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By Amar Mehta 5 June 2019

Pinsent Masons has responded to increased demand from its lawyers for advocacy training, following in the footsteps of Herbert Smith Freehills and Eversheds Sutherland which already offer such services.

Pinsents first offered advocacy training to its lawyers three years ago, but this latest incarnation is a more concentrated, focused programme targeted at junior and mid-level lawyers who want to increase their chances to practice oral and written advocacy.

Early phases of the training will focus on litigation, transitioning to work on arbitration skills later in the course. Lawyers from the European offices will join the training in the UK, while similar training has been rolled in the Middle East and Asia, with a focus on international arbitration.

The training isn’t compulsory, but the firm is encouraging lawyers to attend the sessions. Advocacy training is on the list of core training for junior lawyers, though it also open to more senior associates.

Pinsents partner and solicitor-advocate Jim Cormack QC told The Lawyer that voluntary participation rates are high, while there is not thought to be any extra financial cost associated with the training.

Cormack said: “There is a renewed focus on lawyers getting higher-rights training, allowing lawyers to develop their advocacy skills.

“Investing in and developing the skills of our lawyers is important. It does have an element where we want to extend the range of services we provide internally to clients.”

Cormack stated that the increase in solicitor-advocates at the firm will not spell an end for Pinsents’ use of the Bar. The programme, according to Cormack, is more “nuanced than that and the firm is not contemplating an overnight radical change to the current model”.

It will continue to work with the Bar while giving UK-based lawyers advocacy training. According to The Lawyer Litigation Tracker, Pinsents most frequently instructs 8 New Square, followed by Atkin Chambers and 4 Pump Court.

Pinsent Masons is by no means the first firm to employ an in-house advocacy unit. Firms such as Herbert Smith Freehills and Eversheds both have strong advocacy teams supporting the litigation practices.

Meanwhile at the Bar, clients can now go directly through to a barrister without involving a firm or another intermediary. A service called Direct Access has allowed chambers to advise a client on potential cases. A barrister’s role remains the same and there are limits on the types of work they can do. Sets such as Pump Court, 9 KBW, Radcliffe Chambers, Field Court Chambers and Temple Tax all offer this through the direct access portal. However, 3 Paper Buildings is in the process of launching a dedicated direct access website, where clients can get access to its direct access barristers through the site.