The body representing solicitor-advocates has set up a website to enable advocates to refer work to each other rather than barristers, in a move that could heighten tensions with the bar.
Sahca-can appeared days after the Bar Council set up its own direct access portal for barristers, as solicitors and barristers step up competition for advocacy work.
The solicitor-advocate network site aims to address the problem solicitor-advocates encounter when they receive instructions for work outside their region or in a field they are not specialised in, forcing them to instruct agents or members of the bar.
‘Too often this has resulted in a disappointing outcome, or late return of papers, impacting on the high quality of the service that our members’ clients are accustomed to expect,’ the site says.
The website has been provided free to all members who are part of the Solicitors’ Association for High Court Advocates (SAHCA).
William Richmond-Coggan (pictured), vice-chair of SAHCA, told the Gazette that the site was set up in response to the move by barristers to receive more direct instructions from clients.
He said: ‘At the moment the bar is moving into direct access work so they are pushing this idea that the bar is able to be a one-stop shop for clients. That is something solicitor-advocates have been doing for years so we want to raise their profile to help our members to do that.’
Richmond-Coggan added that the site would encourage members of SAHCA to refer work to each other, rather than always bringing barristers on board when they cannot do the work themselves. But he stressed that in some cases there will always be a need for a barrister.
‘We just want the opportunity to compete in an open and fair way with the bar,’ he said.
The site works by allowing advocates to upload instructions which will then be circulated to all SAHCA members.
Once an advocate expresses an interest in taking on the case and terms are agreed, they will then work on an agency basis for the person instructing them.