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  • Writer's pictureLinda Andrews - Editorial Assistant, Nuse Online

Ellis Jones Solicitors Boosts Litigation Clout

A regional law firm has boosted its litigation credentials with the latest member of its team to gain the highest rights of audience in the English court system.

Senior Associate Litigation Solicitor Conor Maher has become the third professional lawyer currently at Ellis Jones Solicitors to qualify and be formally admitted as a Solicitor Advocate by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

It means Conor, a specialist in Dispute Resolution and Regulatory Law, has the right to represent clients and appear in all courts in the land, from Magistrates’, County and Crown courts up to the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

Solicitor Advocates are only appointed by the regulator if they can demonstrate experience and skills in oral and written advocacy as a qualified solicitor and pass an additional professional exam focused on evidence and ethics coupled with a rigorous practical advocacy assessment.

Conor, who joined Ellis Jones in 2019, has immediately put his new rights of audience into practice with an appearance at the Central London Criminal Court at the Old Bailey in his new wig and gown.

He won a complex and challenging case involving a private hire vehicle driver who was appealing against a Transport for London decision to revoke his licence. Conor said:

“It was hugely satisfying to address the court with my new status and to go on to win that first case, especially given the august surroundings of addressing a Circuit Judge within the Old Bailey."

“As well as granting the appeal, the court took the extremely rare step of ordering Transport for London to pay the entirety of the legal costs claimed by my client."

“I’ve been an advocate in the Magistrates’ and County Courts for a few years, but being admitted as a Solicitor Advocate is further welcome recognition of the hard work you have to put in to hone your professional advocacy skills on behalf of clients.”

Traditionally, the split in the English and Welsh legal profession between solicitors and barristers has meant they each have different rights of audience.

Solicitors primarily engage with clients and can appear in lower courts, but when a matter needs to go to a higher court, they will instruct a barrister to conduct the litigation.

The Legal Services Act 2007 introduced the status of Solicitor Advocate, creating a pathway for suitably qualified and skilled solicitors to gain the same rights of audience as a barrister.

For firms such as Ellis Jones, it means clients benefit from getting to know their court representative right from the outset. At the same time, the Solicitor Advocate has the opportunity to frame arguments in the case having discussed facts and issues direct with the client.

They not only advise the client and handle instructions but issue the proceedings and actively lead the evidence and court advocacy.

“It’s a complete package of support,” said Conor. “I’m very proud to have gained rights of audience in the higher courts. It supports Ellis Jones’ case work by giving clients peace of mind that they can have a good, thorough working relationship with their court representative right from the off knowing we have the skills in-house to complete the litigation.”

Conor joins two colleagues in the current Ellis Jones team, both Senior Associate Solicitors, who have previously become Solicitor Advocates.

In the Dispute Resolution department, Daniel Flynn has higher rights of audience in the civil courts while, in the Criminal and Regulatory Department, James Constable holds the equivalent status for appearing in criminal courts.

Under court dress protocols in England and Wales, Solicitor Advocates wear a gown, winged collar and bands, and may also wear a wig where it would otherwise be worn by a barrister.


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