What is Advocacy?

Advocacy is the means by which a barrister puts his or her client’s case to the court. It may be written or oral. Advocacy is a specialist skill, the quality and excellence of which distinguishes the Bar from other providers of legal services. It is in the interests of the public, the court and the profession that barristers present their cases to the highest possible standards.

Oral advocacy is primarily a performance skill. It requires the advocate to address the court persuasively and concisely, presenting a case in a manner which is clear, well organised and efficient.

Key advocacy skills include case analysis, the correct use of skeleton arguments, oral submissions, examination-in-chief and cross-examination, pleas in mitigation and legal submissions.

What is formal Advocacy Training?

Formal advocacy training is a relatively recent discipline: for many years it was assumed that advocacy skills could be learnt by example and observation, rather than being taught as a formal discipline.

Structured advocacy training in the UK has been developed over the past fifteen years, drawing on the systematic six-stage method devised by Professor George Hampel QC of the Australian Bar. The method requires Pupil barristers and New Practitioners to perform as advocates in a simulated courtroom environment, within a strict time-frame and supported by a student/trainer ratio of at least 6:2. Advocacy trainers are experienced practitioners trained in advocacy teaching who will observe trainee performances and then use a 6-step procedure to identify and remedy a particular problem with the performance. This incremental and structured approach helps to address the difficulties faced by a trainee seeking to absorb constructive criticism when under stress. It is the same method which is used on vocational Bar training courses by Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETO’s). The ICCA is currently applying for authorisation to deliver its own Bar Course.

What are the various advocacy training stages for Barristers?

There are currently four ‘levels’ of training for the Bar and three of these stages include advocacy training as a compulsory element:

Vocational Stage of Training
Advocacy is one of the skills taught and assessed on the Bar Course. It is delivered through small group sessions across a range of civil and criminal scenarios and each student undertakes regular advocacy practice sessions. Advocacy is taught more than any other skill and is assessed through written and oral assessments including submissions, witness handling, opinion writing and drafting. Click here for details about the ICCA Bar Course.

Pupillage Training (Pupils’ Advocacy Course)
The Pupils’ Advocacy Course provides training on core aspects of advocacy. All four Inns and five of the six Circuits provide Advocacy Training Courses for their pupils. Pupils in London or on the South Eastern Circuit are required to attend the course run by their Inn. Pupillage Advocacy Training is required to be completed in the first six months of pupillage. If not successfully completed, the non-practising months of pupillage will be extended until the course has been satisfactorily completed.

Failure to Complete all the required elements of training during pupillage will result in a Pupil not being entitled to a full qualification certificate, even if they have completed 12-months pupillage. Without a full qualification certificate, a Pupil is not entitled to a practising certificate and will not be able to enter into independent practice or exercise rights of audience as an employed barrister. For details of the Stage 3 Pupil Advocacy Procedure, please click here.

Please note that a pupil who holds himself or herself out as a practising barrister before the grant of a full qualification certificate will be in breach of Rule C19 of the Code of Conduct and will be referred to the Professional Conduct Committee.

New Practitioner Training
A barrister who has held a practising certificate for less than three full calendar years, will need to complete CPD in accordance with the rules of the New Practitioners Programme (NPP). Since 1 January 2017, there has been no requirement to attend accredited CPD courses. Forty-five hours of CPD must though be completed within the three calendar years with at least least nine of those hours spent on advocacy and at least three on ethics.

Advocacy and Ethics courses are both provided by the Circuits and the Inns. Barristers do not have to attend the training at their own Inn or Circuit. There are several courses a year at the Inns and on Circuit.

Barristers do not need to routinely submit a record of NPP development activity.  However, they may be selected for a spot check and requested to submit their NPP Record Card to the BSB.

Established Practitioner Training
Practising barristers with more than three years’ experience and having completed the NPP Programme, need to complete CPD in accordance with the rules for the Established Practitioners Programme (EPP). The CPD requirements for established practitioners from 1 January 2017 are:

  • Barristers will have more individual responsibility for deciding what CPD activities are required;
  • Barristers will be able to choose from a wider range of CPD activities; and
  • There is no longer a requirement to complete a minimum number of accredited hours.

The BSB do not prescribe advocacy training at this stage, but active consideration is being given by the profession to introduce a compulsory advocacy training requirement for those of 4-6 years’ Call. At each of the stages  involving advocacy training as a compulsory element, advocacy trainers employ the Hampel Method for feedback.

South Eastern Circuit Bar Mess Foundation Advanced International Advocacy Course at Keble College, Oxford

This course is for practitioners between 3 and 7 years’ Call. Each of the Inns offers scholarships every year. The aim of this course is to encourage and develop the ‘highest standards of advocacy amongst practitioners in London and the South East. The course is the most demanding and intensive of any advocacy course in the UK. Further details are available on the South Eastern Circuit’s website.