Hudson speaks – Solicitors vs Barristers

The Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson spoke at the Solicitors’ Association of Higher Court Advocates annual conference on Saturday about the quality assurance for the profession.

Mr Hudson said that the Law Society is: “Now committed to the practical demonstration and periodic revalidation of advocacy skills”.

However, he said that he was not yet convinced that the proposed quality assurance scheme for advocates (QASA) is ideal or sustainable.

He said: “We think the prospects for the success of the scheme remain uncertain, that the role of judicial involvement is unwise, that even the arithmetic behind the planned judicial assessments suggest the scheme is unworkable.”

If he is right this will have very serious implications for solicitors.

On the suggestion from the bar chair that all advocates be regulated by the Bar Standards Board, Hudson said: “Are they having a laugh?"

He added: “Why would we — a professional and skilled group of individuals — want to be regulated by people who have said that solicitor advocates are often ill-prepared, exercise lack of independence from the client, viewing the case more from what their client wanted to say, than the judge would find attractive and engaging.”

Mr Hudson said that in time, the distinction between solicitor and barrister would become more blurred.

He acknowledged that the bar has a significant role in providing high-quality advocates to solicitor firms of all sizes, sometimes at short notice and that barristers are relied on by many smaller firms.

However, he went on to cite some of the problems with the bar saying: “Has anyone here not experienced the frustration of a clerk telling you, at very short notice, that the barristers with whom you and your client have worked and are relying on can no longer do the case?

“It is hard to think of any other environment, other than the theatre, where this would be regarded as acceptable customer service. And actors do not deal with cases which affect people’s reputation and liberty.”

Mr Hudson concluded: “I can see no sensible argument against more and more barristers practising in Solicitors Regulation Authority-regulated entities and more higher and lower court advocacy undertaken by barristers and solicitor advocates of the firm conducting litigation — it makes sense to keep all costs firmly under one roof.”

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