The Faculty of Advocates is an independent body of lawyers who have been admitted to practise as advocates before the courts of Scotland, especially the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary. The Faculty of Advocates is a constituent part of the College of Justice and is based in Edinburgh.
The Faculty has existed since 1532 when the College of Justice was set up by Act of the Parliament of Scotland, but its origins are believed to predate that event. For a long period the Faculty resisted reorganisation, until changes in admissions were introduced in the 1960.
The Faculty is led by the Dean of Faculty, who is elected by the whole membership. The post is currently held by Gordon Jackson, who took over in 2016 from James Wolffe. He is supported by the Vice-Dean, Treasurer, Clerk, Keeper of the Library (currently Mungo Bovey) and Chairman of Faculty Services Ltd, all of whom are also elected. There is no standing council as with the Bar association of England and Wales.
The Faculty is self-regulating, and the Court of Session delegates to it the task of preparing Intrants for admission as advocates. This task involves a process of examination and practical instruction known as devilling, during which intrants benefit from intensive structured training in the special skills of advocacy. No-one can be presented to the court as suitable to be a practising advocate without satisfying these training requirements. The Faculty also provides for its members an ongoing programme of talks, seminars and conferences covering a wide range of topics.
Many Advocates and trainee advocates carry out work for the Free Legal Services Unit (FLSU). This is part of the Faculty's long standing commitment to providing access to justice for everyone in society. The FLSU enables qualified persons to provide advice and representation to clients of accredited advice agencies (including CAS) across Scotland. (In order to devil a person has to first undergo a period of training in a solicitor's office.)
The Faculty includes practising and non-practising members. The current practising Bar includes an increasing proportion of women. Women make up approximately one quarter practising membership. Total numbers now stand at just over 460, of whom approximately one fifth are Queen's Counsel. The taking of Silk, as assumption of the title of Queen's Counsel is commonly known, depends upon the prerogative of Her Majesty. This is exercised through the First Minister of Scotland upon the recommendation of the Lord Justice General. The Dean of Faculty is consulted in the course of this process. As a general rule, silk is awarded to experienced Counsel, who are considered to have achieved distinction in full-time practice. The process of awarding silk has been the subject of some criticism.
A comprehensive range of materials has been built up over the last three hundred years, and a modern library management system utilising the latest technology, ensure that the Advocates Library is able to meet the increasingly complex needs of members of the Faculty of Advocates. In addition, the library's stock is made available to others via the National Library of Scotland.
The Library was formally inaugurated in 1689. From the start the collection was a general one. In 1709 the status of the collection was confirmed when Queen Anne's Copyright Act gave the Keeper of the Library the right to claim a copy of every book published in the British Isles. The collection was enhanced by purchase and donation, particularly of continental imprints and of manuscripts.
The Advocates Library came to be recognised as the natural depository for literary materials of national importance. By the 1850s the Library had become in effect Scotland's national library. In 1925 the National Library of Scotland was established when the Faculty gifted to the nation its whole non-law collections comprising 750,000 books, pamphlets, manuscripts, maps and sheet music. The Advocates Library has retained the copyright privilege for law publications.
In recent years the Advocates Library has expanded to take account of the increase in membership of the Faculty. Advances in technology have been embraced with the installation of a new library management system, incorporating an on-line catalogue, which further enhances the services the library offers.
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