Setting standards

wigAs it strives to ensure “excellence in advocacy” for all barristers in England and Wales, the Advocacy Training Council is finding itself with a rapidly expanding role as Charles Haddon-Cave QC explains.

Advocacy is the defining specialist skill which sets barristers apart from other legal practitioners. The role of the Advocacy Training Council (ATC) is to help ensure “excellence in advocacy” by barristers across the whole Bar of England and Wales and to ensure they receive the best possible advocacy training and support at all levels.


As a standing pan-Bar body, the ATC brings together senior practitioners and advocacy trainers from the Inns and Circuits, together with representatives from the regulatory bodies, the Employed Bar, the judiciary and academia. It is responsible for ensuring that advocacy training – from the vocational stage through to advanced training – is of the highest standards, and for supporting and encouraging the Inns, Circuits and Specialist Bar Associations (SBA) in the development of their training programmes.

ATC Origins

The council was established in 2004 under the chairmanship of Timothy Dutton QC following the Dutton Working Party Reports of 2002-4. The working party defined essential criteria by which pupil advocates should be trained and assessed. The “Dutton Criteria”, as they have become known, became and remain the focus of all advocacy training, and include advocacy standards developed for new practitioners and more senior advocates.

The work of the ATC continued to expand rapidly, both domestically and internationally, under the chairmanship of its second chair, Edwin Glasgow QC CBE (2004-2007), including visits by the ATC to Inns and Circuits round the country to share best practice.

These visits remain a key means for monitoring and supporting advocacy training provision, including pupil/new practitioner (NP) and teacher-training courses. The ATC visitor and the course director both complete sections of a reporting template, ensuring reports are collaborative and productive. Examples of best practice are shared, and any issues that would benefit from the expertise and experience of the ATC can be identified and addressed.

ATC online

In 2009 the ATC set up www.advocacytrainingcouncil.org as the central point of information for all matters relating to advocacy and advocacy training including:

  • details of the Hampel Method (see box in right hand column);
  • advocacy training courses;
  • news items; and
  • key publications of the council.


A password-protected member’s section open to all Inn/Circuit accredited advocacy trainers includes a discussion board and a library of advocacy training materials, including criminal, family and Employed Bar exercises, suited to various levels of advocacy training.

Training the trainers

The ATC plays a key role in ensuring that advocacy training at the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) stage is of the requisite standards, with students properly equipped to enter advocacy training at the pupillage stage. The council holds twice-yearly assessments for BPTC tutors, who must be accredited by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) before teaching advocacy. Tutors seeking accreditation perform three advocacy reviews before a panel of expert examiners, who assess their performance against a set of criteria. They are also invited to identify what other aspects of the advocacy performance might have benefitted from review, and to explain their reason for their choice of Headline.

On the basis of observing and assessing all three reviews, the ATC will make a recommendation to the BSB as to their accreditation as an advocacy tutor. Advice and support is provided to those who do not meet the criteria, who will then be invited to re-attempt their assessment after a period of further training by their employer.

The ATC’s ‘Training the Trainers’ DVD and manual have proved a significant tool in ensuring that advocacy trainers – both at the BPTC and pupil/NP stages – are effectively trained in the Hampel Method. Developed in partnership between all four Inns, the manual and DVD provide an in-depth analysis of the method and its stages, together with demonstrations of effective reviews and supporting material including the Dutton criteria. The manual is freely available to all advocacy trainers, including BPTC tutors, and the DVD is available to the Inns and Circuits. Both are in demand by overseas jurisdictions, who find them a crucial help in developing their own teacher-training programmes. Most recently, a joint Inner Temple/ATC advocacy training team in Malaysia provided copies of the DVD to Malaysian practitioners and members of the judiciary.

ATC abroad

With a constitutional commitment to respond to requests for assistance in advocacy training overseas, the ATC has worked alongside many overseas Bars including Pakistan, India, South Africa and Hong Kong, helping to ensure high standards of advocacy and the rule of law. ATC trainers have also helped ensure advocates at the International Criminal Court and the United Nations are equipped with effective advocacy skills. The ATC takes a ‘seed corn’ approach, ensuring international Bars are equipped to cascade training to their own practitioners and continue expanding their programmes.

An International Advocacy Training Council (IATC) is being set up in conjunction with colleagues from overseas in Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong and Pakistan to co-ordinate international work. The first president of the IATC will be Edwin Glasgow QC CBE and Justice Glenn Martin of Australia will be vice-president.

An expanding role

The demands on the ATC and its role and scope of work continue to expand. This year will see the publication of the final report of the council’s Vulnerable Witnesses and Defendants Handling Group, chaired by Bobbie Cheema. The report represents the first piece of major scholastic research into the challenges faced by advocates when handling vulnerable people in court, whether vulnerable by means of youth, learning disabilities or a mental health diagnosis. Its recommendations have a sound evidence base, having been developed after extensive consultation with experts in the field including practitioners, psychiatrists specialising in working with children and adolescents, and members of the judiciary.

Other areas of work include the Advanced Advocacy Training Working Party, chaired by Bernard Richmond QC, which has recently produced a draft report examining issues surrounding advocacy training provision for barristers of more than three years’ call.

Regulation matters

The regulators are increasingly turning to the ATC to advise on and discuss matters relating to advocacy and advocacy standards and training, and in recent months the council has played a significant role in the development of a Quality Assurance Scheme for advocates.

In October 2009 the front-line regulators (the BSB, the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Institute of Legal Executives) set up the Joint Advocacy Group (JAG). Its purpose was to develop a QA scheme common to advocates from all three professions, with parity of standards and accreditation methods, and a single body monitoring the scheme.

The ATC was approached by JAG to advise on advocacy standards and the shape of a potential scheme, and, in close conjunction with the Inns and Council of the Inns of Court (COIC), the ATC has since advised JAG on the development of core competencies, standards and values to be expected from all advocates.

Significant research and debate has informed the proposed scheme. ‘Enhanced’ Dutton criteria embrace standards of examination-in-chief, cross-examination and other skills to be expected by all practitioners. The Crown Prosecution Service’s in-house training and grading scheme helped develop a proposed four-level structure. Under this structure advocates will move up incrementally, with levels one and two aligning with pupil and new practitioner training, and levels three and four covering more complex Crown Court cases and appeals.

With judges being the chief consumers of advocacy, they are in a peerless position to observe and assess advocacy performances, and will assess advocates for accreditation at the higher levels of the grading scheme. It is envisaged that the Judicial Studies Board (JSB) will develop and deliver a training module to equip judges with the objective tools to observe and assess the advocacy performances in their courts.

Other issues being considered by the JAG in consultation with the Inns and the ATC include a possible ‘traffic light’ system to identify under-performing practitioners, and the development and implementation of remedial training.

The future

The council is examining how best it can adapt and develop to meet the challenges presented by its increasing scope of work, and particularly by the implementation of the QA scheme. Its aim remains to continue driving forward excellence in advocacy at all stages of the profession, helping ensure that the quality and excellence of this specialist skill continues to distinguish the Bar from other providers of legal services – to the benefit of the courts, the public and the effective administration of justice.

Charles Haddon-Cave QC is Chairman of the ATC


Improving performance: The Hampel Method

Practitioners wishing to train as advocacy tutors undergo rigorous training in the Hampel Method during teacher-training programmes delivered by the Inns and Circuits and overseen by the ATC.

First developed by Professor George Hampel of the Australian Bar, the method recognises that advocacy must be taught as a specialist technical skill. Trainees at every stage of advocacy training are subject to the same approach, which identifies a single key flaw in an advocacy performance. Six steps are then employed to address and rectify that flaw. They are:

  • The Headline: identifying the problem
  • Playback: Repeating the problem verbatim
  • Reason: Explaining why the problem must be addressed
  • Remedy: Explaining how the problem can be improved
  • Demonstration: Showing the remedy at work
  • Replay: The student applies the remedy
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