Friday, March 20, 2009

Solicitor Advocates join Law Society’s call for rights of audience review

The Society of Solicitor Advocates, feeling ever so slightly put out by the recent remarks of Lord Gill, who seemed to indicate solicitor-advocates were badly regulated (probably are because its the Law Society again - Ed), have called for an Extraordinary General Meeting at the Law Society of Scotland.

Mrs Swanson, the President of the Society of Solicitor Advocates, has joined the Law Society’s call for the Scottish Government to institute a review of rights of audience in Scotland … (although the Law Society’s call for a review sounded more like a call for themselves to conduct the review – Ed)

The Society of Solicitor Advocates Release :

Solicitor Advocates call for open debate

The President of the Society of Solicitor Advocates has called for an open and frank discussion on the whole question of who should be entitled to practise before the highest courts in Scotland.

"All solicitor advocates are concerned to ensure that we deliver top quality service to our clients and want to ensure that commercial clients, private clients and those less fortunate have access to legal services. There is inevitably competition between us and advocates. However there is merit in seeking to identify the values that we share. Lawyers, of every type, should stand for honesty, integrity, independence of thought and a passion for the rule of law." said Alayne Swanson.

Lord Gill, in the recent case of Woodside, has questioned the way in which all solicitor advocates operate, and has specifically questioned whether or not solicitors and solicitor advocates are able to act independently when advising their clients on who they should instruct for appearances in court.

"The suggestion that solicitor advocates cannot act independently is one we flatly reject," said Mrs Swanson.

Like advocates, all solicitor advocates are bound by a code of conduct. The Code of Conduct for Solicitor Advocates states that a solicitor advocate shall not accept instructions as a solicitor advocate (as opposed to a solicitor) without satisfying himself that it is proper for him to accept them.

"If there is any suggestion that a solicitor advocate has breached the Code of Conduct then the appropriate course of action is to report him or her to the Law Society of Scotland. That solicitor advocate will then be disciplined appropriately," said John Scott, a leading human rights lawyer, and Vice President of the Society of Solicitor Advocates.

The Society of Solicitor Advocates has proposed an open debate on the question of rights of audience. The purpose of that debate would be to identify the principles and values shared by all lawyers, whether solicitor advocates or advocates. There is a great deal of common ground. All lawyers want to provide quality advice and service. Lawyers who break the rules should be identified and dealt with. There are however difficult questions to be answered: should there be a single body governing the conduct of all lawyers, regardless of how they obtained their rights of audience, for example?

The first small step in the process of discussion is an EGM of the Society of Solicitor Advocates on 22 April 2009 at 5.30pm. The meeting will be held at 26 Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh, and will consider the Society’s response to the call for a review of the whole question of rights of audience before the higher courts. All solicitor advocates are invited to attend.

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