The annual conference (5th October 2019) was, once again, a great success with an array of high quality speakers providing thoroughly informative and entertaining lectures.
SAHCA’s President, Lord Justice Hickinbottom, kicked of proceedings with an introduction to the day and insights into the life of a Court of Appeal judge.
Rt Hon Lord Carnwath, Justice of the Supreme Court, was inevitably the focus of a good deal of interest, in light of his involvement with what has been one of the most complex and hard fought constitutional cases of recent times. He did not disappoint, with a range of in-depth insights into the Cherry/Miller prorogation cases, probably one of the first public discussions of the landmark case after the decision had been delivered. The entire talk was very informative, not just about the legal principles but also about the amount of work required of the panel of 11 justices to get the case heard and a judgment delivered in such an extremely short time.
Reflecting SAHCA’s continuing drive to improve the standard of education for higher rights advocates, Andrew McLoughin gave an energising lecture on the training we have been providing in the last twelve months. Andrew and Leslie Cuthbert between them continue to deliver some of the only post qualification training for solicitor advocates in the UK. SAHCA intends to continue delivering specific courses for development of criminal, civil and family advocates both through paid and, where possible, free courses. We also heard from the SRA with an update on their regulatory activities which provoked a highly energetic debate between our members on some of the more controversial changes that will be coming soon to the SRA Code of Conduct.
On a similar theme, and rounding out our complement of speakers, the audience heard from Kate Burt from Legal Eye who stepped in as a last minute change to the programme. She provided our members with an engaging and entertaining lecture on the topic of compliance and how a culture of compliance can be created. We should perhaps have told her ahead of time that the Chair of the SDT would be in the audience, but she seemed to take it in her stride!
We heard from two panels through the day. The first was from Access to Justice Foundation, LawWorks and Citizen Advice Bureau. Reflecting our conference theme of “fairness and equality for all” the speakers all reaffirmed the commitment of advocates to ensure that those without representation are able to access some form of assistance. It was pleasing to see our members engaging actively with this topic and we hope to see more solicitor advocates getting involved with pro bono activities in the coming year.
Our final panel was on the subject of career progression, and in particular looking at how solicitor advocates who wish to take silk or go to the bench might ensure that they are treated fairly when compared to members of the Bar. The panel comprised a judge on behalf of the JAC (Judicial Appointments Commission), a former President of the Law Society on behalf of the QC Appointments body (QCA) as well as the current President of the Law Society. The discussion was very engaging to such an extent that it continued far beyond is allocated slot. However it was well received and gave an opportunity for our members to discuss with these extremely experienced panellists some of the burning issues of the day in relation to becoming a QC or a judge.
The key learning point was for advocates to seek out others that would be able to give them experience and support. We hope that SAHCA provides that opportunity but our members were encouraged to approach us with any needs they might have in this regard.
We look forward to the next twelve months. We are committed to continuing to deliver our full range of exceptional training and ensuring that the highest standards are met by our advocates. Our next lecture will be the annual Lord Slynn lecture on the 17 June 2020, with the Lord Chief Justice speaking to our members and guests. We hope to see as many of you as possible at the event so do please put the date in your diaries now.