Criminal practice over the last few years has seen solicitor advocates become a regular feature in the Crown court. Indeed, many criminal practices now have their own in-house advocacy team, and rarely use the independent Bar.
The position in family law has always been somewhat different. As the majority of the work is in chambers, and higher rights are not required, even up to High Court level, solicitors have always conducted some of the advocacy. Children panel members are expected to cover the cases personally, and to justify the use of external counsel at the point of reaccreditation.
However, with the introduction of fixed fees and the graduated advocacy scheme, it is essential that most, if not all, advocacy is covered in-house if the work is to remain financially viable. An increasing number of solicitors now appear in the most complex of cases, including fact-findings and lengthy final hearings. Currently, higher rights are not required, but the Bar is alive to the diminution of its work, and the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates will surely come to family law next.
So now is the time to polish your advocacy experience and tackle those complex hearings. The clients will benefit from a joined-up service, and the firm will benefit from additional fee income. Frankly, it’s win-win.
About the author - Joy Merriam
Joy Merriam is a solicitor advocate at GWBHarthills and was named Solicitor Advocate of the Year at the Law Society Excellence Awards 2013. Joy has been shortlisted for the 2017 award.