ELISH Angiolini, the lord advocate and head of Scotland's prosecution service, is facing a humiliating backlash from some enior lawyers over her admission to the Faculty of Advocates.
Angiolini and the solicitor general, Frank Mulholland, who assists her at the Crown Office, are due to be sworn in as members of the 470-year-old body next month.
However, some advocates are understood to be planning to snub the event because Angiolini and Mulholland are being fast-tracked without sitting any exams or going through the standard nine months of unpaid training known as devilling.
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Bypassing devilling is worth almost £80,000 to Angiolini, whose current annual salary is £105,214.
The cash benefit to Mulholland is more than £57,000, as his salary is £96,598.
One advocate told the Sunday Herald: "The truth is that the office of lord advocate is essentially a bureaucratic one, no disrespect to her. She's rarely in the high court. It's not possible to say with a straight face that this is the Bar recognising legal distinction."
One of those who recently went through devilling added: "There's now talk of a boycott of the admission ceremony."
"Folk are saying they're going to be elsewhere," said one QC.
"I can't say I will be at the admission ceremony," said another pointedly.
A senior defence lawyer said the decision to admit the law officers had dismayed young lawyers struggling through their apprenticeships.
"Faculty friends are not happy at all. I know one devil' who's facing the best part of a year without any money at all. She's now wondering why she's bothering when it's as easy as they're making it look for the law officers."
The offer to Angiolini and Mulholland was made earlier this month by Richard Keen QC, dean of the faculty.
He said it was "entirely appropriate" given they had played "a leading role in the legal profession for a number of years".
Many lawyers believe the move is motivated by a desire to reclaim the lord advocate and solicitor general for the faculty, as they were the first pair of law officers not to be members.
"The idea this has been done because the faculty want to welcome Elish and Frank is nonsense, because the faculty were dead set against them being lord advocate and solicitor general. They want these jobs back in the fold," said one lawyer.
The move arguably makes it simpler for Angiolini to become a judge once she steps down as lord advocate.
In the long-term, some lawyers believe the faculty is worried about keeping up its numbers, and is planning to open its doors to a wider range of members: Angiolini and Mulholland would effectively be adverts for admission.
In 1993, advocates lost their sole rights of audience in the higher courts when the first solicitor advocates were created, with the result that membership of the faculty has no longer a prerequisite for appearance in the higher courts.
All 459 advocates are effectively sole traders who must wait to be instructed by solicitors, and who must hand over 15% of their income to the faculty's trading arm for secretarial support and library services.
The 254 solicitor advocates, however, are able to work in high-street offices with assistants, share work with other firms, and don't have to pay 15% to Faculty Services Ltd, though they do instead have to finance their own equivalent overheads.
Many believe the dean now hopes to entice senior solicitor advocates to join the faculty to maintain its income.
"I think the dean's agenda is to bring in other types of member to the faculty. A number of solicitor advocates have been canvassed about joining," said one QC.
Gerry Considine, a past president of the Glasgow Bar Association, said the fast-tracking of Angiolini and Mulholland would dismay many young lawyers taking the traditional route into the faculty.
"There will be people who are currently devilling, having given up a year of their career without any money, who are going to be upset at the thought of other people being able to bypass the system. There will be much more upset if it becomes an open-door policy."
Donald Findlay QC, one of the country's leading advocates, said he was in favour of Angiolini and Mulholland being admitted, provided theirs was not a unique case.
"The concern that some of us have is not about them as individuals, but we would think it was perhaps unfair if we did not extend the same courtesy to other suitably experienced and qualified persons."
Ian Duguid QC, chair of the Faculty of Advocates Criminal Bar Association, said there was no general ill-feeling about the admissions, but conceded "some individuals are speaking for themselves" after going through "a period of devilling and whatever hardship financial and otherwise goes with that".
A faculty spokesman said: "The Faculty of Advocates admits people in terms of its regulations for entrants, and the regulations provide for different requirements depending on the experience of the individual applicant.
"Each case is looked at on its merits and exemptions are given where appropriate. The exemption procedure is a rigorous one and involves consultation between the dean, the relevant committees, the faculty's board of examiners and the Dean's Council."
A Crown Office spokesman said: "Mrs Angiolini and Mr Mulholland are honoured to have been invited to apply to join the faculty. Regulations on admission are a matter for the faculty."