1. Why did you become a Solicitor Advocate?

In 1996, when I was admitted as a solicitor advocate with rights of audience in the higher civil courts, the concept of solicitor advocacy was still in its infancy and there was some controversy about the idea that solicitors could be sufficiently independent-minded to be able to advise their clients on disputes they were embroiled in, and represent them in the higher courts.

Always mindful that the clients' interests come first and that a recommended course of action should not jeopardise the chances of a successful outcome, we were nevertheless determined to take a lead on solicitor advocacy and prove the sceptics wrong. I had an excellent role model in my supervising partner, David Williamson, who was one of the first to be admitted as a solicitor advocate in 1992.

I was therefore confident, having worked closely with David, that we could perform the joint role – providing a full service to clients in the right case, where having one person to advise, do the drafting and the advocacy in court, would serve their best interests. I was a junior litigation assistant then, with five years of qualification (just) under my belt and made the leap of faith - sat the exams, completed the sitting in days and the oral advocacy test before a sitting Court of Session judge and a senior QC – and to my relief, passed.

2. What personal skills do you need to have to become a solicitor advocate?

    Many of the same for any litigator; do the prep properly, give your advice honestly and be brave in presenting your arguments.

    3. What case stands out for you?

      I represented the General Teaching Council Scotland in a long-running dispute with a maths teacher, who was removed from the Register of Teachers on lack of competency grounds, but could not accept the decision and appealed to the Court of Session twice to have it overturned.

      On the first appeal she successfully persuaded the court to order a re-hearing; at that re-hearing I appeared as the presenting officer for the Teaching Council and the disciplinary panel again made an order for removal. I then appeared as a solicitor advocate in the division hearing, asking that the second decision to remove her should be upheld.

      Happily, it was, which was a great disappointment to the teacher but a relief to many of her colleagues, employers and parents of the pupils whom she had taught. The real challenge of the case, for me, was attempting to understand maths, in order to explain the flaws in the teaching methods favoured by the teacher.

      4. What one piece of advice would you give to anyone who is thinking about becoming a Solicitor Advocate?

        Make time to do the swotting and enjoy the sitting-in – it provides a rare opportunity to observe expert advocates appearing in court and to focus on the skills being demonstrated rather than the outcome of the case!


        Joyce Cullen