The Attorney General: who, what, why?

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  • I think what'd surprise most people is how much of the job giving advice is. I reckon the legal advice is about 40% of what the Attorney's Office does; the CPS and criminal "casework" is about another 40%; and the rest, the public interest work, makes up about 20%. How much of each type of work the Attorney does, and how much the Solicitor General does, is up to them.

    The other thing that'd surprise a lot of people is that much of the advice given to government is about non-devolved matters and so isn't simply that of the Attorney but of "the Law Officers" - meaning, in this context, the Attorney together with the Advocate General for Scotland. This is often easy for them to agree on, but it's not necessarily always so.

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  • Fascinating - thank you for your insight.

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  • I'd just add not only that people often don't realise how how much of the job giving legal advice is, but how important this function is. Quite often the advice provided by the Attorney-General and/or the Solicitor-General determines whether governments will pursue a particular action or policy. If, based on the advice given, an action or policy is not pursued, then this advice will have acted like a court ruling, precluding government action. If, based on the advice, the government does pursue the action or policy, very often it will go unchallenged in the courts (whether because of a lack of a contradictor with standing, or because the issue is non-justiciable). In those cases, the Law Officers' opinion on what is legal and what is not will be the final. So while independent courts are very important in ensuring government under rule of law, these behind the scenes legal advisers are equally important.

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  • Great, informative post. Thank you Amy for doing it.

    When I was a government lawyer, it took a little bit of time before I realised that that mentions of "The Attorney" were references to the Attorney-General. This was less confusing than the mentions of "The Solicitor" - meaning the Solicitor-General.

    Even now, one clue as to whether someone has ever been a government lawyer is that they talk of "The Attorney" or "The Solicitor" rather than their respective actual titles.

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