If you are charged with a criminal offence, then, in most contested matters, I will instruct a specialist advocate to present your case in court. I can (and do) conduct trials in the magistrates’ court, but the reality is that most of my time is spent investigating a client’s case rather than being in court and I strongly believe that to give my clients the best prospects of a successful outcome they need a team of lawyers who each has the expertise and experience to deal with the particular aspects of the client’s defence that they are responsible for.
So, for a solicitor, like me, that means analysing the evidence and investigating your case from the moment your first instruction is received. I’ll advise you prior, during and after any interview under caution, and I’ll conduct many if not all of the preliminary court hearings. I’ll instruct experts, develop the case strategy and ultimately advise you on the strength of the evidence and the likely consequences if you are convicted.
The advocate, who will normally be a barrister from the independent bar, will be responsible for the courtroom advocacy. In very simple terms, (s)he will take what you say has happened, formulate and ask questions of witnesses and make persuasive arguments and representations with the ultimate goal of obtaining you the best possible result. You’ll want, and I will instruct, someone who has spent years honing their court craft. Yes, you can conduct your own research but, in reality, you need someone, like me, who can tell you who the winners are, not because of what is written on their website or in a legal directory, but because I’ve seen them ply their trade and have first-hand experience of how they operate. A winning barrister will almost certainly be too busy in court to devote sufficient time to investigate your case, and that is how it should be. There is a very deliberate division of labour between the two roles and as the saying goes, you can be a jack of all trades but a master of none. If you are facing criminal prosecution, What you want (and need) is a master of advocacy.
Solicitors and barristers work together, in collaboration, for the client’s benefit
Your barrister and solicitor must work as a team; we’ll need to trust each other’s judgment and be confident that each is getting on with their respective tasks. I’ll make sure the advocate is aware of all of the prosecution material, and its implications, as well as the results of my analysis and assessment of the strength of the prosecution’s case. I’ll make sure that (s)he has a complete understanding of your instructions and we’ll work collaboratively to ensure that the evidence is thoroughly tested and that all reasonable lines of enquiry are investigated and that all of the relevant evidence is secured and preserved; the end goal is to enable the advocate to present your case in the most favourable light.
I’ll negotiate the advocate’s fee and will be responsible for its payment.