If your career aspirations involve civil or criminal litigation, then opting for the Higher Rights of Audience (HRA) training should be considered seriously.
Devised and taught by experienced litigators and endorsed by the SRA, investing in this training can enhance essential aptitudes such as case management and advocacy while providing practical and relevant exposure to the higher courts. This may ultimately boost your professional status (and earnings!) because of your capacity to offer a full service to your clients as a solicitor-advocate.
If this sounds like the appropriate route for you, how can you make sure that you are sufficiently prepared to pass the HRA with flying colours?
Understand how it is evaluated
The HRA assessment is divided into two segments, one of which is written and the other a practical. These are modified to cater to civil or criminal law streams, which you are able to determine; should you wish to become experienced in both types of proceedings, you will need to undertake all four tests.
The 2.5-hour written exam makes up 40% of the overall mark, and the content concentrates on selected advocacy problems, equality and diversity, ethics, and evidence. The exam is open book, as you will be given fresh copies of the Blackstone’s text and of the SRA Code of Conduct. The layout of the exam comprises of a Question and Answer section, a Critical Review of Documentation section, and may contain drafting and multiple choice questions as well.
The 1.5-hour practical assessment forms the remaining 60% of the total score, focusing on more general advocacy as well as specific advocacy problems not covered in the written exam. For this section, you will be provided with assessment materials a week before the practical and have three days to produce and submit an outline of your argument. On the day of assessment, you will need to argue an interim application, hand in a trial strategy plan, perform an opening speech, and examine and cross-examine a witness.
These examinations are conducted on different dates deliberately. This ensures that you can organise your prep work into manageable chunks using the tried-and-tested methods that have worked for you over the years to exceed the 60% pass mark for each exam.
You will not receive your results for the first assessment before the second assessment has been taken unless you scored below 60%. Results will not be released until ten weeks after the second exam, meaning that you should be able to stay motivated for the next segment without being distracted by strategic thoughts or any possible feelings of disheartenment.
Go beyond the minimum
Interestingly, training programmes are not actually a prerequisite to taking the HRA assessment, but refraining from capitalising on these valuable resources would be a disservice to the hard work you have undertaken for your career thus far. Commencing the assessments without the training is generally reserved for those with a substantial amount of advocacy experience under their belt already.
The University of Law has both face-to-face classes in their London Moorgate campus and live online training sessions to suit the learning environment that is most compatible with your schedule.
There are two full days of training for both the written and practical assessments (four days in total), delivering a wealth of tips, tricks and experience to annotate your copies of the course materials with, and to reduce uncertainties about your skeleton argument and opening speech for the practical. This time will help you master the assessment criteria and put your best foot forward.
Strategise your timing
As of 1 April 2021, only qualified solicitors are permitted to take the HRA assessments outlined above, but trainees are allowed to engage in the training sessions.
You must bear in mind that changes in procedural and legal obligations that form the content of the HRA may occur in the interim, and that the SRA can alter assessment requirements. The least disruptive course of action would be to carry out the training sessions as close to your qualification date as possible.
If this is not a possibility, then do make certain to keep up to date with any changes and amend your notes accordingly!