel in court cases; in important cases each side is typically led by one. Technically, they are appointed by the monarch of the country to be one of 'Her [His] Majesty's Counsel learned in the law'. The position originated in England. Some Commonwealth countries have either abolished the position, or renamed it so as to remove monarchical connotations, for example, 'Senior Counsel' or 'Senior Advocate'.
A law society is an association of lawyers with a regulatory role that includes the right to supervise the training, qualifications, and conduct of lawyers. Where there is a distinction between barristers and solicitors, solicitors are regulated by the law societies and barristers by a separate bar council.
The call to the bar is a legal term of art in most common law jurisdictions where persons must be qualified to be allowed to argue in court on behalf of another party and are then said to have been "called to the bar" or to have received a "call to the bar." "The bar" is now used as a collective noun for barristers, but literally referred to the wooden barrier in old courtrooms, which separated the often crowded public area at the rear from the space near the judges reserved for those having business with the Court. Barristers would sit or stand immediately behind it, facing the judge, and could use it as a table for their briefs.
Court dress comprises the style of clothes and other attire prescribed for members of courts of law. Depending on the country and jurisdiction's traditions, members of the court may wear formal robes, gowns, collars, or wigs. Even within a certain country and court setting, there may be times when the full formal dress is not used, such as in trials involving children.
The title of Senior Counsel or State Counsel is given to a senior lawyer in some countries that were formerly part of the British Empire. "Senior Counsel" is used in current or former Commonwealth countries or jurisdictions that have chosen to change the title "Queen's Counsel" to a name without monarchical connotations, usually related to the British monarch that is no longer head of state, such that reference to the Queen is no longer appropriate. Examples of jurisdictions which have made the change because of the latter reason include Mauritius, Zambia, India, Hong Kong, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Singapore, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. Jurisdictions which have retained the monarch as head of state, but have nonetheles opted for the new title include some states and territories of Australia, as well as Belize.
The High Court of Justiciary is the supreme criminal court in Scotland. The High Court is both a trial court and a court of appeal. As a trial court, the High Court sits on circuit at Parliament House or in the adjacent former Sheriff Court building in the Old Town in Edinburgh, or in dedicated buildings in Glasgow and Aberdeen. The High Court sometimes sits in various smaller towns in Scotland, where it uses the local sheriff court building. As an appeal court, the High Court sits only in Edinburgh. On one occasion the High Court of Justiciary sat outside Scotland, at Zeist in the Netherlands during the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial, as the Scottish Court in the Netherlands. At Zeist the High Court sat both as a trial court, and an appeal court for the initial appeal by Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
The Faculty of Advocates is an independent body of lawyers who have been admitted to practise as advocates before the courts of Scotland, especially the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary. The Faculty of Advocates is a constituent part of the College of Justice and is based in Edinburgh.
The Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) is the professional regulatory body for barristers in Hong Kong. The Law Society of Hong Kong is the equivalent association for solicitors in Hong Kong.
Devilling is the period of training, pupillage or junior work undertaken by a person wishing to become an advocate in one of the legal systems of the United Kingdom or Ireland.
Barristers in England and Wales are one of the two main categories of lawyer in England and Wales, the other being solicitors. Barristers have traditionally had the role of handling cases for representation in court, both defence and prosecution.
An admission to practice law is acquired when a lawyer receives a license to practice law. In jurisdictions with two types of lawyer, as with barristers and solicitors, barristers must gain admission to the bar whereas for solicitors there are distinct practising certificates.
In English law, the cab-rank rule is the obligation of a barrister to accept any work in a field in which they profess themselves competent to practise, at a court at which they normally appear, and at their usual rates. The rule derives its name from the tradition by which a Hackney carriage driver at the head of a queue of taxicabs is obliged to take the first passenger requesting a ride.
In common law, a right of audience is generally a right of a lawyer to appear and conduct proceedings in court on behalf of their client. In English law, there is a fundamental distinction between barristers, who have rights of audience in the superior court, and solicitors, who have rights of audience in the lower courts, unless a certificate of advocacy is obtained, which allows a solicitor advocate to represent clients in the superior courts also. There is no such distinction in American law.
Sir David Napley was an English solicitor.
The Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that reformed the legal profession and courts of England and Wales. The Act was the culmination of a series of reports and reforms that started with the Benson Commission in the 1970s, and significantly changed the way that the legal profession and court system worked.
The Queen's Counsel Selection Panel is an independent and self-funding body responsible for awarding appointments as a Queen's Counsel within England and Wales.