Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Crime Solicitors back in demand

28/04/08 Crime solicitor recruitment – back again on the agenda.

In recent weeks, there have been a whole new glut of duty solicitor posts coming onto the market. In the Law Society Gazette last week for example, I counted at lease 20 duty solicitor vacancies across the UK, but particularly in London.

This relates to the cut off point at the beginning of May for duty solicitors to register slots with a specific firm. Quite a lot of the firms we have been speaking to who have been looking for duty solicitors appear to be on the look out for duty solicitors who wish to sell their slots to them effectively, and simply act as consultants to the firm, doing occasional work on their behalf but making sure their slots are assigned.

If you are thinking of going down this route, be aware of a recent horror story that a solicitor in the Midlands experienced.

He had an agreement with a firm where he became their consultant and freelanced for them at courts being paid a percentage of each case he dealt with and a basic in return for his duty solicitor slots. However, when he started work for the firm, they took his duty solicitor slots, covered just about everything in house and left him with very little income apart from the basic for handing over his duty solicitor slots.

When he complained to them, the firm simply informed him he was no longer required, and retained his duty solicitor slots as of course, they are entitled to do.

Another solicitor in the north London area is currently suing a firm for their base payments and her duty solicitor slots as the firm registered her with them, took the duty solicitor slots and then never paid her for the 12 months they had her slot for. There are certainly plenty of honourable law firms out there who would not dream of such activities or behaviour, but there are certainly plenty of unscrupulous ones who clearly would.

If you are minding to go down this route, it is probably best to look at having some sort of contract with the firm, so that if there are any discrepancies further down the line, they can be addressed contractually rather than needing to rely on oral agreements or the honourable intentions of another solicitor.

Of course, the better option would be to try and find an employed position where a fair and decent wage is being paid, but in the current climate of firms trying to undercut each other desperately to be ready for contracting that is due to come in shortly, this is isn’t yet happening with the majority of firms and most seem to be simply trying to get their staff to work for next to nothing in return for staying in the profession.

Not a week goes by without a new telephone call from a disgruntled crime solicitor saying that they are experiencing the stress at work and wish to change fields or work for the CPS or government department. I would imagine that every time the CPS or government prosecution post comes up these days, the relevant department is inundated with applications from duty solicitors and other private practice defence solicitors desperately trying to get out of what has become a pretty awful field of law to work in.

As a former crime solicitor myself, I have to say that they only find the state of the crime strand of the profession to be quite depressing and hope that things change in the future for the better.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment (www.ten-percent.co.uk). www.crime-solicitor.co.uk is our specialist website for crime solicitors, particularly duty solicitors.

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