Advocates to be assessed by judges

The Solicitors Regulation Authority have today approved a scheme whereby advocates will be assessed by the judges before whom they appear.

This is an interesting decision for a number of reasons.

First, the scheme has attracted widespread criticism from judges who a) don't want the extra work; b) object to being asked to undertake a lot more work for no extra pay; and c) do not necessarily have any advocacy experience themselves, or their experience is from decades past (okay they don't admit to the last one but it's a very real point).

It is also interesting for the SRA to approve this scheme since it appears to undermine part of their function, which is to regulate solicitors rather than allowing judges (most of whom are not solicitors) to conduct a significant portion of that regulation.

I also find it a difficult decision to stomach as a number of judges are hostile to solicitors conducting Crown Court advocacy.  This is an attitude common at the Bar, just the other week I was in the robing room at Snaresbrook Crown Court when I overheard a QC telling his junior how pleased he was to have a barrister as a junior - he commented that his last junior had been a solicitor and said that he was a very competent advocate but that he just doesn't like solicitors doing advocacy.  An opinion he had neglected to mention when accepting the Brief!  In late 2009, HHJ Gledhill QC took umbrage at a number of solicitor-advocates who appeared before him.  He criticised them heavily saying they were not up to the job of representing their clients (although he decided that they weren't so incompetent that he could use his powers to stop the trial and he glossed over the fact that one of the inadequately represented defendants was actually acquitted!).  In early 2010, HHJ Gledhill QC was forced to "express his regret" for his completely outrageous behaviour toward the solicitors.  Personally, I thought that Gledhill's behaviour showed a distinct lack of sound judgment, a character that is looked for in Judges.

I have had quiet conversations with judges over a few drinks where they have been honest enough to express their dislike of solicitor-advocates, although always saying that they would always treat a solicitor fairly and wouldn't admit their real position openly.

Given the open (and often hidden) hostility from some members of the judiciary I really am surprised that the SRA have agreed to this plan.


  1. That's a nasty case of Greengrocer's Apostrophe you've got there.


  2. So it is. The risks of blogging in haste are great.

  3. Defence Brief's mate22 November 2011 at 18:15

    If the best that 'anonymous' learned counsel could come up with to rebut the content of the interesting blog above was a reference to grammar then lord help us 'little people' when you become a Judge!


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