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‘Times have changed’: Being an advocate without being a barrister

While barristers have traditionally done most of the advocacy work within the Australian legal profession, this criminal lawyer is finding that, more than ever, solicitors can and should be undertaking advocacy work too.

user iconLauren Croft 30 January 2024 SME Law
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Andrew Tiedt is an accredited specialist in criminal law and a director at J Sutton Associates. Speaking recently on The Lawyers Weekly Show, he discussed solicitors being advocates for their clients – and how more and more criminal lawyers are focusing on advocacy.

Mr Tiedt has been practising in crime and crime adjacent law for more than 16 years, and said this practice area is particularly stimulating and meaningful to him.

“I really enjoy the practice of criminal law. Many people find it a very ugly and nasty and unpleasant area of law, and it can be. There is no doubt that there are days that are tougher than others, but it is a very exciting, challenging area. Every day is interesting and exciting,” he said.


“There are many days when criminal law is a very difficult area to work in, and it’s hard work, and it is tiring, and you are dealing with people going through the worst phase of their life often. But it is a job that is always interesting and always challenging, and it is certainly never boring, that is for sure.”

While some in the profession believe advocacy should be left to barristers, Mr Tiedt believes that being an “advocate” should apply to a broader range of lawyers.

“There are some areas of law where you would not dream of going to court without a barrister for all sorts of good and valid reasons. But probably more than any other area, criminal law is an area where solicitors, in many cases, do their own advocacy. And one of the major reasons for that is there is a lot of court work for, in the scheme of things, comparatively very small matters, where the cost of having a second person, let alone a barrister, involved in a matter, can be out of proportion to the kind of matter that you are dealing with,” he added.

“So, you think of the kind of person who has been prosecuted for maybe a low-range drink drive, and that is not nothing; it is a serious thing. But people often would say that having a squadron of lawyers turn up for court for a low-range drink drive probably does not meet the proportionality test. So, almost every criminal lawyer is an advocate who goes to court to deal with many matters on their own. Many criminal lawyers brief barristers a lot or almost exclusively.”

Mr Tiedt is also a self-described “solicitor advocate”.

“I often say to people that if you want to be an advocate, as a solicitor, if you want to be on your feet and in court almost from day one, there is no area more than criminal law that will give you that opportunity. So, as a criminal lawyer, advocacy has always been a huge part of my practice, and for me, it is the best part of the job. It is the part of the job I enjoy the most,” he said.

“Almost every criminal lawyer does at least some advocacy on their own, but many people do not see that as their main role. Many people will almost exclusively have barristers appearing in matters that they are acting in. Whilst my attitude is I brief when it is appropriate and when it is necessary, and I certainly still do brief barristers, I see my main role as being an advocate for my clients in court. And I am trying to, by the term solicitor advocate, show people that that is the main thing that I do, and that is something that I take a great deal of pride in doing.”

The term advocacy, as Mr Tiedt uses it, can also describe merger and acquisition lawyers or capital markets lawyers as they are advocating for clients in their own way.

“Advocacy is a term that is usually used to describe work in court, and that is the way I am seeking to use the word. But there is no doubt that an M&A lawyer who is involved in some high-level negotiation for an acquisition is advocating their client’s position. But there are many lawyers doing very good work who do not focus on anything adversarial at all, anyone who are sold a house or bought a house or has sold a business, there are many lawyers doing very good, very difficult, very high-level work that is not as adversarial, that does not have the same kind of advocacy role,” he explained.

“You think about many family lawyers who are moving far more towards the collaborative style of law, where the entire, but a major goal that they are shooting for is to not be so adversarial and to be less about advocacy in terms of fighting the other side and more about finding solutions. So, the word advocate is a very broad term, obviously, and can be used in many ways, but certainly, how I am trying to use it is the adversarial role in court, which is at the core of what criminal lawyers do.”

And while previously, solicitors needed a barrister to go into court with, Mr Tiedt said that moving forward, more and more solicitors are doing their own advocacy work.

“Times have changed, and these days, almost every criminal lawyer is at least to some extent an advocate. But in my view, more and more solicitors are recognising that not everyone, but many solicitors, have the skills and experience just as barristers do,” he said.

“And whilst there is certainly a time and a place to have a barrister, whether it is a certain experience or a certain qualification or just a case where more than one pair of hands is required, in my view, there is a great opportunity for solicitors to be going into court and doing work that in times gone past, many people would have said only barristers should be allowed to do we are.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Andrew Tiedt, click below:

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