Reviews of advocates' websites

Faculty of Advocates

Having recently provided a critique of this site in relation to its library facilities, there is only half a website left to review. Most usefully, there is an online version of the Faculty Directory, complete with photographs (but lacking a search function). Also of interest may be details of the complaints procedure, and a news section which currently includes the Faculty’s response to the Clementi consultation paper and other consultations.

The Christine Ferguson Stable

One of two stables to operate its own website as well as having a presence on the Faculty site, the Christine Ferguson Stable was, if my memory serves me correctly, the first to establish an online presence, and the site certainly looks the part. Having said that, the never-ending animation proclaiming “ADVICE. AVAILABILITY. EXPERIENCE.” begins to grate after a while.

As you might expect, the website is essentially a brochure site, promoting the services of its member advocates. The site gives some history of the stable and explains how to go about instructing counsel. Its database of member advocates is searchable by name and (usefully) by specialist interests/areas of practice. This makes it easier to use and more practical than the Faculty’s own site, though obviously with fewer members.

Helpfully, the website provides a list of term dates and court holidays. It also maintains a modest collection of links to other legal websites (principally those containing legislation and court decisions).

The Murray Stable

The Murray Stable’s website is in much the same vein as the preceding one. The two stables’ websites share much in common, but the Murray site lacks a little in both content and presentation. There is a list of member counsel, but the list is not searchable and has no further information on its members, relying on external links instead.

The site has appropriately robust and progressive policies on accessibility and privacy, although the navigation buttons would tend to suggest that the former is not complied with in full. In its defence, the home page declares that the site (in common with much of the internet) is “awaiting redesign”. The stable has gone so far as to allow reproduction of material from the website under the Creative Commons licence (http://creativecommons. org) – though one might question what material it contained that anyone would want to copy.

Jonathan Mitchell, QC

One of the Murray stable makes a more significant online impression with his own site. Jonathan Mitchell (to the best of my knowledge) is one of a kind – in that no other practising advocate has an individual website.

The site contains a wealth of legal information, organised by topic: public law; infolaw; jurisdiction; and miscellaneous law/IT issues. The public law section includes articles and notes on housing law, judicial review, immigration, asylum law and legal aid. Infolaw covers data protection and freedom of information. The jurisdiction section looks at Scottish (and European) jurisdictional questions in the context of commercial litigation, family law, personal injury including an excellent and very detailed article on defamation, and intellectual property rights on the internet.

In addition to the sheer volume and detail of free legal information available, there are a number of other resources to download ranging from the practical to the seemingly eccentric: textbooks; articles on current legal issues by advocates with expertise and enthusiasm in the subject matter; policy documents and practice notes – including some which cannot be found elsewhere; historical maps; and works of fiction by Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott (both advocates). In this context, the Creative Commons licence (also used here) is most welcome.

The Society of Solicitor Advocates

Strictly speaking, solicitor advocates do not count as “proper” advocates – you won’t find them listed on the Faculty’s website for example. However, given the dearth of advocates’ sites, it seemed appropriate to include them. In fact, the site bears much similarity to the sites for stables of advocates. There is a members’ directory (searchable by area of practice and rights of audience); an explanation of what a solicitor advocate is and how to go about engaging one; and the various contact details necessary to support these functions.

Brief guides to ordinary procedure in the Court of Session, commercial actions, the High Court and how to become a solicitor advocate (including likely costs of training) add value to this site, which has achieved a Bobby award for accessibility.

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