At a recent conference on Youth Justice the Vice Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, Angela Rafferty, said while discussing advocacy in the youth courts that “The Bar often aren’t very good in the youth court – specialist solicitor-advocates are better”.
The commentary accompanying this in the Solicitors Journal said “Senior barristers routinely claim that their solicitor-advocate counterparts are inferior courtroom lawyers. Rafferty’s comments will confirm some suspicions that the jibes are borne more from commercial fears as the Bar feels increasing competition from the growing cadre of solicitor-advocates”.
Whilst it is always welcome to have recognition for the increasing competence of solicitor-advocates and their value to the smooth operation of the courts, the comment does underline the need for good and targeted training. Young advocates, whether barristers or solicitor-advocates, need to gain experience but it is SAHCA’s view that in particular when dealing with vulnerable people this should not be an opportunity for advocates to “cut their teeth”. It is a credit to solicitor-advocates and the training they receive that a Vice Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association should be so supportive and complimentary.
SAHCA offers specialist training in dealing with vulnerable witnesses and family law as part of its initiative to achieve excellence in advocacy. This training is fundamental for anyone who is intending to practice in the youth court or be involved in dealing with vulnerable witnesses. Hopefully, the next time Ms Rafferty speaks specialist solicitor-advocates will not only be better but the best!