Higher rights of audience

October 2020

Following a public consultation, we have approved a programme of work to better assure the quality of criminal and civil advocacy provided by solicitors. This includes a number of changes to how Higher Rights of Audience (HRA) assessments will operate:

  • Introduction of revised criminal and civil HRA standards from early 2021
  • Requiring HRA assessments to be taken post admission from 1 April 2021. This is subject to Legal Services Board approval this autumn.
  • Introduction of a single HRA assessment provider but from not before summer 2022.

We will provide more information shortly.

Introduction

Solicitors and registered European lawyers (RELs) are granted rights of audience in all courts when they are admitted or registered. However, they cannot exercise those rights in the higher courts until they have complied with additional assessment requirements. We set the competence standards solicitor and REL higher court advocates must meet and maintain, authorise assessment organisations to test people against those standards, and set the regulations under which this scheme operates.

The SRA Authorisation of Individuals Regulations sets out the education and training requirements for those seeking to exercise higher rights of audience in the higher courts of England and Wales.

How does the scheme work?

  • There are separate awards for rights of audience for criminal and civil advocacy.
  • There is only one route to qualification in either civil or criminal proceedings.
  • The scheme requires all applicants to pass an advocacy assessment based on the SRA's higher rights of audience competence standards.
  • There are separate assessments for criminal and civil procedures.
  • There is no mandatory training or experience requirement.
  • Assessments under the scheme are run by assessment organisations authorised by the SRA.
  • Barristers who transfer to the roll of solicitors take their existing higher rights with them.
  • Solicitors who gained rights of audience qualifications under previous regulations were automatically passported onto the scheme in 2010 and retained their existing rights.

Frequently asked questions

General questions on eligibility and application procedure

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There are separate awards and assessments for rights of audience for criminal and civil advocacy.

You can apply for your higher courts qualification once you have been admitted and can evidence that you have passed the advocacy assessments.

It is recommended that you should have, at the very least, completed and passed the advocacy module of the LPC before attempting the assessment(s). You will be able to apply for your higher rights of audience when you have been admitted as a solicitor.

You meet the requirements of Directive 2005/36 (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) and are eligible to apply under Regulation 9.10(a). Please complete an Assessment Table.

This information will enable us to assess which (if any) assessments you will need to take to be able to gain higher rights of audience as an REL or (once admitted) as a solicitor in England and Wales.

However, you may decide that you need to undertake some additional training which will be offered by assessment organisations. Alternatively, you may feel that you have gained sufficient experience to be able to pass the advocacy assessment. This will be for you to decide.

The assessment will test all parts of the standards for either the criminal or civil award. This will include procedure, evidence and ethics and an advocacy assessment by way of a case study or simulation. Candidates will be assessed separately for the civil award or the criminal award.

Provided you are admitted as a solicitor and have passed the advocacy assessment, you can make an application.

You can register with an assessment organisation to take the assessment. Once you have passed the assessment, you may submit your application for your award.

Bar Council

The General Council of the Bar is the representative body for barristers in England and Wales.

BSB

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is the regulatory body for barristers in England and Wales.

SAHCA

The Solicitors' Association of Higher Court Advocates (SAHCA) is a national association that represents the interests of solicitors who practise as advocates in the higher courts.