UK government law officers

Think tank: Institute for Government

Author(s): Robert Bucklang

June 18, 2022

This report from UK think tank the Institute for Government looks at understanding the role of the attorney and solicitor general.

The UK government’s ‘law officers’ – the attorney general and solicitor general – are ministers who provide legal advice to their colleagues in government. The roles are unique. While the law officers are politicians from the ruling party, they are also lawyers with a responsibility to provide ministers with independent advice on legal aspects of their policies, without fear or favour. But while the work of the law officers is fundamental to the functioning of democratic government and to the rule of law, the role is not well understood and can vary substantially depending on who is in post.

In this short guest paper, Sir Robert Buckland QC MP offers some of his own experiences of being a law officer and puts forward some ideas for how the roles can be improved. Robert Buckland is MP for South Swindon. He was solicitor general between 2014 and 2019 and justice secretary between 2019 and 2021.