The Advocacy by Brodies team has a range of experienced Solicitor Advocates, from the newly called, right up to senior counsel level. Solicitor Advocates at Brodies usually take on cases as sole counsel, however it is also regularly the case that a Solicitor Advocate at Brodies will act as junior counsel in a case, with the senior being either a QC from within Advocacy by Brodies, or a member of the Faculty of Advocates. Often the work of junior counsel takes place behind the scenes and it may not be apparent what the scope of their role is and so we thought it would be helpful to outline our experience of acting as junior counsel in cases.
The Preliminary Work
Solicitor Advocates and advocates are extremely busy individuals, so instructing junior counsel at an early stage in an action will often allow work to be turned around faster and more efficiently than would otherwise be the case. It will often be expected that they will produce the first skeletal draft of any pleadings or notes and carry out any initial legal research where it is required. This allows senior counsel to focus their time on the more complex areas of the action.
How does junior counsel support senior counsel?
As a case progresses towards a proof or debate, the role of junior counsel remains important. Lawyers will be familiar with the very short and strict deadlines that are provided for the lodging of witness statements and productions. Having junior counsel instructed in a case means extra resource is available from the counsel team, to review those documents in the safe knowledge that, in the background, junior counsel will be discussing any important issues raised with senior counsel.
A good example of the value in instructing junior and senior counsel is in the run up to a proof. While junior counsel drafts and negotiates joint minutes, bundles, and witness statements, the senior counsel can concentrate on preparing lines of Examination in Chief and Cross. This can mean that a single advocate on the other side is unable to keep up with the tempo of the case and will be "on the back foot" when the case starts. This momentum can continue during the case with the junior counsel, writing the skeletal submission, notes of evidence, and researching case law, overnight, while senior counsel finalises preparations for leading the next day's evidence.
Junior counsel in court
When it comes to substantial hearings senior counsel will ultimately question witnesses and make submissions to the Court. Junior counsel again plays an important role, ensuring the case presented is as comprehensive and persuasive as possible. This will normally involve assisting senior counsel in finding the correct productions or references as witnesses are examined, allowing them to focus more on formulating their questions. It is also frequently the case that legal issues arise during a proof or debate that were not anticipated in advance. Having junior counsel instructed means that they can go and research these points while senior counsel remain focussed on the main hearing. As with the drafting of pleadings, junior counsel will assist with the first drafts of any joint minute, or written submissions.
Not every case will justify instructing both senior and junior counsel. However, where it is an option, it is clear that there are obvious benefits to instructing solicitors, and ultimately clients, in doing so at an early stage.