Advocates’ core courtroom skills on the decline, judges warn

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Reduced levels of pay blamed for lower morale and standards, finds report

Two-thirds of judges believe the quality of advocacy in criminal courts has DECLINED over time, a report published this week has found.

Though the overall quality was found to be “very good”, there was much judicial “concern” over standards in two areas in particular: first, advocates’ case preparation and, second, their ability to ask focused questions of the witnesses and defendants.

Not surprisingly, the Judicial Perceptions Report highlighted that more than half of the interviewees believe that declining levels of pay in criminal advocacy, and “associated” lowering of morale, have a “negative impact” on the quality of advocacy. Specifically, judges are worried that the best lawyers quit criminal work and move onto civil cases to improve their chances of earning a decent living.

For those brave enough to pursue the criminal bar, the report gives an excellent analysis of what makes a “good advocate” (at least according to the former-advocates-now-judges interviewed).

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The skills needed appear to be: communication, focus and presentation. Or as one judge put it: “Your starting point is not really when people open their mouths in court; it’s what goes on before getting into court”.

Another said:

“The first thing is know your brief, whatever the case is about; second, marshal thoughts and the third is presentation.”

The report, jointly commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Bar Standards Board (BSB), was put together by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research of Birkbeck, University of London and involved in-depth interviews with 50 high court and circuit judges.

Explaining why the report was commissioned and why good advocates are so important, the regulators’ state: “Through their professional knowledge, courtroom skills and experience, advocates not only directly support the individuals they represent, but also ensure the continuing effective operation of the legal system and ongoing public confidence in the rule of law and the courts system.”

This is particularly the case in the light of the Government’s recent round of changes in the justice system which is likely to involve 2,500 fewer court staff.

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What do they expect?

10 years or more of relentless underfunding.

The Government does not care.

The public does not care.

Not Amused

Good point, but it’s been 20 years since jack straw froze legal aid and that gov then went on to cut it.

So the situation is actually worse.

I don’t see how it is sustainable


Yes, the New Labour Tory reserves party and the present Tory party have a lot to answer for.






Yet when the government needs it own legal representation, it can afford the likes of Sumption et al. Double standards anyone?

Dr. Hobosexual

Yeh well I’m still getting funded to investigate why you’re so deranged? My conclusion? Cos you don’t rim me enough!!


I’ve juniored “leading silks” from second tier commercial sets and they were absolutely shit in court. It’s good that Court hearings are televised as we can now watch the performances and judge for ourselves.


Absolutely. The directories big these people up but the myth is invariably larger than the man. The problem with the QC system is that it creates the cult of the advocate.


Time to scrap the QC system – should have been done years ago. We need a modern and meritocratic approach.




Was there ever a time when the Judiciary thought that today’s advocates met the standards set when they were at the bar?




Old people think life was better ‘back in the day’. Shocker.


True… classic


I imagine there are more accents at the bar than when the current judiciary were in practice. Is that what they are getting at?


For all the people down voting me, I hope you realise I am against prejudice on the basis of someone’s accent, having a regional accent myself.

If it was posh southern toffs down voting me because I pointed out their inherent bigotry, then swivel on it Tarquin; a little bitty on Jeeves’ nipple ought to make it all better.


Chippy northern twat. You are the worst example of the wrong sort of diversity (as well as the most boring advocate in christendom)


And what are the “right” and “wrong” sorts of diversity?

Please enlighten us…


Good examples of the wrong sort of diversity are not usually found at the criminal bar in all fairness.

But cast your eyes over the CVs of any mid life crisis career change barrister at a mediocre commercial set with a poverty of oxbridge degrees and you have answered your own question


What on earth are you wittering on about?


I think you know exactly what I am saying. I give you 3 years before you piss off back up north.

Demos Craticus

Why do you assume an Oxbridge degree is worth more than any other degree? Oxbridge merely has history – it’s just an exam factory which is relatively elite. Society swallows its propaganda – it’s almost subliminal that these immediate institutions are better than any other higher education institution. It is perhaps more elitist than elite per se in terms of being the best. The institution of law is the institution of law – so how can one institution which provides the same, at least foundation law subjects be any different to others? Aren’t Oxbridge educated lawyers supposed to be intelligent?


Is that really a serious statement demos?

Entry requirements tick
Social groupings tick
Best professors tick
Establishment connections tick
Rigour tick

Et cetera et cetera


Oxbridge graduates are by definition the cleverest and best educated people – and you know it.


Touched a nerve.

Jeeves will help you.

This post has been moderated because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.


Apologies if I touched a nerve snowflake. Boohoo

Oppidan No.2

Last time i looked this was a christian country.

Why do you think bishops still sit in yhe house of lords?

Why is the queen head of the church of england and defender of the faith.

You my northern chum are an entryist and potential traitor.

If you dont realise that the Islington Tony project failed you are going back to Preston in less than 3 years


What you been smokin’, Bro?


Sorry mate, but even taking your enforced christianity at your boarding school into account, church attendance is about 2% of the country.

Sorry to break it to you, but this is a secular country now.

And PS, anyone who uses the word “Christendom” to describe anywhere in the world in the 21st Century is surely a complete and utter twat.


Its not about church attendance you moron.

No wonder your family is starving


Oh, it’s about some imaginary idea that we follow Christian values.

*Tries to avoid eye contact with the nutter

*gives nutter wide bearth

*crosses to the other side of the road



Lord Harley of Counsel

They should remember to wear their medals.


Solicitor advocates. Any correlation….


I see what you did there


I’ve got the right to free speech, fascist oppressor.




Piss off!


How about, quality declines as over listed courts and lack of funding mean advocates are constantly dealing with cases supplied at the 11th hour, with little time to get ready, and solicitors who are too overworked and underpaid to have put in the leg work to prepare it. There I fixed it for you.


HCAs, next…


100% of Advocates considered that the quality of Judges had declined considerably since they first started practice, notably being so scared of the list office and not hitting their M o J targets that they place cases in 6 month rolling warned lists, ensuring that no barrister can be instructed until the night before the trial. Then give top tips on advocacy that “The first thing is know your brief…”

A real criminal barrister

This ^^^


yes its all about preparation – yet again the obvious point is missed – legal aid does not pay me a penny for my preparation time. don’t get me started on Cambridge’s rolling warned list – a disgrace.


Well that’s rich

A judge in Belfast yesterday sent a man to ten years in prison for the murder of an elderly couple.

Don’t preach what you don’t practice


In England and Wales he’d be looking at whole life for that.

See CJA 2003 Schedule 21.


The decline is due to the wrong type of person being allowed into the profession.

Snowflakes and whingers and plebs who feel entitled to the same things as high achievers.

The wrong sort of diversity.


Quite. Only Oxbridge people should be allowed in. This is the toughest profession and only the brightest can provide the sort of excellence which the public quite rightly expect and deserve.


No, it’s not the toughest profession – it’s likely the elitist profession. Have you even studied the concept of intelligence. You used the word brightest. Ok, 68% of the population has an IQ between 80-120. As this is where the average intelligence distribution fall based on a sample of 100,000 (ie significant amount of people = a very good sample of the population). So, only 16% will likely have an IQ of 120, and therefore the other 16% fall below that.

IQ is a superficial way determining brain performance as there are lots of variables and lots of various stimuli that could have an affect on the brain performance on individuals. Confidence is likely a rather interesting variable as this can determine success or not success. In any event, let’s go with IQ. Research indicates that the highest IQs seem to fall at the upper middle class and upper class of the IQ spectrum. Social environment are therefore more likely to explain this that inherent intelligence itself. The eugenics assumed that intelligence was purely down to genetics. Eugenic means good or noble birth; aristocracy means ‘excellent’ rule.

The fact that the law is massively over-represented with said social classes likely indicates that these cohorts would perform better on IQ tests and examinations.

I am interested in linguistics too. I understand memory because I have studied psychology. I believe that the upper middle and upper social classes mainly, have, or generally have, a higher tier capital of words, grammar, vocabulary owing to their socialisation. We all have short term memory is why we take notes. We need memory to articulate sentence verbally. I think said social classes have in effect increased their memory (perhaps from a young age) to cope with longer sentences and its sub-clauses. It explains how persons like Tony Blair and the Oxbridge judges can produce 100 words in one sentence – albeit with many sub-clauses.

How these social classes communicate verbally will not be too far away from how they actually use written expression (or verbalised print). These will also be skilled orators – again, through socialisation (social capital et al) rather than inherent ability per se – which skillset is transferrable to public examinations. Therefore – how these lot think will already have been socialised into them from a very young age. Eton et al have been public speaking from a young age relative to their lower social class peers.

Therefore the conclusion is that they’re likely not brighter than their lower social class peers but a bit like the eugenics used to do ‘fittest family competitions.’ These competitions were based on what the upper classes already benefitted from, essentially to control the masses. The future is often dictated by its history; insofar as psychometric assessment is concerned they made a comeback with the bar vocational course. The propaganda is amazing almost subliminal but effective in any event.

A psychometric performance is just like a written examination in real time. The brain executive functions for the privileged lots have already been developed. It’s analogous to robots undertaking robotic functions. It is just automatic. It’s how 98% of them pass complex exams in relatively difficult subjects. There is no pressure – as they are conditioned to demonstrating these skills.

Stop assuming we’re all thick just because we’re not privileged.


You are not only thick but badly educated. And chippy.


Anonymous post, Jul 1 2018 11:47am

Is mine – the non robot! Demos Craticus

I omitted.

High-achieving pleb of counsel

Am I the right or wrong sort?


The right sort

Demos Craticus

The Eton lot were never raised with females. It explains were they’re so unhinged.

Demos Craticus

You lot whinged that you wanted the 1st class and 2.1 degrees, and the GDL’s. The universities answered with plastic 2.1’s and ‘glass ceilings.’ This is what Max Weber and Ritzer, G. would call rationalism and or the McDonaldisation effect, which produces a hierarchy of lawyers, the upper class at the top, the upper middle class slightly below, and the lower middle class below them.

The legal standard – well if you’re paid enough you’ll work hard enough, if you’re paid buttons you’ll work commensurately.

High achievers, you say?

It is usually the elite who regurgitate this drivel or boast of their super high IQs. These lot have acquired social capital, educational capital, cultural capital, and massively over-represented in the institution of law. These a virtually a social construction – that easily examinations as they have been taking them in one form or another since the middle ages, or the written examinations since around 1830; now days Oxbridge and Eton et al are just exam factories. The exam is like a formality.

It is just about control – not about ability.


Nothing wrong with control.

Who is going to break the wheel?

You Demos? As if.

Suck it up and you will be at peace with your betters and your people

Demos Craticus

Well Oppidan (the elitist)

How can it be about ‘high achiever,’ when the very control you conceded was/ is merely based on the control of resources – not the control of a meritocratic system. The elite use examinations to sift – preferring elite examination performances. Society is a well-drilled, well-controlled milieu. High achievement by definition indicates meritocracy whereas meritocracy and control of the country’s resources are concentrated at the upper class and middle upper class as though it were normal (a relative concept, as Bauman, Z. asserts).

At the top, the quality of life will come to an (plummeting) end when the people revolt. Make no mistake, they will revolt. History tells us that. The lower social classes are not civil people – they will do whatever it takes. So, Marx was right. Look at Br-exit. You care not about the delegation of family (usually lower social class family) matters to ex barristers and ex judges. Even Dicey warned about the modern state’s delegation of the professions to the lower qualified (ergo, the McDonaldisation of society, Mcsociety).


You care not about deprived lower social families (at the bottom) yet use words to indicate some form of Christian virtue (the paradox, ). Didn’t Jesus say, ‘come out of the world; be not like them.’ It would be better for them to ‘have a millstone tied around their necks’ than to harm the little children (metaphor for the humble, innocent people).

These so affected (likely lower social class individuals or families) will one day cause your very secluded worlds to fall apart. One day, your nice home will be an expensive shelter. Control and conditioning only work for so long. MacPherson alluded that society is controlled by the elite and that society does as it’s told if elites inform society for instance: ‘sure, you can have education;’ have rights in democracies; with a caveat: capitalism and markets must come first. People are not commodities they’re flesh and blood.

I think Br-exit is just the start. The UK never learnt its civil war history from our transatlantic cousins. Tea is one thing but deprivation of real (substantive) rights in these free countries. Perhaps Dicey knew that the ‘rule of law’ (legal and moral) would not filter down; that the professionals involved with the lower social classes would be corrupt. Where there is secrecy there is corruption; where there is elitism there is immorality.


Excellent! I know of a Chambers which works on the model of which you speak, filled with disgusting, despicable people.

Message to Demos



Yawn, you may. The difference is that I am not a mindless drone. The apocalypse of the ‘zombie’ lawyers.

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