‘If you’re not bar, you won’t go far,’ one rueful lawyer noted after Judge Gledhill QC aimed his now notorious broadside at three solicitor higher court advocates last year (see [2009] Gazette, 23 April, 1). June Venters meanwhile, the first female solicitor QC, described prejudice from the bar and bench against HCAs as ‘simply a fact of life’ in the fallout from the affair.

Tension certainly escalated subsequently. Indeed, it almost appeared as if a concerted campaign was under way to undermine solicitor HCAs – from whom the bar has of course faced mounting competition as their numbers have increased. Following a Law Society complaint to the lord chief justice, the president of the Council of the Inns of Court withdrew a letter to resident and presiding judges seeking views about the quality of work done by solicitor HCAs.

Almost as intriguing as the content of Judge Gledhill QC’s clarification this week is its timing. Why now, nearly a year on? Has someone had a word?

No matter. The judge’s statement is welcome. Of course, there is a debate to be had about standards of advocacy. But lawyers on both sides must recognise that it ought not to be conducted along demarcation lines.