Clients have a choice, they can take pot luck with the duty solicitor, get a legal aid lawyer to deal with it (provided the family earn less than £23,000 a year AND there is a risk of going to prison) or appoint a specialist drink drive solicitor.
I am often asked ‘is it worth me having a specialist drink driving solicitor at court’. My response is always ‘only you can answer that, only you know how important your licence is to you’.
Would it make a difference if we found a way to keep your licence? Even if we couldn’t keep your licence would it make a difference if we could persuade the court to reduce the ban by a few months? What difference would it make to you if you could drive and get back to work a few months earlier?
I have sat in court listening to cases before mine has been called on, I have sometimes heard the duty solicitor represent 3 clients on drink driving matters before mine is called on. After the client has asked ‘how come mine ban was lower than theirs even though my reading was higher?’
Apart from the fact that we are specialists in this sort of case the difference is often the preparation. The duty solicitor will have arrived at court by 9:30, been given a list of up to 10 people wanting advice and then had to sift through those, read the prosecution papers for them all, take instructions, advised whether to plead guilty, checked the sentencing guidelines, filled in the clients means forms and then be ready to represent the clients in court. In fairness it’s no wonder they miss things.
As I sit in the interview room with my client I see a steady flow of customers queueing up to see the duty solicitor. I will have already spent at least an hour with my client on the phone going through the matter. I normally do this in the evenings when the client can relax at home and make sure they cover everything they want the court to know. We then arrive at court early, go through the papers in our own time. When we are ready we will go into court ready to present the best case for the client. Sometimes we are in before the harassed duty solicitor, sometimes behind her, but always fully prepared.