Legal Profession

Solicitors, Barrister and Legal Executives

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SOLICITORS- Qualifications

  • Most commonly have university degrees (may not be Law, in which case they must do Graduate Diploma in Law- 1 year full time course)
  • Then, they must pass Legal Practice Course
  • Then undertake a 2 year training contract with a solicitors firm, during which they must complete a 20 day professional skills course.

They will be entered onto the role of the Law Society and entitled to practice a solicitor

  • They must, however continue to further their professional development by attending professional courses.
  • While most of those qualifying as solicitors are graduates, 17% qualify by being a fellow of the ILEX and passing the LPC
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SOLICITORS- Work

Involves:

  • adminstrative tasks such as conveyancing (monopoly rights were removed through the Administration of Justice Act 1985 which brought about the existence of licensed conveyancers) and probate
  • drawing up contracts
  • setting up companys
  • giving advice to clients on things such as family law

Advocacy

  • enititled to represent clients in magistrates and county courts where they have 'rights of audience'
  • first opportunity for advocacy in higher courts was afforded by the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 and extended by the Access to Justice Act 1999
  • to gain 'rights of audience', must qualify as a solicitor-advocate for which there are only 1,000 (out of around 86,000 solicitors)
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SOLICITORS - Work 2

  • solicitors as a whole do the majority of advocating as 97% of all criminal cases are tried in the Magistrates Courts
  • even when barristers are instructed to represent, solicitors still play important role in the overall litigation process by handling procedural aspects of case like, discovering documents and gathering evidence
  • solicitors often work in partnerships and a trend has materialised in recent years for firms of solicitors to form partnerships leading to increase in specialisation
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BARRISTERS - Qualifications

  • MUST be graduates (not necessarily of a law degree, GDL would be required in such circumstances)
  • they must then become member of one of the inns of court
  • all independent of one another and have their own libraries, award scholarships and organise lectures and moots (mock trials)
  • then, they should be accepted into and pass the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) which includes the practical skills of advocacy, drafting pleadings and negotiation. The student will also be required to 'dine in' on 12 occassions (which now includes attending residential courses)
  • upon passing the BVC, the student must then obtain a one year pupillage at a set of chambers with an experienced barrister (the 'pupil master')
  • after first 6 months, the barrister is able to appear in court for minor cases by themselves
  • during this period, a programme of continuing development is organised by the Bar Council
  • finally, to practice as an independent barrister, a tenancy to a set of chambers must be secured
  • this is difficult as there are only 650 pupillages and 300-350 tenancies available.
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BARRISTERS - Qualifications 2

  • finally, to practice as an independent barrister, a tenancy to a set of chambers must be secured
  • this is difficult as there are only 650 pupillages and 300-350 tenancies available.
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BARRISTERS - Work

  • barristers belong to a 'referral profession' whereby members of the public may not go to them directly, but rather consult a solicitor who will instruct the barrister where necessary
  • may be engaged directly by people of certain professions; accountants, since 1996 members of the public whose case had been handled by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) staff
  • barristers are obliged under 'cab rank' rule to accept any case referred to them providing it lies within their legal expertise
  • this means that barristers are not able to refuse instructions on the grounds of their own beliefs, the nature of the case or the character of the person for whom they have been ionstructed on behalf of
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LEGAL EXECUTIVES

Qualifications:

  • qualifications laid down by ILEX
  • they must pass part 1 and 2 of ILEX
  • then work for 5 years in a legal organisation; e.g. solicitor's firm, CPS

They then become a fellow of the ILEX

Work:

  • most firm of solicitors employ legal executives to do much of the basic work of solicitors; especially conveyancing and probate
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ROLE OF PROFESSIONAL BODIES- The Law Society

  • regulates admission, qualification and training (including continuing professional development)
  • issues practising certificates
  • promotes best interest of solicitors and deals with disciplinary matters and complaints

Discipline:

  • the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS) was designed to be more efficient and client friendly than it's ill-fated and heavily criticised predecessor, the Solicitors Complaints Bureau (SCB)
  • OSS gave lay members a greater role in order to increase independence from the profession
  • clients' minor complaints are sent to the firm concerned to be resolved; part of the OSS's role was to encourage law firms to establish better client care practices
  • in 1996 it found that 1 in 4 firms had no in-house complaints procedure at all
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The Law Society 2

  • the OSS had come under just as much criticism as the SCB by the legal services ombudsman and the Consumer's association
  • in 2001, the chief executive was forced to resign upon sending a letter to a complainant stating the complaint could not be investigated for about a year
  • Lord Chancellor formally warned the Law Society, if it did not 'put it's house in order', then it would lose it's right to self regulation
  • 2002 saw the OSS considerably strengthened in terms of personnal and operating budgets, subsequently appears to handle complaints better
  • in 2002, OSS received 15,000 complaints (37% increase)
  • serious complaints are reffered either straight to solicitors' disciplinary tribunal or through the OSS to the tribunal
  • disciplinary tribunal has power to fine, strike-off, suspend or impose conditions on solicitors
  • in recent years, more solicitors are being struck-off than ever before
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ROLE OF PROFESSIONAL BODIES - The Bar Council

  • has overall control of practising barristers
  • responsible for making general policy decisions, determining consolidated regulations for the inns of court, disciplinary matters and making provisions for education and training of barristers

Discipline:

  • in 1997, bar council appointed it's first complaints commissioner who has the power to require barristers to reduce, refund or waive fees. Can also order compensation of up to £2,000
  • more serious complaints are referred to the Professional Conduct and Complaints Committee which will either dismiss complaint or find barrister guilty of misconduct, in which case they will either be suspended, disbarred or ordered to pay fine of up to £5,000
  • 2002 saw a major change in the law through the case of Hall v Simons (overriding Rondel v Worsley) which extracted barristers' immunity from being sued for professional negligence
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ROLE OF PROFESSIONAL BODIES - Legal Service Ombuds

  • complainants dissatisfied with the way their grievance has been handled by either profession can ask the ombudsman to investigate
  • cases investigated by the ombudsman was at an all time high in 2003
  • between january 1998 and march 1999 the ombudsman conducted 1,658 investigations concerning barrister and solicitors
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