Criminal cases are commonly seen as a fight between adversaries of equal strength: the intrusive power of the State versus skilled defence lawyers advocating their clients' cause. The reality, according to this major new study, is rather different. The provision of defence counsel is often rudimentary and unsatisfactory. Based upon one of the largest studies of legal professional practice ever undertaken, involving nearly fifty solicitors' firms, this book offers a critical examination of the practices and organisation of defence lawyers in Britain from the moment of initial contact with clients through to the routine preparation and representation of defendants in both Magistrates' and Crown Courts, the authors show how defence lawyers discharge their obligations to clients. For the first time, this study reveals the role of paralegals and unqualified staff in providing defence assistance, and highlights how their inexperience and assumption of their client's guilt can critically undermine defendants' rights. The deficiencies highlighted by their research leads the authors to question the effectiveness of recent liberal and managerial reforms, with their excessive reliance on market-led considerations. The authors propose a cultural transformation in criminal defence work, a reassertion of the defendants' rights within an adversarial system, and offer constructive suggestions for improving defence services. Extensively researched and documented, this study is a major contribution to current debates about the criminal justice system, and as such will be required reading for all lawyers, scholars and professionals interested in the administration of justice.
Based on one of the largest observational studies of legal professional practice ever conducted, this book refutes the common conception of criminal cases as a fight between adversaries of equal strength, in which defense lawyers offset the intrusive potential of the State. The authors set their study against a background of the professionalization of criminal justice and the rapidly expanding state funding for criminal defense services. They examine the processes by which lawyers are educated and trained and make a detailed analysis of how cases are handled. The research reveals the significant role played by paralegals and unqualified staff in the delivery of criminal defense services and how their ideologies can undermine defendants' rights. The authors also question the effectiveness of reforms, such as allowing suspects access to legal advice in police stations or legal aid franchising. The book ends with a call for cultural transformation in criminal defense work leading to a reassertion of defendants' rights, and for the setting up of community legal defense centers to coordinate legal education, training, and service delivery.