Faculty of Advocates > Edinburgh, Scotland > Profile

Faculty of Advocates
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Scottish Bar > Legal market overview

Scotland, like England, has an independent Bar which undertakes a similar role to English barristers, but operates with a number of key terminological and structural differences in self-employed practice. Advocates in Scotland are governed by the Faculty of Advocates, an independent professional body housing over 400 members, the majority of which have an affiliation with one of nine stables, although there are some members with no stable affiliation. The Faculty acts as a regulatory body for the advocates, and manages Faculty Services Limited, which provides back office functions for all but a few advocates. Scottish stables are comparable to English chambers in their provision of clerking and distributing work among their members, although many aspects that would be handled by English sets independently are handled by Faculty Services Limited, which acts as the legal employer of the clerks. Those with a role equivalent to a senior clerk in England and Wales are often styled as simply the clerk, and are supported by deputy clerks, while a stable director is roughly analogous to an English head of chambers. Historically many stables were named after their head clerk, although a number have rebranded away from this following changes of clerking leadership over time. One substantive rather than terminological difference in Scottish training procedures is that those qualifying as advocates generally must go through the same traineeship in a law firm as solicitors, meaning moves between the two professions are common. Additionally, a number of Scottish advocates are dual qualified as English barristers, and are full or associate members of elite London sets. Scottish Advocates also have a degree of cross-over with the Bar of Northern Ireland. Scotland also features a QC system, run independently from the English system – eleven were appointed in the 2021 round. Eight out of nine of stables are based in Parliament House in Edinburgh, and share working spaces and consultation rooms in nearby facilities. The exception to this is Glasgow-headquartered Optimum Advocates, one of two criminal stables alongside Black Chambers; both are known for handling a varied workload in this area, including the most serious criminal cases. Scotland also has a talented family Bar as well, a number of whom call Westwater Advocates and Arnot Manderson Advocates home, although neither set is exclusively focused on that area.

The Faculty of Advocates

The Faculty of Advocates – Scotland’s independent Bar – ensures that clients seeking representation in court or legal guidance have access to the very best independent, objective legal advice. The Faculty has been at the forefront of legal excellence since 1532 and regulates the training and professional practice, conduct and discipline of advocates in Scotland.

As well as ensuring excellence in the specialist field of courtcraft, the Faculty is constantly evolving and is at the forefront of innovations in alternative dispute resolution methods such as arbitration and mediation. Its collegiate atmosphere allows advocates to exchange views in a way that gives them a unique insight into the law and helps ensure that they are always at the leading edge of analysis.

All advocates are members of the Faculty. Advocates appear in courts and tribunals all over Scotland as well as in the UK Supreme Court, the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights.

The Faculty is led by elected office-bearers: the Dean of Faculty, the Vice-dean, the Treasurer, the Clerk and the Keeper of the Library, and by an elected Faculty Council. Key decisions are made by Faculty Council, which comprises members elected for constituencies within the Bar. Much of the Faculty’s work is undertaken by committees established for particular purposes.

Faculty members also elect the Chairman of Faculty Services Limited, a company established to provide administrative and other support services to advocates. Although all advocates are independent sole practitioners most belong to one of nine stables. The stables are served by an advocates’ clerk and deputy clerks who can assist with selecting and instructing an advocate with appropriate skills and experience.

Instructing an advocate

The Faculty of Advocates comprises both practising and non-practising members. Practising members of Faculty are available for instruction as advocates in accordance with the cab-rank rule, set out in the Court of Session Act 1532 and ratified in the Court of Session Act 1540.

Advocates may be instructed by solicitors and other persons authorised to conduct litigation in Scotland and, under the Faculty’s Direct Access Rules, by members of a variety of other professional organisations and other designated bodies.

The non-practising membership includes, among others, members of the judiciary, law officers, parliamentarians, academics, retired advocates and advocates who are employed in various capacities.

Each stable’s clerks will assist clients with selecting and instructing an advocate with appropriate skills and experience.

To find a practising advocate click here.

The nine stables are:

Ampersand Advocates

Arnot Manderson Advocates

Axiom Advocates

Black Chambers

Compass Chambers

Optimum Advocates

Terra Firma Chambers

Themis Advocates

Westwater Advocates

The Advocates Library

Members of the Faculty have access to the Advocates’ Library, widely regarded as the finest working law library in the British Isles. It contains a comprehensive range of materials built up over more than 300 years. This, and a modern library management system utilising the latest technology, ensure that the Advocates Library accommodates the increasingly complex needs of advocates, while at the same time making the Library’s stock available to the public through the National Library of Scotland.

More information on the Faculty of Advocates can be found at www.advocates.org.uk

info@advocates.org.uk0131 226 5071