Being charged with a criminal offence is stressful, and you may not know where to start. If you find yourself in this position, know that the absolute first thing you should do is find a criminal defence solicitor to guide you on next steps. That said, even finding the right criminal defence lawyer in and of itself can be stressful. This guide is here to help you if you have been charged and are looking for a criminal defence solicitor in London.
The first thing to know is that solicitors and barristers are different types of lawyer, and if you’ve been charged, you need a solicitor first. Solicitors deal with the public, while barristers appear in court and are hired by the solicitors to deal with their matters before a judge.
The most common way of finding a criminal defence solicitor you can trust is through referrals from friends, family, and colleagues. In this way, a person can recommend a solicitor that has represented them before, and if they are referring you, then generally the solicitor did a good job. But criminal matters can often be private matters, so referrals might be hard to find.
These days, many would start by Googling something like ‘criminal defence solicitor in London’ and find a host of results – some of them good, some of them bad. You can get a good idea of your options this way – look for websites that offer lots of advice in terms of articles, examples, and that prove their track record by detailing their notable cases.
Another good way to find a criminal defence solicitor is through the Law Society website. The Law Society has a list of the licensed solicitors in the United Kingdom and can link you to them through a tool called Find A Solicitor. Find A Solicitor is free and only shows you lawyers under the authority of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which keeps track of the solicitors’ compliance with a comprehensive set of rules. Importantly, you can search by issue and area, so it will be easy to find a registered criminal defence lawyer in London.
Often when charged with an offence, your case will be referred to the appropriate court in the area the crime was allegedly committed. There are Magistrate’s Courts, which are local courts and are presided over by a Magistrate. Then there are Crown Courts, which have circuit judges that deal with criminal cases involving jury trials. The High Court will hear the most serious of offences. The Appeal Court will take on, as the name suggests, appeals from the other courts. Your case may be taken on in any of these courts, as applicable, but know it is unlikely your case will get to the higher courts 95% of the time. But what if your case is in London?
The best way to find out if a criminal defence solicitor covers the London area and the courts in London is to ask them, either over the phone, email, or at a no-obligation consultation. They will be aware of their rights of appearance (i.e. where they are allowed to help people) and can advise you accordingly.
If you are still in the process of finding a criminal defence lawyer and have not approached one yet, there are other ways to find out if they cover the London area. You can find out from the defence solicitor’s website.
Yes, but only to a certain extent. The United Kingdom is made up of three jurisdictions: England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Each jurisdiction has its own requirements to be a qualified solicitor in that jurisdiction. An exception to this is where a matter goes to the Appeal Court, which is the final court of appeals for the jurisdictions. Once qualified as a solicitor in that jurisdiction, they can practice law only there. For instance, a solicitor from England and Wales cannot practice law in Scotland or Northern Ireland, and vice versa.
So, if you have a criminal defence solicitor from outside of London, it is fine so long as they are qualified to practise law in England and Wales. If they are qualified outside of England and Wales, you will have to find a criminal defence solicitor properly qualified to practise in England and Wales. In the event your criminal matter is to be dealt with by the courts in London, it is highly recommended you use a criminal law firm from London (we at Stuart Miller Solicitors cover the Greater London area). This is because criminal defence solicitors from London will be familiar with the ins and outs of the London courts in particular, will know the court administrators, and often will be on a first name basis with the London judges.
You are not alone. When faced with a criminal charge, you are obviously scared of being found guilty, and criminal defence solicitors are there to help. But how do you know if your lawyer is any good?
If you have been referred by a friend, family member or colleague, you can find out about the criminal defence solicitor’s services from them. In today’s time, though, online reviews are also common and a good way to get an idea about a solicitor’s service. Reviews will often be star-rated and may have comments from previous clients. These can often be complementary or exceptionally harsh, which can give you an honest impression.
The other option is to interview your potential solicitor through a no-obligation first consultation. It is important to ask your potential criminal defence solicitor about things like their experience, communication skills, specialities, and their team. This will give you a good idea of what the experience of working with your lawyer will be like. It is essential that you are comfortable with your lawyer as well as confident in their abilities.
There are also registries that give awards to the top lawyers in a given field. These are the Chambers Guide and the Legal 500. By choosing the criminal defence solicitors in these guides, you will be receiving the highest quality and most excellent services.
A common concern is that your lawyer will bankrupt you, but this is not true. Criminal defence solicitors in London are often thought to cost more. However, the rates and fees criminal defence lawyers charge are based on a few factors like experience, speciality, seniority of the solicitor, complexity of case and seriousness of the alleged crime. It is important to keep in mind how much work goes into developing your case, your defence, and providing you with the best representation possible. On average, criminal defence solicitors in London cost £138-£409 per hour depending on their experience.
If a barrister is contracted to assist with your case, extra fees will be charged at the barrister’s own rates.
Once you’ve found a criminal defence solicitor you’re comfortable with, it’s time to officially hire them as your representation in your criminal matter.
Most times, this involves signing an agreement with your lawyer in the form of an ‘engagement letter’ or ‘terms of business’. This agreement will set out everything from the responsibilities of the lawyer to the costs and is a very important document. Costs will often be expressed as an hourly rate per team member on your case, with certain additions or exceptions. It is good to familiarise yourself with these details before signing. Ask your lawyer to explain anything you do not understand so there are no surprises.
Do not be concerned. In some cases, a non-disclosure agreement may be signed, but this is not always necessary. Solicitors are under a general duty to treat all confidential information you share with them and they share with you as entirely confidential. If they breach this duty, you may have a legal remedy to ‘make good’ the harm done (which usually means compensation).
If you have been accused of a crime and need legal representation, either before or during your case, know that Stuart Miller Solicitors are among the most highly experienced criminal defence solicitors in London, and the team has a strong track record of success. We can assist you if you have been arrested in London and are being held in custody, as well as if you need help with preparation for your trial and the trial itself. Contact us here for a no-obligation consultation.