I completed my LLB at City in 2010. The intention was to go directly onto the BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course) but during my third year, I applied for a role as a duty adviser. Following that application, a steep learning curve acquiring relevant law and a six month wait, I was told there was one position available and I should come in for an interview. That interview ended up lasting all day! I shadowed a solicitor and a barrister whilst they carried out their duty advising and was lucky enough to be able to attend four hearings that day to observe. At the end of my rather long interview, I was told that I had the position.
Duty adviser roles are almost exclusively taken by those who already hold rights of audience (there's more about this later), and I do have to point out that I am quite a bit older than the usual LLB graduate and as a result of that I have a significant amount of relevant experience (and qualifications) that enabled me to take up the duty adviser role and cope with it immediately – i.e. to use a familiar vernacular, I was able to hit the ground running.
What does a duty adviser do?
The role involves interviewing clients, providing legal advice, guidance on possible defences, negotiating with the claimant and representing the client in front of a District Judge (on occasions cases being appealed are heard by a Circuit Judge). The service is only available to defendants in repossession hearings and only on the day of the hearing.
On the surface it may appear that the only knowledge one therefore requires is to do with repossessions, however, the clients come into the court with a variety of inter-connecting problems, many of which have legal repercussions and therefore a broad legal knowledge is required. I am frequently dealing with issues arising from debt, welfare benefits, divorce, child law, immigration, prison, occupation orders and so forth, alongside the obvious areas of law we use on a daily basis, e.g. Housing Acts, Mortgages (Protection from Eviction) Act and relevant case law relating to mortgages, repairs, illegal evictions and so on.