Issue 1

Day in the Life of a Litigation Solicitor

The telephone rings, its 2.30 a.m. and the Custody Unit is on the telephone. A client has been arrested and is asking for my services. The Custody Officer advises me that the detention relates to an allegation of a domestic assault and that when I get to the Police Station the Officers will be ready to proceed with the interview.

I get dressed (not in a Court Suit!), and drive to the Police Station. I receive disclosure from the Investigating Officers – an indication of the matters upon which they wish to question my client and I then have the opportunity of consulting with my client in private.

The client is very distressed. He and his wife had a row, as a result of which there was a fight and both client and his wife suffered some injuries. She has made a complaint to the Police that he has assaulted her. I give advice as to how the interview should be handled based on the instructions that the client gives. However, such instructions can be difficult to obtain in times of emotion, especially at three in the morning.

The interview then proceeds, with the Solicitor taking care to ensure that the necessary rules of law are applied during the interview. If the client is becoming unduly distressed or requires further advice, the Solicitor can choose to stop the interview.

Following the interview, a decision will be taken by the Custody Officer as to whether the client is to be charged or whether proceedings are to be deferred. If proceedings are deferred the client will be bailed to come back to the Police Station on another occasion. If the client is to be charged, the Custody Officer then has to decide whether the client be given bail or not. It is a matter for the Solicitor to make any representations that the client wishes to be made in relation as to whether that remand should be in custody or on bail. The whole process usually takes two to three hours and it is only once the proceedings have been concluded the Solicitor can leave the Police Station to hopefully return to bed and grab a couple of hours sleep before getting up and going to the Office by 8.00 a.m.

My normal practice is to go in as early as I can and to prepare my paper work for the forthcoming day. The day begins with me looking at correspondence and documents before leaving for Court. Most Litigation Solicitors will find themselves in Court most mornings of the week and in my case the Court hearings normally involve criminal proceedings or Mental Health Tribunals. I would finalise my preparation for a hearing the night before and will arrive at Court to deal with a variety of cases. Courts inevitably involve a considerable amount of waiting time as all cases are normally listed to start at 10 o'clock and one can never be sure as to when your cases are going to be called. This always causes problems for a Litigation Solicitor who may not then be able to keep appointments which he has made to see clients in the Office or in hospitals. If one has been fortunate to complete the Court attendances during the morning sessions, I would normally return to my Office to undertake appointments with those clients whose cases are pending before the Court or Tribunals.

As a Litigation Solicitor invariably spends a lot of time out of the Office, at Court or Tribunals, appointments can run well after 5 o'clock. A Litigation Solicitor is always working to a time restriction – clients have to be fitted in for appointments with their hearing date in mind – it is no good seeing a client for a consultation after the hearing! After the conclusion of the appointments, I would generally undertake paper work, preparation of pleadings, file notes, statements, etc, and prepare myself for the cases of the following day, which could be a Mental Health Tribunal, a Criminal Case, or a Child Care Case.

No client is the same. People's approaches to their problems are always different; some need reassurance, some need guidance, some only want to be told of the likely outcome, and there are some who want to understand the details and the complexity of the legal process. All require a different approach and successful communication is crucial.

The life of a Litigation Solicitor is unpredictable and very varied and exciting. We tend to deal with clients when the need is greatest, their liberty is at stake and when they need help...even at 2.30 in the morning!

Nick Lewis