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Solicitor-advocates and Advocates

If your case is complicated and goes to a higher court, you will need a solicitor-advocate or an Advocate to represent you. This page explains more.

What is a solicitor-advocate?

A solicitor-advocate is a solicitor who has a lot of experience in a particular area of work and who can appear in higher courts (in other words, they have 'extended rights of audience'). However, not every experienced solicitor is a solicitor-advocate.

To be become a solicitor-advocate in Scotland, a solicitor has to apply to the Law Society of Scotland and sit a professional exam. Solicitor-advocates can still practice as ordinary solicitors as well and many do but they can appear in the same courts as Advocates (see below).

Solicitor-advocates have only been around in Scotland since the early 1990s.

For more information, contact the Solicitor Advocates Society.

What is an Advocate?

Advocates are specialist lawyers who can represent clients in the highest courts in the UK. Advocates practise in Scotland (at the 'Scottish bar') and also in the House of Lords in London. Advocates are similar to barristers in England and Wales and attorneys in America.

Advocates are senior lawyers who have completed further training (called 'devilling'). Advocates have lots of experience and many have been solicitors for a long time before becoming an Advocate. Some Advocates are qualified as solicitors, or to appear in courts, in other countries including England and Wales, America and various countries in Europe. Some Advocates also have other professional qualifications (for example, in accountancy). Advocates in Scotland have a long history and follow their own professional guide to conduct.

Lawyers who become Advocates in Scotland say that they've 'been called to the bar'. This is just a way of saying that they're going to become an Advocate.

You might hear Advocates being called 'counsel'. This is just another word for Advocate. There are two kinds of counsel, namely:

  • junior counsel, and
  • senior counsel.

Senior counsel are also known as 'silks' or 'QCs' (which stands for 'Queen's counsel'). Becoming senior counsel or QC means that an Advocate is very experienced and is very highly regarded in the legal profession.

There are about 460 Advocates in Scotland at the moment. Not all Advocates are currently practising. All Advocates are members of an organisation called the Faculty of Advocates, which is also known as 'the Scottish Bar'. The head of the faculty is known as the Dean of Faculty.

Advocates are organised into groups called 'stables'. Each stable is responsible for all administrative work for the Advocates in its group, including organising court dates and Advocates' diaries.

For more information on this topic, individual Advocates, and stables among other things, visit the Faculty of Advocates website.

When will I need a solicitor-advocate or Advocate?

You will need a solicitor-advocate or Advocate to represent you in court if your case is complicated and goes to a higher court. Your case will only get that far if:

  • it's really complicated,
  • it raises a complicated legal point, or
  • you're appealing against a decision that was made in the sheriff court.

If you want more information on the different types of court have a look at our section on courts in Scotland.

Solicitor-advocates and Advocates will also represent you in your local sheriff court in some limited circumstances.

Some solicitor-advocates and Advocates will represent you in tribunals and some take instructions in more specialise roles (such as committees) or to provide a piece of written work often called an 'Opinion'.

How do I get one to represent me?

Solicitor-advocates and Advocates are formally 'instructed' and you'll need a solicitor to get in touch with them for you. Your solicitor will tell you if you need a solicitor-advocate or Advocate to represent you.

Some professional organisations can also 'instruct' an Advocate for you. Have a look at the Faculty of Advocates website for more information on this.

How do I complain about a solicitor-advocate or Advocate?

If you're not happy with the service you're receiving from a solicitor-advocate or Advocate, you can complain. Have a look at our page on complaining about Advocates for information on how to go about it.

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