Ethical Capacities – a report on the challenges of ethical dilemmas faced by junior advocates

A report by the Inns of Court College of Advocacy (formerly the Advocacy Training Council (ATC)) which examines the challenges facing junior advocates confronted with difficult ethical dilemmas, has been welcomed by the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates (SAHCA).

The ATC commissioned the report following concerns expressed in the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) about gaps and deficiencies in the teaching of ethical issues to junior lawyers. The report, which surveyed junior barristers, solicitor advocates and legal executives, found some support for those concerns, identifying a very wide range of ethical capacities among junior advocates, and a widespread concern amongst them that they had neither the formal training, nor the support structures, in place to enable them confidently to deal with difficult ethical issues which they encountered in practice.

Will Richmond-Coggan, current vice chair of SAHCA and the solicitor representative on the ATC working group which commissioned this report, commented as follows:

“Although the report contains some hard truths for the providers of vocational training, as well as for the professions, SAHCA welcomes the focus that the ATC has turned on the issue of ethical training. This is a subject of primary importance and one where it is essential to ensure that our junior colleagues are well equipped and supported to deal with the issues that they can encounter in practice.”

Among SAHCA’s membership, demand for additional training on ethical issues is such that ethics has become the theme for this year’s annual conference, taking place on 15th October. However Richmond-Coggan acknowledges that the challenges highlighted by the report are not going to be solved by any one group acting in isolation.

“This is an issue which goes beyond the historic divisions between the professions, and which applies equally to all advocates, whatever their background or present occupation. All advocates appear before the same courts, and represent the same clients, and it is therefore essential that the representative bodies from all branches continue to work together in formulating solutions to the problems which the report identifies.”

The complete report by the ATC, together with a response from its successor body the ICCA, can be found at: http://www.advocacytrainingcouncil.org/ethical-capacities