Barristers for Advocacy

ADVOCACY – “Horses for Courses”

For centuries the advocacy profession in England and Wales has been the Barrister – “COUNSEL”; Barristers gained qualification by membership of one of the “Inns of Court”, supplemented by training courses and

Horses for Courses? – Flat Racing / Eventing / Show Jumping

examinations, and a “pupillage” or apprenticeship with a practicing barrister. The length of training and difficulty of exams may not have been as great as those of Solicitors, but Barristers are a referral profession. They did not act directly for clients, enabling solicitors to consult experts without fear of the expert “stealing” the client.  Inexperienced barristers gained experience by doing small cases for low fees; if they were any good solicitors would continue to use them; otherwise they failed and left “the bar”.

In 1990 the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 S.27 [1] removed the monopoly enjoyed by counsel to represent clients in the higher Courts. Solicitors have developed such rights, and some larger firms now employ Higher Rights Advocates and barristers as employees.  Solicitors have a professional duty to act in the best interest of clients, but the SRA does not seem to think that this extends to informing clients that the best advocate for their case is likely to be an independent barrister; solicitors seem free to send their own employees to court, even if they have little experience of advocacy. Judges have complained about the competence of some solicitor “advocates”,[Read Article]; a compromise is underway in that all advocates will shortly be forced to undergo Quality Assessment.

We take the view that Gladwell’s “10,000-Hour Rule”, applies to the skill of Advocacy – if you have not practiced a difficult task for 10,000 hours (roughly 5 years at 40 hours a week) you will not be very good at it no matter how clever you are. Full-time advocates can get the experience of jury trials, appeal court, regulatory tribunal work, etc in a way that solicitor advocates cannot. To take an analogy, very few General Practitioner doctors would attempt brain surgery or heart transplants.

Horses for Courses

We therefore always advise our clients that specialist barrister advocates are available, and do our honest best to recommend one or more best suited to conduct their case.

 Horses for courses – Flat Racing / Eventing/ Show Jumping?

Different cases require different types of advocates – some may benefit from a hardworking but “low key” presentation, whilst other cases (and clients) may prefer a more flamboyant presentation.


[1] Now governed by the Legal Services Act 2007


We take the view that our job as specialist defence solicitors is to maintain our knowledge of the best barrister and solicitor advocates available and employ the best after consultation with our clients. Some barristers enjoy a good reputation long after passing their “sell by” date; on the other hand it is with regret that there are some great barristers who can no longer be instructed.