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Solicitor advocates who practise in the criminal courts can apply to be approved as 'Senior' for legal aid purposes.

The accreditation relates purely to payments from the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) in criminal cases, and is separate from the QC structure.

The scheme, run by the Solicitor Advocate Accreditation Committee of the Law Society of Scotland, is designed to tackle a practical issue in the Legal Aid system, through which SLAB can sanction an increased payment in respect of 'Senior Counsel' - without there being any definition of what this means in relation to solicitor advocates.

The accreditation scheme certifies "Solicitor Advocates who are the most able and experienced and have demonstrated the ability to deal with the most serious cases."

Those seeking accreditation must apply to the Law Society of Scotland, and must have at least seven years experience as a solicitor advocate - during which they must have exercised their extended rights of audience regularly. They must also be able to show a high standard of legal ability and advocacy.

Applications will be considered by an assessment panel, and the applicants may be interviewed. The accreditation is then subject to renewal every five years.

The scheme also clarifies the position regarding solicitor advocates who have four years experience. They are automatically entitled to claim payment from SLAB as 'junior as leader'.

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