Advice & Information related to Rule C4.1/4.2: Acquiring Rights of Audience
Rights Of Audience In The High Court Of Justiciary/Court Of Session, Supreme Court And Judicial Committee Of The Privy Council.
1. Statutory Requirements (Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 s25A)
(a) Completion to the satisfaction of the Council of The Law Society of Scotland of a Course of training in evidence and pleading in relation to proceedings in the Courts for which Rights of Audience are sought;
(b) Knowledge of (1) the practice and procedure of and (2) professional conduct in regard to those Courts; and
(c) That the Council are satisfied having regard among other things to the Applicant's experience in appropriate proceedings in the Sheriff Court that the Applicant is a fit and proper person to have a Right of Audience in the higher courts.
2. Application Form
You should complete the Application Form as fully as possible. If the information given is not sufficient, this may lead to a delay while further information is sought.
3. Fitness to practise
All questions in Part 2 of the Application Form must be answered. Convictions which may be regarded as spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act should be included. Even if an Applicant has satisfactorily completed Parts (a) and (b) of Paragraph 1 above, the Council will still require to be satisfied that the Applicant is a fit and proper person to have a Right of Audience. This could result in an Application being refused even after the Applicant has complied with the other statutory requirements.
Applicants who have not had relevant experience of Court work as an admitted solicitor for five years prior to submitting an Application may be unable to satisfy the Council with regard to experience.
Relevant experience means experience of solemn trials in the Sheriff Court for those seeking the Right of Audience in the High Court and proofs, debates or appeals in the Sheriff Court for those seeking the Right of Audience in the Court of Session etc.
Applicants who have been practising members of the Faculty of Advocates may count experience in that capacity towards the five years. The Council will consider waiving the need for five years experience in exceptional cases such as solicitors whose shorter experience has been intensive; who have been practising members of the Bar in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or another Member State of the European Union; or who have had relevant experience of Court work as a solicitor in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or another jurisdiction.
The information to be given in Part 3 of the Application Form about relevant experience should be restricted to cases in which a trial, proof, debate or appeal to the Sheriff Principal has taken place. Experience in other Courts or Tribunals (including the Court for which you are seeking Rights of Audience) should be included in the section "Other Experience". You should restrict yourself to cases which have been set down for trial, proof, debate or appeal as the case may be. Cases which have not yet reached that stage should only be included if you have personally argued a lengthy contested motion in them. You should indicate the role in which you were involved including whether you have appeared personally in the Court of Session either in Chambers or at the Vacation Court.
Information to be given about any case should include the name, the Court in which it took place, the year in which it was heard, and whether the hearing was a trial, proof, debate or appeal. It is not necessary to advise of the outcome nor to forward background papers in connection with the case. If the hearing lasted more than one day, the duration would also be helpful.
Please state the names and full postal addresses of two individuals from whom the Society can obtain a reference. At least one of the referees should be a Sheriff or other person acting in a judicial capacity (eg chair of a tribunal) before whom you have appeared. The other referee can be a solicitor or advocate but should not be a business partner, employer or client. You should advise your referees that you are giving their names for this purpose.
6. Knowledge of Practice, Procedure and Professional Conduct
The Council have determined that knowledge of the practice and procedure of and professional conduct in regard to the Courts for which the Right of Audience is being sought should be demonstrated in two written examinations. These will be a paper on Practice and Procedure and a paper on Professional Conduct, taken on the same day under examination conditions in Edinburgh. The section on professional conduct will be based on rules C4.3 and C4.4 which may be in force from time to time, as well as general principles of good professional conduct. The Practice and Procedure examination will be "open book". For the avoidance of doubt this means that printed published material may be taken into the exam hall but handwritten, typewritten or word processed notes may not. The Professional Conduct exam is held under strict exam conditions with no aids. Copies of previous examination papers will be circulated beforehand.
There will be a fee to be paid each time an Applicant sits the examination, which will require to be paid to the Society in advance. Further details will be issued before each diet of examination.
Applicants who have passed the examinations for entry to the Faculty of Advocates within the last five years or who have practised as Advocates regularly during the time will normally be regarded as having appropriate knowledge of the practice, procedure and professional conduct in the Courts for which Rights of Audience are sought.
This will consist of mandatory Sitting-in in the Court for which rights are sought for 6 days (including 4 days in the Appeal Court or Inner House). Applicants with substantial experience of the Court are entitled to seek partial exemption but will normally require to undertake Sitting-in for the four days in the Appeal Court/Inner House. Sitting-in means attendance at the Court of Session/High Court of Justiciary at the hearing of a case or cases in which the applicant or his practice unit or his employer does not act for any of the parties (except for members of COPFS).
Applicants may find it helpful to obtain further experience of proofs, debates or appeals in the Court of Session/High Court of Justiciary before attending the Training Course particularly if they have not had recent experience of that.
Sitting-in is arranged through the Society's Administration Officer - currently Mrs. Christine Wilcox at the SSC Library in Parliament House (Tel: 0131 225 6268 - Fax: 0131 225 2270). The SSC Library is open from 9.30am until 4.00pm and calls to make arrangements for Sitting-in should be made within those hours.
Due to the volume of copying involved in providing papers and the notification to be given to Court staff it is essential that the Administration Officer is given 48 hours' notice of applicants' intention to undertake Sitting-in on a particular day. Those giving shorter notice can only be accommodated in exceptional circumstances at the entire discretion of the Administration Officer.
The limits of accommodation in the Parliament House mean that no more than twelve solicitors may undertake Sitting-in on any one day. The allocation of these places is entirely within the discretion of the Administration Officer.
(a) For all applicants the Council of the Society has determined that the Course of training requires to be self-financing and the cost per head will depend upon the numbers participating. Details will be circulated by the Society's Update Department at the appropriate time.
All applicants will require to complete the Course of training to the satisfaction of the Council. The standard to be expected of applicants when their performance is being assessed is the standard of a competent pleader in the Court of Session/High Court of Justiciary as the case may be. The Council would not normally regard an Applicant as having completed the Course to their satisfaction if the Applicant has failed to do so after two attempts.
A programme from a recent training Course is available as a guide. Applicants can expect that the Course of training will follow a similar pattern.
(b) Court of Session
A Course extending over 4/5 days on evidence, pleading and procedure run by a Convener appointed by the Council of the Society will normally take place within the Society's offices. Applicants' performance at this Course in both written and oral pleading will be assessed to enable the Council to be satisfied that the Applicant has completed the training in accordance with the Act.
(c) High Court
For applicants in the High Court of Justiciary, the Course of training will consist of a Course extending over three or four days on evidence, pleading and procedure run by a Convener appointed by the Council of the Society which will normally take place at the Society's offices followed two or three weeks later by an Assessment day in the High Court itself. Applicants' performance at this Course, and in particular the presentation of submissions at first instance and an Appeal, will be assessed to enable the Council to be satisfied that the Applicant has completed the training in accordance with the Act. Applicants may find it helpful to sit-in during appeals against conviction in the High Court of Justiciary before attending this Course, particularly if they have not had recent experience of attending such appeals.
9. Further Information and Application Fees
The Council may seek further information, such as further referees, to enable it to be satisfied in terms of the Act. Applications must be accompanied by the non-refundable Application Fee. Separate applications will be required - with a separate fee payable in each - for the High Court on the one hand and the Court of Session on the other hand.
10. Notification of Rights of Audience and Introduction to the Court
Applicants who have satisfied the Council that they fulfil the statutory requirements will be granted Rights of Audience by the Council of the Society and a letter confirming that will be issued at the relevant time. Intimation will be made by the Society to the Lord President/Lord Justice General as the case may be and to the Scottish Legal Aid Board. Solicitors who have been granted Rights of Audience will be introduced formally to the Court at a brief ceremony before a Lord Ordinary, and will not be entitled to exercise the Rights until then. Family, friends and colleagues are welcome to attend this ceremony. It will normally take place in the late morning within a few weeks of intimation of Rights of Audience having been granted. Full details will be circulated at the relevant time.