as a solicitor having completed my training contract (or articles as they were
known then) in a high street practice. I was offered a job in that practice in
the probate department but turned that down having been also offered a job as a
criminal defence solicitor. I took the job and was literally thrown in at the
deep end. Started working on a Monday, in court for a contentious hearing with
a highly anxious client on the Tuesday. No pressure there…!
the day and continued over the next few years representing clients for offences
ranging from theft of sandwiches to murder. The one nugget of advice I would
give to aspiring criminal advocates is that you need to develop a thick skin.
The reason for this is that you will at certain stages of your career make a
mistake whilst on your feet and consequently be metaphorically kicked around a
court room by a Judge who took exception to your line of questioning of a
witness or your closing argument. That old adage what doesn’t kill makes you
stronger is of particular relevance to criminal advocates! Once you’ve made a
mistake on your feet and dealt with the consequences, I promise you will never
make it again!
I have spent
numerous hours in the police station, advising clients following their arrest.
In years gone by clients would often be interviewed in the middle of the night,
sometimes all night, only for you then to have to go straight back into court
to conduct a full days hearing. Tough and draining but fabulously fun and
exciting. You never have a dull day as a life as criminal duty solicitor.
I left the
criminal law for a few years and started practising in a large city firm as a
Regulatory lawyer- mainly on health and safety cases often where there was a
fatality at the workplace- falls from heights
are the number one cause of death on building sites. This would lead to
an inquest at the Coroners court which could often be very harrowing as the family
of the deceased would often be present. This would be followed by Crown Court
proceedings where either the company or its directors, or both, would be before
the court for manslaughter proceedings.
decided to have a complete change and started working for a local charity in
Leeds, called the Manuel Bravo Project, who provided free legal advice to
asylum seekers. This was an incredibly rewarding job where the stakes were
enormously high. To know that you were part of a decision where the client was
not forced to return back to their country of origin, where they would
otherwise face certain death, was a truly uplifting experience.