Solicitor advocates are well placed to provide expertise as a ‘one-stop shop litigator’ at a time of squeezed budgets and pressure towards alternative dispute resolution, members of the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates (SAHCA) heard today.
In a report circulated at the association’s annual conference chairman Will Richmond-Coggan said solicitors can provide a ‘cradle to the grave’ service. ‘Solicitor advocates, like the direct access barristers who are starting to seek to emulate them, are the complete package – and well placed to deliver an efficient and cost-effective service in these straitened times,’ Richmond-Coggan, who steps down as chair today, said.
He noted that budgets for court-room litigation have continued to come under pressure, not only in the publicly funded sector (and in particular criminal legal aid practices) but also in privately funded arenas and that the drive towards out of court resolution and the financial demands placed on litigants are making the role of a court-room advocate harder and harder.
‘In this challenge, though, is an opportunity,’ he said. ‘Limited budgets, and the prospect of cases being resolved pre-trial, both argue in favour of the one-stop shop litigator. They can provide the face-to-face client care, and the cradle to grave service which comes from an extended (and extensive) connection with their client. But they can also bring their strategic acumen, their drafting skills and their powers to persuasion to bear on the client’s behalf even in cases that go nowhere near a courtroom.’
Meanwhile, students have been encouraged to enter an advocacy competition in an attempt to develop the ‘next generation’ of solicitor advocates. SAHCA is challenging students to produce a three-minute video on topics including diversity, and the future of advocacy in a digital courtroom. Prizes include work experience or training and the videos will be hosted on the association’s YouTube channel.
Richmond-Coggan, said: ’As an association, SAHCA needs to be mindful of the next generation who are coming through. With the challenges of both securing tenancy and making a viable living at the bar becoming greater and greater, we owe it to the best of these young would-be advocates to show them that there is another, equally valid and rewarding career path open to them.’