Civil Advocacy – Making Applications

Making applications to the civil courts has been the staple of advocacy training within my civil skills units. I have also managed an application or two in criminal law but nowhere near the level of civil. Welcome to my journey into law page and thanks for stopping to read this post.

Today was a civil skills session involving the application for something known as a Norwich Pharmacal order, the name of which is derived from the case of Norwich Pharmacal Co v Customs and Excise Commissioners (1974) AC 133. To those unfamiliar with how to read such a case title, you have the year of judgment in brackets, AC means the case was heard in the Court of Appeal and is number 133.

The Norwich Pharmacal Order, herein referred to as “the order”, is used by an applicant when they want a party to disclose the name or details of another party or of a document. Such relief could be needed where the applicant is seeking the correct party to sue where they do not know their details. Mitsui & Co Ltd v Nexen Petroleum UK Ltd (2005) EWHC 625 (Ch); (2005) 3 All E.R 511 ChD at (21) summarised the three pre-requisites of the order. I won’t go into that test here, but might refer to it.

Other applications made in civil advocacy sessions include, *application to set aside default judgment, application for interim application, today application for the Norwich Pharmacal. I may have missed out one or two but they are the ones completed which I can recall. All of them seemed daunting but in reality I performed better than anticipated. In fact the civil advocacy unit has been a strong point for me. Today the students I was with (online still, remember?) and I were told that we were all very competent. This is quite the achievement. Grading is from competent to outstanding so to be in the middle, knowing what I am doing is really rewarding and I know that my work is correct.

Civil advocacy takes place in civil courts, like the County Court, the High Court and Court of Appeal. Such applications are the bread and butter of newer barristers and I suspect most students will be well versed in them by now. Next week is the civil advocacy mock assessment. In fact next week is rather busy with mock assessments. My aim is to just take it slow and prepare as much as I have been doing, if not more.

The Civil Procedure Rules (“The White Book”) is what is used by civil barristers and students. It allows them to follow the legal rules for making applications to the court, such as whether they can bring such an application, the surrounding tests and the required case law, if required. There is also the need to research case law using other sources, but the information is readily available from one, which is a bonus. Given that we were all very competent today, I am sure that there is nothing to worry about and that I will pass my mock assessment. The only issue is that we cannot possibly know what the assessment will be on, only that we have some time to prepare for it in advance!

I can see why people get confused about the legal system, and I am studying it in considerable depth and some of it is still quite muddling to myself. Granted, there are some lovely online students and the civil advocacy tutor (online) has been great. I will have to go back to campus soon though because otherwise I will feel like I am letting myself down and there really is no better practice than face to face.

I hope you understand more about a civil application to the court. To summarise, a barrister / advocate can make an application to the court on behalf of the Applicant, not always the claimant but can be, which requires the court to consider it in line with the appropriate CPR rules.

Passing the BCAT: A rite of passage

It is a requirement to pass the bar course aptitude test (BCAT) before you can enroll on the bar course – the path to becoming a barrister.

Hi there, after a slightly unrested night and morning, and one exam down, I have returned home with a smile on thy face. So, today was the ‘big’ day, the BCAT exam. Scheduled for 10:30am, I arrived at 10am and stuck all my personal belongings into a locker except my ID. I spent almost all of the exam time allowed making sure I was happy with my answers… spending some more hesitating over the submit button.

I passed. Achieving 56/60 on the exam which lasts an hour. Had I not prepared for this, then it’s possible it would have gone another way. Preparation is key, and although the majority think that this test can’t be prepped for, that is in fact nonsense.

A few months back, when the reality of having to take this expensive £150 test dawned on me, I set out to practice and practice I did. Working through the how to become ‘Bar course aptitude tests’ book, which contained 5 sections and a mock test. Although the questions weren’t related to the real exam questions in any way, they did help to improve my critical thinking. One area I struggled with at first was inferences, I don’t know what score I got in that section but 56 is nearly all correct overall, so a lot were right!

One of my strengths is being able to recognise assumptions – a crucial skill for any lawyer – this section had a significant amount of questions, so you can imagine I was delighted.

If you want to take the test, for £150, practice. Make sure you are clear on what the 5 sections require and make sure any weaker areas are focused on. You have 3 opportunities to pass the exam in 1 year, and you can only sit said exam once a month.

Apparently the results are supposed to indicate your potential success on the bar course. Again, this is not accurate. Yes you are required to think critically during the course, but this exam couldn’t tell you whether you will pass or understanding complex law exams. For example those achieving a marginal pass are said to struggle with the complex analysis and decision-making on the bar training course and that 47.8% have either failed or not completed the course yet. Compare that with a strong pass, in which 3.% have failed or not yet completed the course. I hope these are accurate as they are from the bar standards board. So, people still fail no matter what they achieved on the bcat. There is no guarantee of success, everyone will struggle at some point.

What’s the takeaway? You can’t avoid the test. Anyone wanting to enroll on the barrister training courses available in the UK has to pass this multiple choice exam. At first it appears easy, but don’t be fooled, don’t rush in thinking you can pass first time without practice. Maybe you can, but do you want to risk that? Practice!

This is potentially a good indicator of success and for choosing whether to go ahead and fully enroll on the course.

As an aspiring barrister, I hope that my decisions are the right ones. Trust in God that if it is to be, then it will be.