Considering becoming a legal aid lawyer? Here is a typical week
Where possible, VHS Fletchers is a solicitors’ firm committed to encouraging those interested in joining the legal profession. We welcome law students who are keen to find out what it is really like to be a criminal defence solicitor and legal aid lawyer.
Work placements can be hard to come by, but if you are local to one of our East Midlands offices then please contact us to see if we have space at one of them at a mutually convenient time.
VHS Fletchers are also keen to encourage those interested in joining the legal profession and welcome law students keen to find out what it is really like to be a Criminal Defence Solicitor. Work placements can be hard to come by so for those unable to secure a placement below is a description of Chesterfield partner and Crime Solicitor David Gittins typical week.
David was in the office early meeting Natalie the work placement student to show her the sort of work undertaken by a legal aid lawyer. They then walked over to Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court to represent a client who in the end failed to attend.
As a result, there was a lengthy wait before a warrant was issued, but David was able to use the time preparing for a later appointment to take instructions in relation to an upcoming trial.
It appears that the tone had been set for the day, and that client failed to keep his appointment.
David also undertook some preparation for his second appointment of the day. This again related to a forthcoming trial at Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court.
This was a particularly important appointment as the trial was listed before the court for a prosecution application to let the Magistrates’ know about his client’s previous convictions. David had hoped to discuss the convictions in detail to help him know how best to argue against the application.
This final client of the day also failed to attend his appointment.
David was at Chesterfield Magistrates Court again on Tuesday. This time he was acting as court duty solicitor. This means that he would act as a legal aid lawyer for those defendants who hadn’t instructed a specific solicitor to act for them.
When David attended court he would not know the type of cases that he would be dealing with. In the end he represented two clients who had attended on bail and one in the cells.
He returned to court in the afternoon to complete all of the cases, including the representation of one defendant who had pleaded guilty to drink driving.
In between cases, David was able to discuss a case for the following day that needed the input of a consultant psychiatrist due to his client having difficulties with his mental health.
At the end of the normal working day, David saw a new client at the office who had been recommended to him. He was able to take instructions and submit a legal aid application online.
That night David was on call as one of the lawyers staffing the firm’s out of hours police station rota to provide emergency advice and assistance to those being interviewed under caution by the police.
Although it would no doubt be preferable to interview suspects during normal working hours, the police often think it appropriate to interview at any hour of the night.
Although legal aid lawyer David only represented a single suspect during this period he travelled to Chesterfield police station at 8.45pm to represent his client who was accused of assault.
Free advice was provided and the client was released under investigation whilst the Police continued to investigate the offence.
David returned home shortly before 1 am but had to be back at his desk the following morning to complete that day’s work.
David returned to Court on Wednesday morning to successfully resist the bad character application being made by the prosecution.
He also represented the client with mental health difficulties in their absence as they were not well enough to attend court. The case was adjourned to a future date.
On returning to the office David also spoke to the client that he had represented in the police station the previous night. Although we do not carry out family work he was able to signpost her to a family solicitor who could help with the issues arising following her arrest and release.
David returned to Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court for the afternoon session. He represented a client who was to be sentenced for a theft allegation. Unfortunately, due to the delays at court, this case was not called on until 4.30pm despite a bail time of 1.45pm.
David was again involved with our out of hours rota. He was the coordinator for the scheme, which meant that he took the emergency calls from the Duty Solicitor Call Centre, police and clients or their families resulting from arrests.
Whilst David can complete this task from home with the use of his mobile phone, calls continue throughout the night. David deployed his colleagues to the police station at 9.30pm and a little after midnight.
A spare room is always helpful when coordinating the rota.
David, suffering from a lack of sleep, was back at Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court at 9.30am to represent a client who had previously pleaded guilty to assaulting his partner. David successfully argued for a community order.
The rest of the day was spent by David completing work arising from cases he had dealt with that week and preparing files for future court dates.
David was again court duty solicitor at Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court. He dealt with a client who faced an allegation of unlawful possession of a firearm.
Magistrates’ Courts across the country also sit on a Saturday morning to deal with defendants who have been refused bail by the police. Again we provide representation at these courts as part of our out of hours emergency rota.
David was represented two clients before Nottingham Magistrates’ Court. The first client faced a very serious allegation of possession with intent to supply cannabis as part of an organised crime gang. This client was remanded into custody having insufficient community ties to ensure attendance at future court dates for such a serious offence. David was assisted by a Lithuanian interpreter in this case.
The second case was at the other end of the spectrum in terms of seriousness, although it was serious to his client. David’s other client was simply charged with shop theft. However, what should have been a simple matter was delayed by the police as the client was not brought through to the cells until his methadone could be located, leading to a wait of several hours.
Considering becoming a legal aid lawyer?
There are plenty of articles on our website that show you the kind of work that you will undertake both before and after qualification.
A legal aid lawyer will only gain the experience necessary to provide expert advice in the field of criminal law by being part of a busy practise. We can offer that experience.
We look forward to hearing from you with either your request for work experience or application to be a trainee solicitor.