Successfully Gaining Higher Rights Of Audience


The Law Of… Achieving Higher Rights Of Audience

Samantha Hale, Associate in Education and Community Care, and Alison Hills, Solicitor in Medical Negligence, recently completed the prestigious Higher Rights of Audience (HRA) programme.

This means they now have the right to represent their clients in civil proceedings in some of the highest courts, including the Crown Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

We asked Samantha and Alison 7 questions about why they chose to gain HRA and how this will benefit their clients.

1. Why Did You Apply For Higher Rights?

Alison: I have always wanted to apply for my Higher Rights since studying law. I enjoy advocacy and as an accredited mental health practitioner, I have appeared before a number of First-tier Tribunals whilst representing patients who have been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 – either in their case for discharge or a move to a less restrictive environment.

As my main practice area is now in clinical negligence (also known as medical negligence), I wanted to be able to extend that advocacy experience into clinical negligence cases and be able to represent my clients at the High Court.

Samantha: I really enjoy the advocacy element of my job, which includes regularly representing clients in hearings at the First-tier Tribunal and in admission and exclusion appeals. Solicitors can only appear in certain courts on behalf of our clients, and because of this I would have no choice but to instruct a barrister for any cases that proceed to the High Court. I therefore wanted to obtain my Higher Rights, so that I was able to represent my clients in the High Court myself.  

2. What Does It Mean To You To Be Able To Do This Now?

Alison: Throughout the conduct of clinical negligence cases, there are a number of opportunities to appear before the High Court. This includes at costs and case management hearings (CCMCs), interim application hearings and infant approval hearings. Luckily, the majority of clinical negligence cases settle before going to a full trial, but I will also now be able to act as a junior to senior counsel if my cases get to that stage.

Samantha: By having my Higher Rights, it means I can represent my clients in the High Court without the need to instruct a barrister, which could be more costly for the client. I will also find it really rewarding to see a case through from the start to the finish, as well as being able to complete all aspects of the work on it myself.

3. What Kind Of Cases Can You Now Take On As A Result?

Alison: I can now take on higher value, more complex work as a result of this qualification. I believe that it is important to offer clients a holistic service and be able to represent them from the outset as a solicitor, right through to representation at the High Court as a solicitor-advocate.

Samantha: The type of cases I take on will not change. But, in cases where we would potentially pursue a Judicial Review claim I am now able to complete all aspects of work on the case myself. The types of cases in which we might pursue a Judicial Review include:

4. What Interested You About The Law When You Were Young?

Alison: The law has interested me from a young age, because it offers such a wide variety of areas of work. I have also always been known as a “problem solver” by my close friends, and I enjoy the initial contact with clients, establishing what solution they need and helping them in achieving their goals.

With clinical negligence cases, often clients are in a highly emotional state having been subjected to serious or life-changing injuries or even the death of a loved one, and it gives you a real sense of satisfaction to get justice for them.

Samantha: I knew when I was young that I wanted to be a solicitor. I was mainly interested in criminal law initially as I like the idea of getting justice for someone who has been the victim of a crime. Whilst my desire to practice criminal law changed, my desire to help obtain justice for someone has not.

5. What Would You Say To Someone Thinking Of Applying For Higher Rights?

Alison: I would definitely encourage this, even if you do not intend to appear before the High Court in the initial stages. As part of the course, you also have to undertake a written assessment, and written advocacy skills are essential in order to become a successful practitioner. The course definitely helped me to develop those skills, which I will take forward in the future when undertaking activities such as drafting witness statements, schedules and skeleton arguments.

Samantha: I had heard that the course was intense and it certainly lived up to this for me, but partly because the assessments are focused around areas within civil law that I do not practice.

But, I would highly recommend it not only because if you're successful it enables you to represent clients in the High Court yourself, but also because the course itself provides a really good refresher on some of the skills taught on the Legal Practice Course. The course is split into two sections: the first part focuses on drafting the relevant documents that are required before you attend court, and the second part goes through the advocacy skills you need whilst you are at court.

6. What Makes You Happy About The Team You're Working For Now?

Alison: There is a fantastic support network in place, and our team has a wide variety of experience from newly-graduated paralegals to partners of 20 years + PQE.

We work well as a team and are often working together on cases and bouncing ideas off each other. The team is very professional and hard-working, yet also fun to work for. We can often be found socialising after conferences, which adds to the team spirit!

Samantha: The Education and Community Care team is a fantastic team that I am proud to be a part of.

We are a large team that works tirelessly to get the best outcomes for our clients – some of whom are extremely vulnerable and we often support each other with cases like this. The team’s expertise has recently been acknowledged by the Modern Law Awards, as we have been shortlisted for the Private Client Team of the Year award.

7. Why Do You Like Working For Simpson Millar?

Alison: The office is a fairly relaxed, yet professional environment. The learning and development side of things is also fantastic, and there are great career progression opportunities. Networking events are also actively encouraged, including attendance at training events at local barristers' chambers, which gives you an opportunity to network with other solicitors and barristers.

Samantha: This is my second time working for Simpson Millar! I previously completed my training contract with the firm, but then I left to work at another firm, and moved on to a charity and then a Local Authority.

I found myself drawn back to the firm for a number reasons and I'm really glad that I came back. As an employee, I feel supported by the firm and in particular the partners in my team. The firm has provided me with different opportunities for progression, and being able to take my Higher Rights of Audience is just one example of this.

How Can Samantha Or Alison Help Me?

Specialising in Education Law and Community Care, some of the services that Samantha can help families and young people with include:

  • Obtaining the right educational and social care support for their needs, including EHCPs
  • Making appeals and challenge decisions, including taking cases to the SEND Tribunal
  • Dealing with unfair school exclusions

Some of Alison's areas of expertise include:

To find out how Samantha and Alison can help you, contact us on our freephone number or fill out our online enquiry form.

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