Advocate Careers

How to become an Advocate

What does a Advocate do?

Advocates, sometimes called counsel, provide specialist legal advice to professionals such as solicitors and architects who consult them on behalf of their clients. They may represent individuals and organisations in court or at tribunal. Advocates have a similar role to that of barristers in England and Wales.

Prior to a hearing, advocates spend time acquainting themselves with the facts of the case by reading statements and legal reports, and talking with the client if necessary. In court they present the case, cross-examine witnesses, sum up all relevant material, and submit reasons why the court should support the case.

The amount of time spent in court appearances, in advising, or in drafting written opinions can depend on the clients and solicitors who use them. Advocates generally do not specialise, although many build up expertise in particular areas where they do a considerable amount of work.

The main areas of law are:

  • Common Law - this includes criminal law and civil law (contract, tort, property, family, constitutional and administrative law). Advocates with expertise in criminal law will spend much of their time in court, whereas civil law is mainly advisory work
  • Chancery Law - this is mainly advisory work regarding wills, trusts, estates, tax, and company law, with little court work involved.
Practising advocates must be self-employed.

What's the working environment like working as a Advocate?

Working hours may be long, including evenings and weekends. A considerable amount of time may be spent travelling to the venue where a case or inquiry is being heard.

Advocates work from the Advocates' Library in Edinburgh in groups called stables, each with an advocates' clerk and a deputy. The Library provides all the facilities needed in order to practise and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Advocates each have a box at the Library where solicitors leave papers for them; if they are based elsewhere, they arrange to collect them.

When in court advocates wear a wig and gown.

What does it take to become a Advocate?

To be an advocate, you should:

  • be confident
  • have a good memory
  • be able to assimilate and analyse large amounts of information
  • be able to think logically, with attention to detail
  • be able to explain matters clearly, with good presentation skills
  • be able to avoid becoming emotionally involved in distressing cases
  • be able to cope when working under pressure
  • be discreet - information needs to be kept confidential.

Advocate Career Opportunities

There are over 460 self-employed practising advocates in Scotland, all based in Edinburgh.

There are also opportunities for qualified advocated to find employment (and not practice), working for commercial employers, or in local or central government. Sometimes advocates move into senior positions in industry and commerce.

Advocates may become sheriffs and can also be appointed to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service as deputies (Crown Counsel) for set periods.

After between ten and fifteen years' experience, advocates may apply to become a Court of Session judge or High Court judge.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Advocate that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

The Faculty of Advocates
Advocates' Library
Parliament House
Tel: 0131 226 5071

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