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Criminal lawyers act in cases involving any form of criminal activity, for example violence, fraud or sexual offences. Many cases get local and national media interest. Defendants facing serious allegations will be tried in a Crown Court and such trials can last anything between two hours and several months, but will usually finish within a week. Less serious offences are dealt with in a Magistrates’ Court and trials will usually finish in a day or two.
Barristers tend to appear in Crown Court hearings, whereas solicitors are often restricted to appearing in the Magistrates’ Court. Solicitors spend much less of their time in the courtroom, but do essential preparation work and liaise with the lay client. Busy barristers may spend almost every day in court and often prosecute and defend.
Find LLM programs in Criminal Law
What you can expect
As a pupil barrister you will be involved in drafting legal documents and follow an experienced practitioner in their court work. After six months you will represent defendants in trials in the Magistrates’ Court and short hearings in the Crown Court. After a year you can begin to prosecute and may start doing trials in the Crown Court.
As a trainee solicitor you will attend police station interviews, assist counsel in the Crown Court and you will also be expected to manage your own caseload.
As part of your training you must anticipate hard work (sometimes at weekends), challenging people (including clients and judges), and long journeys, as initially it is unlikely that your practice will be based in only one city.
On qualification your work will remain incredibly varied and unpredictable. You will represent all sorts of people from drug addicts to business people.
Tips for success
You will need:
- Ability to deal with and understand people from different backgrounds
- Common sense & tact
- Use of plain but accurate English
- Attention to detail
- Time management skills
- Communication skills
- Quick thinking