Advocacy; the Legal Practice Course and Becoming a Trainee
The Solicitors Regulation Authority, which regulates solicitors in England and Wales and governs and sets the standard for Legal Practice Course Providers, states that advocacy and litigation is compulsory part of the Legal Practice Course. Advocacy skills are therefore assessed in the context of civil and/or criminal litigation. The Solicitors Regulation Authority lays down the requirements for advocacy in the Legal Practice Course and they expect students to formulate coherent submissions based upon fact, general principles and legal authority in a structured, concise and persuasive manner. Preparation is crucial and the student needs to understand the importance of it. The Solicitors Regulation Authority states that for the purposes of advocacy students need to do the following:-
- Identify the client's objectives
- Bear in mind client care and professional conduct issues in preparing and presenting the case
- Identify and analyse the factual material
- Identify the legal context in which the factual issues arise
- Apply the law to the facts
- Identify the strengths and weaknesses of the case from each party's perspective.
- Present the case effectively.
- Outline the facts in simply narrative form
- Prepare the legal framework for the case
- Prepare the submission as a series of propositions based on the evidence.
- Identify, analyse and assess the communication skills and techniques used by other advocates.
- Demonstrate an understanding of the ethics, etiquette and conventions of advocacy.
The above 12 points are skills that the student should acquire in order to be a competent and confident advocate. The Legal Practice Course will introduce the student to the general principles of advocacy. Advocacy is taught through role-play and simulation through the subjects of civil litigation and criminal litigation. For example, the student may have to conduct an application for an interim payment or summary judgment in the context of civil litigation and be able to represent either the claimant or defendant. In the context of criminal law, the student may, by way of illustration, have to act for either the defence or prosecution in an application for bail, a sentencing hearing etc.
Following the Legal Practice Course and during the training contract the student will attend a Professional Skills Course. On the Professional Skills Course you will further develop your knowledge and skills of advocacy. During your training contract you should gain experience in preparing a case, conducting and presenting a case. Your advocacy skills will undoubtedly improve and develop in time.
Solicitors' Rights of Audience
Under section 36 of the Access to Justice Act 2000 solicitors share with barristers a right of audience before every court. However, in relation to solicitors they are not able to appear as an advocate in higher courts unless they have satisfied the requirements of the Law Society's qualification regime in relation to higher rights of audience. Solicitors can apply for higher courts qualifications and to do this they must pass written and practical examinations. Solicitors have automatic rights of audience in the Magistrates Court and County Court. In other courts such as the Crown Court and The High Court solicitors have limited rights of audience, although their rights of audience can be extended, as indicated above.