After qualifying as a solicitor and choosing to specialise in criminal law, Nick co-founded Lawtons Solicitors in London, which provides criminal defence legal services
How did you get started in law?
My A-levels were not law oriented, as I studied English, history, French, geography and general studies. However, I knew from an early stage that I wanted to study law at university.
I graduated with an LLB from the University of Leeds and was lucky enough to secure a training contract during my second year. The natural progression was to undertake the Legal Practice Course (LPC), which I completed at Nottingham Law School, before starting my training contract.
I then became a duty solicitor before achieving Higher Rights of Audience. This meant that I could deal with all criminal cases before all courts - ranging from magistrates' courts to the Court of Appeal and The Supreme Court.
How are your qualifications essential for this career?
While my A-levels were not law based, they still gave me a good grounding in the application of analytical skills and in how to go about constructing arguments by the articulation of coherent reasoning.
My degree and Diploma in Legal Practice were vital in my career progression, although my academic studies and qualifications have become less relevant as my experience and skills have developed with practical experience. However, without achieving the qualifications and grades that I did, my career may have taken a very different direction. Much of what I now do is based on judgement and experience, with the area of criminal law having seen great change.
Why did you decide to set up your own criminal defence law firm?
My business partner and I had worked together for a year before we decided to set up our own firm. We had been offered partnership at the firm, but upon reflection, we decided that we weren't satisfied with its long-term ethos or viability.
We believed that we could make a difference and deliver the highest level of criminal defence representation by starting afresh; by building our own firm from the ground up. Over the years, we've selected and recruited high quality candidates to develop both the ethos and direction of Lawtons Solicitors.
What's a typical day like?
Some days, I may be in a magistrates' court dealing with a selection of relatively minor offences, while at other times I could be working on a complex drugs conspiracy. Today, for instance, I'm at the Crown Court where I'm with Queen's Counsel and junior counsel for the first day of a trial where my client is accused of murder.
Given the management role I have as one of two company directors, I wear a number of hats and end up dealing with the full range of criminal offences while overseeing our various teams.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I still enjoy coming to court the most - that's the frontline of where many things happen and where we get to really fight for our clients and their interests.
What are the challenges?
They're not always where we think they might be. The wider economic issues with the criminal justice system present the biggest problems - for example, when dealing with cases under legal aid, which is vastly under resourced and underfunded.
How has your role developed?
My role has changed as the firm has evolved. The types of cases I deal with will often reflect my experience and judgement. Some clients fund their cases privately so that I deal with their case personally. However, I remain committed to ensuring that the firm delivers a quality service and representation that's integral and fundamental to a fair and just criminal justice system.
What advice would you give to budding solicitors?
Think carefully when considering the area of law that most interests you. Get as much practical experience in different specialisms before committing to a particular one.