Roundtable discussion reveals shift in attitudes towards solicitor-advocates.

An unflattering picture of some judges was painted at the Gazette’s roundtable on the future for solicitor-advocates, where many attendees were able to recall instances of put-downs and worse directed at non-barristers.

This once-routine prejudice is fast withering away, gratifyingly, allowing a clearer picture of the future for solicitor-advocates to emerge.

Attention, for example, can shift to the role of training and qualifications. As CPS prosecutor Jan Brewer (pictured) noted, that organisation’s internal graded examinations, required for prosecutors to practise, have rendered the distinction between solicitors and barristers almost defunct.

And it is not simply a game of ‘catch-up’ that is playing out. Many barristers are exiting criminal law which, faced with dramatic cuts, they find uneconomic. Attendees pointed to the use of advocates who can structure their work in a different way. Direct access to the bar brings for barristers the prospect of an increased burden of more paperwork, and less time spent on their feet.

There is less progress to report in the field of commercial disputes. We note Baker & McKenzie partner Richard Pike’s telling observation that civil is 10 years behind criminal – and is indeed playing catch-up.