As a solicitor, who qualified back in the 1980s, I regularly represented clients at the magistrates’ court for both trials and remand hearings.
In this era, the division between solicitors and barristers was much greater than it is today.
Solicitors could meet people in the office, write letters, make phone calls, trace witnesses and represent clients at court. Barristers could only represent their clients at court, were hired by the case or hearing and were independent contractors instructed by the solicitor.
Over time, I began to build a good working relationship with the prosecutors, judges and my regular clients, which was a big advantage over the young barristers who would be constantly sent to different courts.
In 2000, regulations came into force which gave solicitors a clear route to practice as advocates in the higher courts.
The Solicitors Higher Rights Association and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association began providing comprehensive advocacy training programmes for existing practising solicitors.
This meant that I could now represent my clients at the Crown Court, and the Court of Appeal –rather than just passing them onto to a barrister.
This was a great benefit to my clients. With my mixed workload of preparation and advocacy, clients’ cases in the ‘warned list’ could be protected so that I could be much more certain about my availability for the hearings, if they wanted me as their Crown Court advocate.
Clients always have the right to choose to be represented by a barrister, and there are some cases when I would always recommend representation by a barrister.
Over the years, I have represented clients in a whole range of types of cases. These include cash in transit robberies, drug supply, serious assaults and firearm possession.
A large proportion of cases I deal with at the Crown Court are allegations of sexual offending, which end in a very high rate of not guilty verdicts.
I am supported by two other solicitor advocates who work with me, Christopher Judson and Jaysen Seeboruth, and between us we are able to offer each other advice and support on crown court and magistrates cases.
Sometimes we co -defend in trials, acting for separate defendants, and it is much easier to float an idea or ask each other’s opinion when there is no professional rivalry. Also, our different advocacy styles are interesting for us to watch.
We become very emotionally involved in all our cases because we want to do the very best for our clients.
A lot of hard work is undertaken in the pre-trial preparation – deciding the best way to present a case, how you deal with both ‘good and bad facts’, determining what further investigations are needed, and which witnesses to call.
We fully prepare the case ourselves and with the assistance of other in house lawyers so to have a greater understanding of how to achieve the best outcome every time for our clients.