By Catherine Baksi
Solicitor-advocates will be able to wear wigs in court from the New Year, the Lord Chief Justice has announced.
Meanwhile, the incoming chairman of the Bar Council this week made a play for solicitor-advocates to be regulated by the Bar Standards Board (BSB).
A practice direction that comes into force on 2 January 2008 will permit solicitors and other advocates to wear wigs in circumstances where they are worn by members of the bar.
Law Society President Andrew Holroyd said: 'Advocates who appear before the courts to represent any party must be heard by the court on equal terms and treated even-handedly, so we are delighted that the current unjustified disadvantage to solicitor-advocates has ended.'
Tim Lawson-Cruttenden, chairman of the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates, added: 'This is a good thing as it gives solicitors a chance to get parity of dress with barristers if they want it.'
The change comes as the bar prepares to consult on whether the wig and gown should be retained in civil and family cases, or whether it should discard them in favour of a simpler dress, as the judiciary will do.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips also announced that the introduction of the new judicial court dress code for civil cases (no wig and a new simple robe) would be postponed until 1 October 2008.
Meanwhile, in his inaugural speech, the 2008 chairman of the bar, Tim Dutton QC, said he anticipated that the BSB would become the preferred regulator for senior solicitor-advocates when the Legal Services Act 2007 allows it to regulate advocacy more widely than the bar.
He said the BSB was 'cheaper than the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) by a massive degree' and the bar's regulation enjoyed public confidence and had received repeated praise from the Legal Services Ombudsman.
SRA chief executive Antony Townsend said: 'A solicitor in a BSB-regulated mixed practice will still need an SRA practising certificate.'
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