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  • Writer's pictureRobert Spicer

Advocacy monopoly: Levellers wanted it abolished

The advocacy monopoly

The monopoly over advocacy and the conduct of litigation is central to the powers and privileges of the legal profession. This was recognised in the seventeenth century by the Levellers who declared:

Any man may plead his own cause or call in whom he will to plead for him (the lawyers’ monopoly is broken) (Third Agreement of the People).It is worth noting that a proposal put forward by the Levellers that practice as a lawyer would be a crime has reportedly been in effect in Cuba since shortly after the Revolution.

The advocacy monopoly is partly based on the fact that it is a criminal offence for an unqualified person to “conduct litigation”. Section 13(2) of the Legal Services Act 2007 requires individuals wishing to provide “reserved legal activities” to be authorised to do so by the relevant approved regulator. “Reserved legal activities” are, basically, rights of audience in courts and the right to conduct litigation. This does not apply to tribunals. Some lawyers are keen, in their own interests, to extend their advocacy monopoly to tribunals. Recent moves, for example, to redesignate the employment tribunal as a “court” could have the effect of extending the advocacy monopoly to that tribunal, where it does not currently apply.

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