Trainee solicitors in a legal aid practice
As a firm we have had to react to changing circumstances over the last last few years. This has resulted in us investing time and resources in an increased number of trainee solicitors.
Legal aid in crisis?
Once again the Government has ignored advice as to the financial difficulties legal aid firms face. This advice included the necessity for an immediate and significant rise in fees to permit the sector to remain viable.
Instead, the Secretary of State, Dominic Raab, has imposed a real terms cut in fees against a background of fee levels that have been, at best, frozen since the 1990s.
The position is such that the Law Society has begun to advise that firms review their reliance on criminal legal aid work and begin to plan to withdraw from providing the service.
Recruitment and Retention crisis
The furlough scheme allowed criminal lawyers the time to re-evaluate there position, with many across the sector choosing academia, family law, the independent Bar or civil practice.
Perhaps the biggest threat to staff recruitment and retention has come from the Crown Prosecution Service who launched an aggressive recruitment campaign in January 2020. Firms across the country have seen an exodus of staff to the prosecution that offers salaries that may not be matched in private practice and, on the face of it, a better work life balance.
Investment in trainee solicitors
In response to this combination of factors we have chosen to increase our investment in trainee solicitors specialising in criminal defence. We know that the work will always be interesting and hope that those who apply will remain committed to what can be a difficult and challenging job but ultimately a rewarding one.
As a result we currently employ six trainees across our offices.
We ensure that they obtain their police accreditation so that they are able to provide advice and representation to those being interviewed by the police, under the supervision of solicitor and Higher Court Advocate Shannon English. This ensures a consistency of approach to their training and allows them the pleasure of taking part in our out of hours’ rota. Advice is provided to those in police custody 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Thereafter they learn the skills they need through hands on experience preparing cases that are due before the Magistrates’ Court, Crown Court and the Court of Appeal.
Our trainee solicitors will undertake the courses required for qualification, but will choose the options that are bested suited to a career in criminal defence including courses preparing them for securing their Higher Rights of Audience.
At the end of training period there is invariably posts available across our offices as an assistant solicitor, representing clients at the police station and before the Magistrates’ Court with the opportunity for career development to become a Solicitor Advocate representing those facing allegations before the Crown Court.
Meet our trainee solicitors
Kinga Nowak joined VHS Fletchers in June 2021, having initially completed a law degree in her native Poland before moving to the UK. She took an access course in criminal law before completing her Law Degree at the University of Lincoln. Following that Kinga completed her Legal Practice Course and Masters in Law at Nottingham Trent University.
Kinga will qualify in June 2023.
Declan Smith joined VHS Fletchers in July 2021, initially as a Paralegal at our Chesterfield Office before commencing his training contract.
He graduated from the University of Derby in 2020 with an undergraduate degree in law, before continuing his studies completing the Legal Practice Course in the spring of 2021 with the aim of qualifying as a solicitor.
Declan is to qualify as a solicitor in August 2023.
Danielle Lunn joined VHS Fletchers in July 2022 as a Trainee Solicitor at our Nottingham office.
Her undergraduate legal studies were completed at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2020, graduating with a first-class honours Law degree. She then went on to complete the Legal Practice Course and Master’s in Law at Nottingham Trent University achieving a distinction.
Danielle will complete her training in January 2024.
Chloe Wright joined VHS Fletchers in January 2022 as a Trainee Solicitor at our Chesterfield office.
Having graduated from Sheffield Hallam University in the summer of 2020 with an undergraduate degree in Law., Chloe then continued her studies at Leeds Beckett University, completing the Legal Practice Course in the spring of 2021 before completing a masters degree the following summer.
Chloe will qualify in January 2024.
Patrick Fisher, known to many as Paddy, joined VHS Fletchers in July 2022 as a Trainee Solicitor in our Derby office.
He completed his undergraduate degree in Law at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2021 with a 2:1 classification.
Following this, he went on to study for his Legal Practice Course and Master’s continuing with his studies at Nottingham Law School.
Paddy is due to qualify in July 2024.
Kirsty Gregson joined VHS Fletchers in January 2023 as a Trainee Solicitor at our Nottingham office.
Kirsty completed her law studies at the University of Leicester in 2021, graduating with first-class honours. Kirsty then completed her Legal Practice Course and Masters in Nottingham at the University of Law.
Kirsty will qualify as a solicitor in July 2024.
We will shortly be recruiting for at least one trainee post based at our Nottingham office and due to start in July 2023. We will advertise the post as usual on Crimeline, and our LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
Please keep an eye on those if you are likely to be interested.