Employment Lawyer and Property Lawyer Scotland - Maurice O'Carroll Advocate

Maurice O'Carroll advocate Scotland
Maurice O'Carroll advocate Scotland

Frequently Asked Questions


  • What is an Advocate?
  • What does an Advocate do?
  • Who can Instruct Counsel?
  • How do I instruct Counsel?
·         How much does it cost?
·         I am unhappy with the service provided - What do I do?
In this section I have tried to briefly answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Advocacy. Should you have any more specific queries, please do not hesitate to contact me or one of my clerking team.
What is an Advocate?
The Faculty of Advocates is an independent body of lawyers who have been admitted to practise as Advocates before the Courts of Scotland. Advocates offer the public a distinct and independent service which complements the services provided by the solicitor branch of the profession. They provide an unrivalled range of skilled, independent and objective specialist legal representation and advice to clients of solicitors and of members of certain other professional bodies.
There are over 460 practising Advocates (sometimes referred to as "Counsel") at the Scottish Bar with approximately one fifth of those Queen’s Counsel (QC). The assumption of this title is commonly known as the taking of Silk and is awarded to senior Advocates (generally with at least 13 years experience) who have achieved distinction in their practice.
What does an Advocate do?
Advocates have rights to appear before any court or tribunal in Scotland and can be involved at any or all stages of a civil litigation or criminal prosecution, whether current or in contemplation. While they hold professional instructions, Counsel must act as they think appropriate, having regard not only to the interests of the client, but also to their duty towards the Court. However, the scope and duration of such instructions are always matters to be determined between practitioner and client.
Usually Counsel’s involvement relates to one or more of the following:
  • Opinions
  • Consultations
  • Drafting (Summons/Petition/initial Writ/Defences/Answers/Notes etc.)
  • Debates
  • Proof or other Hearings
  • Appeals
 Who can instruct Counsel?
Advocates can be instructed by a solicitor or others with direct access rights (direct access bodies). Before court proceedings are underway, Advocates can accept instructions from anyone with direct access rights; for work, including the drafting of court documents, but only a Scottish Solicitor can instruct Counsel in respect of a court appearance. Non-Edinburgh practitioners should note that for actions proceeding in the Court of Session, an Edinburgh correspondent is normally required.
How do I instruct Counsel?
Counsel are divided into groups or “stables” with a clerk/practice manager and at least one deputy clerk responsible for their administration. Counsel can be instructed either directly or through their Clerking team who are the daily point of administrative contact between an instructing practitioner and Counsel. Instructions can be received by letter, fax or email and should include the facts of the case; what is required of Counsel; what you hope to achieve; any time limits on the job and any other pertinent considerations such as whether the case is legal aided, cost restrictions etc. All relevant documentation should also be provided at this time.
Further information can be found in The Standard Terms of Instruction which describes what work advocates do and the restrictions on it. In practice, this requires the retention of a solicitor for any Sheriff Court or Court of Session work. In addition, an advocate may at any stage require that a solicitor take over the instruction of the work.
How Much Does It Cost?
Fees can vary considerably depending on factors such as the nature, complexity, urgency, value of the work and time taken to complete the work. It is normal practice for Counsel to charge a daily rate for hearings (including standard preparation costs) and in other circumstances seek a fee in respect of each item of work instructed. Fees can be negotiated with the clerking team for any private work undertaken whereas fees for legally aided work are subject to statutory regulation.
Detailed arrangements relating to Counsel’s fees are embodied in a formal Scheme issued by the Faculty in 2008. If a fee charged is considered to be unreasonable in the circumstances, the matter can be referred to the Auditor of the Court of Session for independent arbitration.
For any fee related inquiries, please contact Emma Potter, Practice Manager of Terra Firma Chambers.
I am unhappy with the service provided - What do I do?
The Faculty of Advocates is committed to maintaining the high standards of service which both clients and practitioners are entitled to expect. To this end the Faculty has a detailed Code of Conduct and set of Disciplinary Rules which apply to all members.
If you are unhappy with any aspect of the service provided please let me know as it may simply be a misunderstanding that can be rectified easily. If you are unhappy with the level of fee charged you should contact a member of the clerking team in writing within twenty one days of the issue of the fee note. If the problem cannot readily be solved, the Faculty has a formal complaints procedure for practitioners to follow.
    • Redundancy - principles and calculation

      Attached is an article drafted with one of my English colleagues on the question of redundancy and calculation of redundancy payments

      download download whole article [160KB]
    • Redundancy presentation

      Recent presentation with my London chambers on general principles of redundancy

      download download whole article [230KB]
    • Local Government Planning update

      I recently gave a talk as part of a webinar series with my Edinburgh chambers on the subject of Planning Inquiries in the time of Covid-19.  Link to the webinar below.