Lawyers are also known as solicitors. They advise clients about the law and act on their behalf in legal matters. Legal issues can be confusing and complex. A lawyer guides people through legal processes. They let clients know what choices are available, and answers their questions. Some lawyers join the government agency called the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). They act to prosecute people for crimes. Those that act to defend people accused of crimes are generally known as lawyers or solicitors. With the high-profile depiction of criminal lawyers in TV dramas and movies, being a criminal lawyer is seen as an increasingly attractive career. There are lots of different types of law – civil law, property law, environmental law, and public law are just a few examples. Lawyers will specialise in the types of law they are most interested in. Criminal law is another type of very specific law that relates to crime. It focuses on conduct which is threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering. This can be to the property, or to the health, safety, and moral welfare of people. Criminal lawyers specialise in defending people in these sorts of cases. With increasing crime rates and the complexities of crime, there is a shortage of criminal lawyers in recent years. This means the position is increasingly well-regarded and well-paid.
What Does a Criminal Lawyer Do
Criminal lawyers specialise in defending people in cases involving conduct which is threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering. This can be to property, or the health, safety, and moral welfare of people. They work from solicitors’ offices and make money by getting clients to pay them for advice and support. Each client will be billed individually for the amount of time a criminal lawyer has spent on their case. This means part of every day will involve keeping accurate records of how time is spent. Types of work falling within the remit of a criminal lawyer include:
- Advise and represent clients in court.
- Brief and instruct barristers or advocates to act for clients.
- You will draft confidential letters. You will also draw up contracts and legal documents.
- Conduct research into legal records and case law.
- You also need to keep up to date with changes in the law.
- Attend meetings and negotiations.
- Manage finances.
- Prepare papers for court
You would also work with the wider criminology family. This means working with many other highly specialised professionals.
Who Employs Criminal Lawyers
Criminal lawyers work in legal practices. They are then hired by individual clients to advise and support them during a legal process. Criminal lawyers work from solicitors’ offices. You make money by getting clients to pay for advice and support. Each client will be billed individually for the amount of time you spend on their case. This means part of every single day will involve keeping accurate records of how time is spent.
Job Salary for a Criminal Lawyer
The official UK Government statistics on the job salary for a criminal lawyer places the starting wage at £25,000. This can rise to £100,000 for those who are very experienced and run their own legal firms. Another source estimates the average criminal lawyer’s salary in the UK to be £41,835.78. This is based on a recorded minimum of £24,063. It can rise to a maximum salary of £59,928. Some other figures are useful to allow you to compare salaries. In the UK, the national average wage is estimated to be around £30,000 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The current National Living Wage must be paid to people aged 23 and over. This means the minimum untaxed income for a 40-hour week is over £21,000 per year. As with other jobs, there are significant regional differences in the salary of a criminal lawyer in different parts of the UK. Criminal lawyers in London and the South East of England are, like other professions, paid more than in other parts of the UK.
How Often is a Criminal Lawyer Normally Paid
Criminal lawyers can normally expect to be paid a salary every month. On top of this, criminal lawyers who are partners in their businesses will also get dividends related to the profitability of their legal firms.
Who Negotiates a Job Salary for a Criminal Lawyer
The salary levels of criminal lawyers are usually negotiated between you and the legal firm you have joined. The company will make income from charging for a solicitor’s time to a client. The company will also charge Legal Aid costs to the court system. They also charge clients in different ways including:
- A no-win, no-fee agreement.
- Damages-based agreements.
- Free or one-off payment advice.
The amount of salary a criminal lawyer can make will vary. This will depend on the type of work you are undertaking.
What Sort of Contracts Do Criminal Lawyers Have
Private-sector criminal lawyers will have permanent contracts. These will set out their expected hours and salary.
After completion of the training, a criminal lawyer’s pay can increase over time. There is often significant variation. Senior criminal lawyers who join legal practices can expect to have more flexibility over cases. This leads to greater fee potential. They will also make more from the dividend payments which shareholders in legal firms can get.
How to Become a Criminal Lawyer
Understanding the educational and training requirements to become a criminal lawyer is important if you want to become one. You will need to have a degree or more specialised training in order to qualify.
Qualifications/Courses – Criminal Lawyer
To become a criminal lawyer, you can either follow the accredited degree process or take another course. There are four main routes into the profession:
- A university course in law or a related field is the usual route. To get into the university you will need the right entry grades. Some universities will also ask you to pass the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT). Once you have passed your degree, you then need to pass parts 1 and 2 of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). You then find work as a trainee solicitor and do a further two years of work experience. After this, you can apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to be recognised as a practising solicitor.
- A legal apprenticeship usually takes 5 to 6 years and also needs you to pass your SQE and apply to the SRA.
- Working toward a role within a legal firm can also lead to a qualification as a criminal lawyer. To achieve this you would need to achieve a qualification through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx). After that, you need to pass your SQE and apply to the SRA.
- Following the traditional solicitor route is possible until 2032 providing you started a suitable learning route before 2021. This is when the qualification system for solicitors was overhauled.
General Skills Required
- Outstanding verbal communication skills are needed. In particular you must have the ability to pitch information to a client or in a courtroom.
- A very strong grasp of the English language is essential. You must have a skilled ability to use it effectively and persuasively. It is important to always use plain English to explain complex legal matters to clients.
- Active listening skills are needed.
- Strong emotional resilience and a calm temperament are a must. You must have the ability to work well under pressure.
- You must be a good team player. This means being able to work constructively with others carrying out aligned tasks on a case.
- You must have the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure.
- Superb research skills are always required. This is especially true in processing case files and thinking laterally. You will also need to be highly organised, have a very good eye for detail, and have a good memory.
- Extensive computer literacy is needed. You must be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently. This is needed in order to advise clients, record information, and assist with accurate billing.
- Confidentiality relating to cases is always required.
- Skilled criminal lawyers must also be trustworthy in all aspects of their work. A clean Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is required. This is because you will be working with children or vulnerable adults.
Challenges of Being a Criminal Lawyer
- Any aspect of crime is challenging for all the professionals involved. But being a criminal lawyer can be especially challenging because of the severity and seriousness of the crimes. Representing dangerous criminals is inevitably a complex and challenging job. It comes with a great deal of stress.
- Criminal lawyers must be able to deal with highly complex cases.
- Exposure to unpleasant motivations, concepts and sights is part of the job.
- Maintaining a professional outlook is essential. You must treat everyone involved in the process with respect. No matter how difficult a person is, professionalism is essential.
- Some aspects of the job can also be boring. Being a solicitor involves a lot of desk-based research. This can be working through archives in search of information.
- Criminal lawyers must have the ability to accept criticism. You must also work well under pressure.
- You must always be prepared for the unexpected. This work can be exciting but is also consistently challenging.
Type of Person Suited for this Work
- An extremely innovative and thoughtful person makes a good solicitor. You need to apply problem-solving and diagnostic skills with confidence.
- Someone committed to the principles of justice and the justice system in general.
- A person with a genuine interest in crime and, in particular, defending criminals.
- Someone with a calm and patient outlook. You must also be able to deal with stress.
- A criminal lawyer must have the willingness to continuously learn about human motivation and criminality. You must be prepared to keep learning about new issues in criminology and the law. This must be done throughout your working life.
- You will be working with a wide variety of different people from different walks of life. There will usually also be a wide variety of ages. This will include the families of criminals as well as the criminal themselves.
- You will also need to be able to work sensitively and constructively with criminals. This applies no matter their crimes. You will always need to be objective in dealing with all individuals.
- Criminal lawyers will need to be precise in their use of language. This will be both with clients and those affected by crime. This is an issue in all aspects of the work. It is especially important in court appearances.
- Excellent problem-solving and diagnostic skills are essential for this role. Criminal lawyers must be able to deal with highly complex cases.
- Someone willing to learn as their career progresses is needed. You may well build up a specialism while working as a criminal lawyer.
General Expected Working Hours
The normal working hours for the actual solicitors’ practices will be between 8 am and 6 pm. The office will be open Monday to Friday. But criminal lawyers won’t be confined to this. As a criminal lawyer, you can expect to work at least between thirty-seven and fifty hours a week. Some of this work may well fall in the evenings and weekends. As a criminal lawyers you will also need study and research outside their standard working hours. You will need to familiarise yourself with the details of a case due to go to court. Some on-call work is likely at unsocial hours too if you are on a rota. This means you are covering weekends. You might be called into a police station or prison to deal with a client. Some criminal lawyers can also work part-time as their career and seniority progresses.
Location of Work
Criminal lawyers will be based in solicitors firms. These can be located in a variety of places. But your work will not just be confined to the office. You can expect to be in court much of the time, often in courts in different places. Some criminal lawyers will also spend time in police stations advising clients accused of crimes. You also work in prisons.
It is possible to build a successful and well-paid career as a criminal lawyer. Because of the shortage of criminal lawyers, promotion prospects may well be increased. The most common routes of career progression are either to become a partner or part owner of a legal firm. You could also take a job in a senior role in the Crown Prosecution Service. Some solicitors also work themselves up to become judges.