What is a solicitor advocate?
Unlike in many other countries, in England and Wales there is a split in the legal profession between barristers, with a traditional focus on advocacy in the courts to settle disagreements, and solicitors who primarily engage with clients and, when a matter needs to go to court, will instruct a barrister.
While solicitors can, and do, appear in lower courts, they cannot, for example, represent a client in the High Court or Court of Appeal, unless they have undertaken an additional Higher Rights qualification. Then, as a solicitor advocate (of which there are currently more than 7,000), the solicitor can appear in all courts.
How do you become a solicitor advocate?
The first step on the ladder of becoming a solicitor advocate, is to become a solicitor. In simple terms, under the new Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) regulations, you will need to:
- A degree (or equivalent) in any subject
- Pass SQE1 and SQE2 assessments
- Complete two years of training, your Qualifying Work Experience (QWE), usually in a law firm
- Show you are of satisfactory character and suitability
If, even before you have reached the stage of making applications for training (QWE), you think you might want to be a solicitor advocate, consider how this might affect the areas of law in which you practise and therefore which firms you apply to. Some law firms, even some of the largest and most well-known, do relatively little contentious (litigation) work, but this is the area where the opportunities to train and practise as a solicitor advocate exist.
Once you have qualified as a solicitor in a firm which undertakes contentious work, you would then study and pass the Higher Rights of Audience qualification.
What are the solicitor advocate courses and qualifications?
To obtain Higher Rights of Audience you would usually undertake some brief training, at a training provider such as the University of Law, and then need to pass two assessments:
- Part 1: a written examination focusing on evidence and ethics
- Part 2: a practical assessment including submission of a written skeleton argument followed by structured oral argument
What skills does a solicitor advocate need?
A solicitor advocate must combine the skills of both solicitor and barrister. For clients, one of the advantages of having a solicitor advocate is that they might deal with the matter from start to finish. Therefore, a solicitor advocate must combine:
- Client skills – to engage with the client, take instruction, clarify the details of the matter, establish rapport, and build trust
- Case management skills – to deal with all the relevant paperwork and correspondence between the disputing parties
- Advocacy skills – the ability to argue clearly and persuasively, both orally and on paper, think on their feet, hold their ground and challenge others
What does a solicitor advocate earn?
Solicitor advocates will tend to earn a similar salary to other solicitors working in similar fields or similar firms, but with the potential for a small increase because of the extra qualification and added capacity to take on work. This, however, will be minor compared to the differences in practice area – with those working in commercial areas potentially earning twice the salary (or more) of those working in ‘legal aid’ practice areas
Can a solicitor advocate become a judge?
The career options for a solicitor advocate are largely the same as for a solicitor – they will often advance within their firm to more senior roles, supervising others, and then perhaps into partnership or they can be employed ‘in house’ within a commercial or business organisation.
Solicitors can already become judges, but the courtroom experience gained by an advocate might be beneficial. Similarly, once qualified, it is possible to transfer from the solicitor to barrister profession and being a solicitor advocate would make this transition easier.
- The Lawyer Portal
- University of Law – Higher Rights of Audience Training
- The Solicitors' Association of Higher Court Advocates