Adam Tear, a solicitor advocate at Howe+Co who specialises in general civil litigation, immigration and inquiry work, discusses his personal highlights of the year, the challenges facing solicitor advocates, his advice for solicitor advocates, and more.
What have been your professional highlights of 2017 so far?
I have been firmly engaged in working on the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) work, and as such whilst this is not higher court advocacy, it is often requires the same skills in presenting written arguments, and developing the arguments orally. This has been challenging work in addition to other work that I have been doing to keep my hand in advocacy in the High Court and Court of Appeal. My highlight would be the resolution of a long running contempt matter, this year there had been a number of High Court hearings, and three Court of Appeal hearings, before Lady Justice Gloster. The advocacy was challenging as it was against a litigant in person, and required a considerable degree of consideration to the submissions as a consequence.
What are the major challenges facing solicitor advocates today, in your opinion?
Legal aid continues to be a serious issues for all lawyers, but particularly advocates. The courts rightly expect drafting to be completed in accordance with directions. Currently, very often funding has not been provided in sufficient time to allow the proper preparation of this work. Often advocates are required to do work at risk, simply to ensure that their clients are properly represented. This is far from ideal when legal aid is required by the law to be provided in these circumstances. This is in addition to the large number of times legal aid is simply not available at all.
What will you be working on in the next couple of months?
I’ll continue to work in the IICSA and Grenfell Inquiries, these are very large inquires and Howe+Co represent a large number of persons effected by these issues. These matters are highly sensitive, and require considerable attention.
What advice do you have for solicitor advocates to survive and thrive today?
Don’t say no to anything. General practice will give you the best opportunity to thrive, if you become too focused on a speciality you may well miss the bigger picture on cases. In legal aid cases you may well find a government not willing to fund that area anymore and be looking to learn a new area quickly.
Be flexible and smile through adversity, things will work out. Be polite to all, both by email and orally. Don’t take weak points if your strong point will win. Engage and listen to the judge, often when being told to move on it’s because the point is in your favour. Many judges will want cases resolved, and do not need to hear about points they are onside with.
Have you noticed any trends in the courts at the moment?
Litigants in person continue to be of concern. Their increase is not just in the lower courts but in the higher courts as well. The role of an advocate is vital to cut the wheat from the chaff, and identify the strong points. This leads to bad points being taken by the litigant in person and considerable use of court time. The recent contempt matter in the High Court and Court of Appeal took approximately five days of High Court hearing time, and at least one day of the Court of Appeal. This does not include judicial preparation time. Whilst the time was split between a number of judges this one case took in excess of 3 per cent of the judicial sitting time for a year of a senior judge plus preparation they had to undertake on very disorganised papers. The case had its own room to accommodate the ever increasing number of papers submitted by the litigant in person. The outcome of the case was the committal being withdrawn when it was evident that the case had no prospects of even getting off the ground.
How has winning the award in 2014 impacted on your practice?
I wish I could say it was firmly positive, but sadly often in this profession others see those with their head above the parapet as a target. Rather than see the profession as a whole improve, they would rather drag it down. I’ve sought to counter this, and have since the award sought to engage others to see what awards can be applied for both inside and outside my own firm. I would firmly encourage others to apply for recognition, this will only improve the standard and drive it higher. As a whole, recognitions such as the award are a positive thing for the profession.