The next generation of criminal and regulatory defence lawyers

Written 8th March 2024 by Gareth Martin

Gareth Martin reflects on attitudes towards careers in criminal defence 

I recently took part in a student “Meet and Greet” event with other members of the team here at Olliers. The event was aimed primarily at university and LPC students ahead of the launch of our annual intern programme which opens at the beginning of April and which offers successful applicants the opportunity to work with the team for a week later in the year gaining hands on experience of the day to day life of a criminal and regulatory solicitor.

The event was an incredible success and it was a pleasure to meet so many intelligent, inquisitive and indeed enthusiastic people who are considering a role in criminal and regulatory defence work which are Olliers’ areas of specialism and have been for decades.

However, I couldn’t help but come away from the event a little disappointed, albeit not entirely surprised, because with each group that I spoke to, there was a very clear theme, that being that lecturers and tutors are actively discouraging students from considering a career in criminal defence. At first I wondered if it was specific to a particular university or college but it was not as we had students from a number of settings and locations and all had been given the same message.

This apparently damning indictment on our sector of the profession got me thinking about my own journey in law, including how and probably more so why after 15+ years I don’t regret the decision to go into the crime and regulatory sphere through choice as opposed to necessity.

I think it is fair to say that I was (still am) quite an opinionated, some might say argumentative kind of person.  I am not though someone who argues just for the sake of it or because I like the sound of my own voice (I don’t) rather I have always felt a real sense of satisfaction from helping people who may be down on their luck or those who find themselves in trouble where the powers that be clearly have a significant advantage in terms of time, people or resources and there is a real risk that without help, that person’s voice may never be heard.

I always got myself involved in community groups in the area that I lived and was never afraid to call anyone or anything out if I felt it was wrong and so a career in law was something I probably decided upon pretty early in my teenage years and defence work was the only area that I ever had any interest in.

Gareth’s early career in criminal law

I did every criminal law elective possible at university and at the college of law and when it came to looking for training contract I focused my attention on firms with criminal defence at the centre of what they did.

I was fortunate enough to be taken on as a paralegal with a firm that specialised in large scale fraud matters as well as serious and general crime. I received top quality training but more importantly, real hands on experience from a very early stage, something which happens with the trainees at Olliers.

Gareth’s career progression in regulatory law

I stayed with the firm for a number of years before moving on to join the criminal and regulatory investigations team at a national practice where I was allowed to develop further, working on some of the biggest fraud cases in the country at the time and working alongside stellar lawyers who were and still are leaders in the field. I again had several enjoyable and interesting years there before moving to a firm owned by a global speciality insurance provider where I honed my skills and began to focus more on my regulatory defence work which has since allowed me to take up a role as partner here at Olliers – none of this would have been possible had I been told stay away from criminal defence work, like the students we met at our recent event.

A career in criminal defence should be encouraged

As I said to the students who came to the event, a career in criminal and regulatory defence is not one to be shunned rather it is one that I believe lecturers, tutors and indeed members of our own profession should be encouraging, not just because there is a shortage of aspiring solicitors and barristers wanting to join the profession but because it is also a genuinely fantastic and rewarding career and lifestyle choice.

Why criminal defence and regulatory is a fantastic career

For those who have not closed their mind to a career in criminal defence I have highlighted just a few of the key factors that make this the best job in law (in my opinion)

  1. People – there are very few jobs where you will get to meet so many people from so many different walks of life, from the teenager accused of shoplifting for the first time to the hardened criminal with a string of previous convictions to the professional accused of misconduct or the small business owner trying to make ends meet faced with criminal and regulatory intervention.
  2. No one size fits all – no two days are the same and no two cases/people are the same. This makes the role challenging but exciting at the same time.
  3. Satisfaction – our sector is the ultimate distress purchase and so when you have been able to help someone navigate the criminal or regulatory process and achieve the best possible outcome for them then the feeling of a job well done is genuinely rewarding and more often than not also very much appreciated
  4. Development – because no two days or two cases/clients are the same, defence work is an area where you are always learning whether that be in terms of your legal knowledge or your own personal development as to how you deal with people and situations
  5. Collaboration – the work we do often requires a team effort which may be between you and the client or you, the client and counsel or sometimes experts. As such you are not in a silo and will be afforded the opportunity to work with other people and professionals across various different sectors, learning from but also teaching them as you do.

Those are just very brief thoughts sparked by the conversations we had at the meet and greet event but I suppose the main point I would like to make is that the sector doesn’t just need an investment of money for the likes of the courts, legal aid and such matters, the sector needs buy in from those responsible for educating the next generation of lawyers.

It is worth remembering that anyone could find themselves in need of a criminal or regulatory defence lawyer one day and if we continue with the discouraging rhetoric there may come a time when that distress call is not answered.

Olliers Solicitors – passionate about careers in criminal defence and regulatory 

At Olliers we are passionate in our commitment to encouraging new entrants to the profession. There may be a recruitment crisis in criminal defence but not at Olliers. 

In March 2023 we ran our first “Meet and Greet” event for students interested in a career in criminal defence followed up in 2024 by the most recent event. We have fostered relationships with the University of Manchester and presented guest lectures to their students on Miscarriages of Justice. In Summer 2023 we ran our fifth consecutive summer intern scheme of eight weeklong, paid internships. We recruit from the intern programme and have now employed eight of our previous interns.  

Given that most criminal law firms do not offer training opportunities, our level of commitment is exceptional. 

When trainees join the team as a permanent employee, we create a bespoke programme for them within the ‘Olliers Academy’. They also benefit from a training principal, and an individual supervisor and have access to senior mentors. Trainees are fast tracked through the Law Society’s ‘police station accreditation scheme’ and Olliers’ internal ‘pre charge accreditation scheme’ and Crown Court accreditation scheme. We encourage trainees and young lawyers to shape career development in areas of particular interest,  producing web content, You Tube content and assisting in training events.

We do everything we can to ensure that our cohort of young lawyers become future ‘Leaders in their Field’. 

Gareth Martin

Gareth Martin



Head Office


Satellite Office

If you would like to contact Olliers Solicitors please complete the form below

Contact Us 2023
Preferred method of contact