I was extremely fortunate to take part in the Internship at Olliers during the summer of 2022, being exposed to various exciting and interesting aspects of criminal defence work, within a reputable and award-winning firm.
During my internship with Olliers, I had the unique opportunity of attending the Manchester Magistrates Court with David Philpott, an expert advocate in his field. I had been looking forward to attending the court with the background knowledge of our client’s case – something which is inevitably not known whilst being a typical observer in the public gallery. The first case focused on the counts of damage to property and intent to cause harassment. Prior to the case hearing starting, we were able to visit the client in the court’s jail cell. I was really impressed with David’s open and clear approach with the client – taking his time to explain the merits of his case and the importance of his plea. It was invaluable reading the summary and facts of the case beforehand, and interpreting quite condemning counts which the client had been charged with. David demonstrated the importance of successfully recognising and pinning down the exact details which would help the client’s case – which naturally delivered a useful verdict and a good result!
A real point of interest in regard to the proceeds of law emerged within the second case at the Magistrates. In short, the client was charged with the breach of bail conditions. Due to unclear and muddled evidence provided on behalf of the prosecution to the defence, David was able to use this to his advantage and argue for a successful re-bail on what was typically a serious matter which on another day, could have resulted the client being put into custody. My biggest take away during my time with David at the magistrates, is the inevitable fast paced environment, alluding to an exciting career prospect as no day is the same and the cases are at times, endless!
On another day, I had the chance to observe a police interview at Ashton Police station with Helen Buxton. This was part of the internship which I had been looking forward to, considering it is not every day that you can sit in a police interview with a client – therefore I was very grateful to Helen for taking me on what is a thrilling part of the job. From driving up to the police station and discussing the case beforehand, to arriving and being escorted to the consultation room to talk with the client, Helen’s approach of empathy and relatability echoed to the highly skilled individual she is. Helen guided the client carefully through the charge sheet, and identified the weaknesses of the police’s charges against them. When it got to the police interview, the client was confident considering what Helen had advised him, with ‘No Comment’ answers throughout the short and sweet interview – I could tell the police were slightly annoyed. Honestly, at times it felt like it was a scene out of a tv-show or movie – I think it is more than fair to say that all of Helen’s clients are glad to have her in their corner. Finally, a huge thanks for the Starbucks Coffee Helen! The Satnav didn’t help with the directions, but we got to a coffee shop in the end.
I was incredibly grateful for everyone taking time out of their day to talk more about the firm and their role, as well as ask me questions about myself – everyone at the firm is greatly interested in you and your background. During some free time, I was able to speak to former Interns who are now working at Olliers, Hannah Poole and Hope Rea. Both were genuinely interested in my background and what brings me to criminal law, as well as providing a useful insight into their career routes. Considering Hannah had just finished a gruelling two-hour client call, she was very enthusiastic and extremely kind in talking about her career progression and some tips for a law student in my boots.
Additionally, I was able to talk to Matthew Claughton, the Managing Director, about an area in which Olliers are leading the way within the criminal legal field of pre-charge engagement. This field helps alter the playing field for criminal defence firms, taking a more proactive rather than reactive approach in dealing with police enquires – and Matthew was able to explain the importance in which pre-charge work at Olliers attracts clients to the firm. He was also able to comment some ways in which Olliers were getting involved in new and exciting areas within criminal defence work, something I will definitely keep an eye on in the future!
David Abbot, the head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Olliers, emphasised the importance of the strategies within the firm in terms of employee wellness and the role of a law firm within the wider community – which are particularly important considering the role of criminal defence solicitors can engage in some wearing and emotionally difficult work.
My advice for future interns
My advice for any future interns would be that; the experience is what you make of it – reach out and don’t be shy to talk to anyone and everyone at the firm. It was compelling listening to everyone’s unique and completely different routes to the firm, and has greatly opened my eyes to no ‘set’ or ‘traditional’ way to become a solicitor or legal adviser. Take interest in finding out the different procedures and areas within criminal defence work, and don’t let the preconceived notions that ‘criminal defence work doesn’t pay’ blind you from the reality that it is an integral part to the criminal justice system. Finally, don’t be shy in having a sneak peek into the many cases that the firm are involved in on the case management system– some are a captivating read!
A final thank you to Olliers Solicitors for taking the time to produce an enriching and proactive Internship opportunity, and a special thanks to everyone who made the experience friendly and welcoming.