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Advocate of the
Royal Court

Advocate is the name used, wherever a legal system is based on the Roman Code, for the lawyer who in England is called a Barrister. He was known in the Old Coutumier as a Conteur. Advocates have been part of the Royal Court of Jersey from early times

A painting by John Helier Lander shows advocates renewing their oath of office at an Assize d'Heritage in Jersey's Royal Court


Howard in his Dictionnaire Analytique, Historique, Étymologique, Critique et Interprétatif de la Coutume de Normandie of 1780, himself an Advocate in Rouen, says that in Normandy and in England:

"… sous le regne des Ducs Normands, les Avocats s’appelloient Conteurs, soit parce que leurs plaidoyers se réduisoient à l’exposition du fait, soit parce qu’ils devoient pour exercer leurs fonctions être approuvés par les Juges des Contés ou Comtés." <fref>Under the reign of the Norman Dukes, the Advocates were called Conteurs , whether because their pleadings amounted to expositions of fact, or because, in order to practise, they had to be approved by the Judges of the Contés or Comtés</ref>

Howard further records that when William the Conqueror became King of England he ordered that those who intended to defend the causes of his subjects should be instructed in schools neighbouring his palace. These Advocates were said to enjoy "great distinctions", including the privilege to speak before him with their heads covered.

The Charte aux Normands granted by Louis X le Hutin (the Quarrelsome) in 1315 to the disgruntled people of the Duchy assumed the existence of a body of Advocates given its reference to the earnings of Advocates and their (annual) oath, albeit the form of oath is not set out.

Julien Havet in his Les Cours Royales des Iles Normandes of 1878 states that:

"Les avocats existent dans les îles au moins depuis le commencement du XIVe siècle. Les ordonnances faites pour Guernesey par les justiciers itinérants de 1323 contiennent un article spécial sur les devoirs des avocats et sur leur serment: il leur est prescrit de jurer qu’ils ne plaideront que des causes justes, qu’ils serviront fidèlement leurs clients et qu’ils ne traîneront point les procès en longueur par des chicanes vaines, le tous sous les peines que la cour jugera à d’infliger aux contrevenants et ce serment doit être renouvelé tous les ans à la cour qui suit la Saint-Michel. [1]


In Jersey a similar oath is still renewed by the Advocates annually during the sitting of the Assize d'Heritage.

Until 1860 their number was limited to six, and they were chosen without any test by the Bailiff; but in that year the Bar was thrown open to any British subject who had lived ten years in the island and possessed the necessary English or French diplomas, or had passed a local law examination.

The legal profession is fused in that advocates may appear in all Courts and may perform all the work of a solicitor. A solicitor (ecrivain) performs all the usual work of a solicitor but may appear only in the Petty Debts Court. To qualify as an advocate it is necessary to have passed the English or French bar exams, or the English solicitors' final exams, and in either case a set of Jersey exams which may include exams at Caen University.

Alternatively solicitors may qualify by only taking Jersey exams. Many of the locally qualified advocates and solicitors have worked outside Jersey. There are presently [2] approximately 92 practising advocates and 42 practising solicitors. In addition, many offices have English qualified assistants. There are also about 26 English qualified solicitors practising as English solicitors in Jersey.

Lists of Jersey Advocates

Notes and references

  1. Advocates existed in the Isles at least from the beginning of the 14th century. Ordinances made for Guernsey by the itinerant justices of 1323 contain a special article on the duties of advocates and their oath: they are required to swear that they will plead only just causes, that they will serve their clients faithfully and will not draw out the process through futile chicanery all subject to such penalties as the court resolves to impose upon those who contravene and this oath must be renewed every year to the court following the feast of St Michael.)"
  2. 2010
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