Advocate, in a general sense, one who pleads for another in a court of law or another tribunal. In England and Wales, professional advocates are called barristers and are permitted to plead or argue cases before the High Court of Justice; a barrister is distinguished from a solicitor, who, until recently, conducted litigation only in inferior courts. However, since 1992, solicitors who have demonstrated competence in advocacy have rights of audience before all courts. The avocat and avoué in France are analogous to the barrister and solicitor in England. Elsewhere, in the United States and some parts of Europe, for example, the two branches of the legal profession are not separate (see Attorney; Bar).
In a narrower sense, the term “advocate” was formerly used in Britain to denote a member of the College of Advocates at Doctors’ Commons (abolished in 1857). These advocates had the exclusive right to plead in the ecclesiastical and admiralty courts and took precedence over all ordinary barristers.
Most legal systems limit formal advocacy in the higher courts to qualified practitioners. Many courts and tribunals will allow a friend to speak for a party to litigation, or for a defendant: trade union officials, for example, often represent union members in tribunals. Such informal advocates are sometimes known in England as “Mckenzie friends” (after McKenzie v McKenzie, 1970).