This article considers advocacy as a profession. For advocacy in its wider sense and in particular for its techniques, see rhetoric.
A party to a Roman trial might entrust the presentation of his case to an advocate (advocatus, patronus, causidicus). These men, who appear as a class in the late republic under the influence of Greek rhetoric, and of whom Cicero and the younger Pliny (2) are prominent representatives, were orators rather than lawyers. They would necessarily have, or acquire, some knowledge of law (Cicero evidently knew a lot), but their reputations were founded on their skill in forensic rhetoric. They and the jurists regarded each other as distinct classes, with different (and in the eyes of the other class inferior) functions, though occasionally an advocate might become a jurist. Advocates were forbidden to accept any reward for their services, but this rule was evidently often ignored and by the end of the 2nd cent. ce imperial recognition was given (Dig. 50. 13. 1. 9 ff.) to claims for an honorarium (or palmarium, if payment was conditional on the case being won). In the later empire, the advocates, at least at the court of the praetorian prefect of the east in Constantinople, are no longer merely orators, but are qualified lawyers, who have studied at a law school and form a privileged corporation. Their number is limited, their fees are regulated, and they are attached to a particular court. The majority of the compilers of the Digest (see justinian's codification) were advocates.
Advocates must be distinguished from legal representatives. In the earliest procedure, per legis actiones, the parties had in general to be present in person; under the formulary procedure they might appoint representatives (cognitores, procuratores). But in either case they might also employ the services of an advocate.