What’s the difference between a solicitor and a solicitor advocate?
Amongst most law students, very little is known about solicitor advocates. The essential difference is that solicitor advocates, in comparison to other solicitors, have the rights of audience in the higher courts.
In very simple terms, you could view them as hybrids between solicitors and barristers. These roles have only been able to exist since 1990, and with only around 6,500 solicitor advocates in existence, it is a particularly niche subsector within law.
What’s the difference between a solicitor and a barrister?
In order to understand their importance within the legal sector, it is necessary to understand the difference between solicitors and barristers.
Solicitors are usually the first point of contact for a client and they are only able to represent their clients in the lower courts (i.e. Magistrates' Courts, County Courts, Sheriff Courts [Scotland], Coroner’s Courts or at tribunals).
If a case is escalated to the higher courts (i.e. Crown Court, High Court, Court of Appeal, Court of Session and the Supreme Court) then solicitors will instruct a barrister, who will represent their client in court.
Solicitor advocates are solicitors who have been granted the right to represent clients in the higher courts. The advantage to a law firm is that they do not have to pay a barrister, or barrister’s chambers, for the privilege of having them represent their clients. They can do it themselves in-house at no extra cost. It can also provide continuity for clients. Solicitor advocates can take cases from initial meetings all the way up to the highest courts, should it be required.
What’s the path towards becoming a solicitor advocate like?
If you do choose to follow this path, you will predominantly work within the litigation or dispute resolution department. All large firms will have a litigation department and it is also common to find some smaller firms which specialise in this area of law.
Becoming a solicitor advocate is certainly an alternative route to gaining rights of audience in the higher courts, should you want another option than the barrister’s route. However, this route is likely to take you longer, as you will need to build up the relevant work experience required to gain the higher rights of audience.
Ultimately though, if you strive to be in court, making legal arguments and you are a confident orator, then it should certainly be high up on your list of possible law occupations. If you’re not sure, then trying out some work experience might help you make up your mind either way.
To read more about solicitor advocates and all other things law, head over to our sister site AllAboutLaw.