5 Things to Look For When Choosing a Criminal Solicitor
Updated: Mar 7, 2019
If you've been arrested for a criminal offence or worse still charged with one and are facing Criminal Court proceedings whether it is in the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court choosing the right criminal solicitor can, putting it bluntly, be the difference between being found not guilty or convicted and serving porridge.
Here are 5 top tips for the uninitiated to help you find the best criminal solicitor.
1. Bigger firms aren't always better. A big firm can sometimes have a policy of' pile 'em high, do 'em cheap'. They make their money off bulk guilty pleas. Legal aid now works on a fixed fee basis so if a firm can persuade people to plead guilty early on in the proceedings that means less work to do before the bill can go in. Not guilty pleas that require full trial preparation are not viewed by these unscrupulous firms as cost effective therefore their Solicitors are often under pressure to 'crack' or plead off cases quickly irrespective of whether there is a valid defense.
2. It is not the experience of the firm but the experience of the individual criminal solicitor dealing with your case that counts. Solicitors websites frequently list numerous successes achieved by the firm but if your criminal solicitor wasn't the one who achieved them they are unlikely to have any linked knowledge. Check the Solicitor you select will deal with your case from start to finish. You do not want to be fobbed off with a junior criminal solicitor, clerk or trainee.
3. You want someone who will fight your corner. The authorities have decided you are guilty by arresting or charging you. They are not going to all of a sudden apologise and drop the charges. Your solicitor needs to get stuck into them about the allegations, the crown witnesses and disclosure or lack of it. It is no good having someone who is in the Chambers and Partners legal directory and already part of the establishment if they are unwilling to rock the boat and fight your case.
4. Get someone who has had success on a disclosure issue. The Court rules are now biased towards the Crown Prosecution Service in that they only have to disclose material that they think they should. Clearly they want you convicted so whether they approach this test fairly is questionable. Most recent miscarriages of justice and overturning of convictions at the Court of Appeal have been to do with evidence helpful to the defense not being disclosed or worse still suppressed. A criminal solicitor well versed in disclosure arguments will be able to smell when the defense is not being told the truth or the whole story by the police and/or Crown Prosecution Service.
5. Should you pay privately - legal aid is still available for most Crown Court matters however it has been subject to some horrendous cuts over the last 20 years. The argument is that if you pay your criminal solicitor privately you are more likely to get all the work done that is necessary to prove your innocence. It is a matter for you but what many criminal solicitors are either unaware or unwilling to share with potentially lucrative private paying clients is that extra legal aid funding is available for things such as tracing and interviewing witnesses. It basically just requires the criminal solicitor to fill in an extra form and do a bit more work.
We hope this blog assists you in plotting the minefield of selecting a Criminal Solicitor. Good luck with something which is probably the most important decision you will ever make and will affect you for the rest of your life.
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