Finding your feet in the Magistrates’ Court

The Magistrates’ Court can be daunting for any legal professional, with the pressure to prove your advocacy skills in criminal court proceedings in a fiercely competitive environment.  However, it’s a crucial element of a career for solicitors operating within criminal law, and one that should be tackled correctly in order to be most effective. From identifying client needs to honing essential advocacy skills, there’s a lot that needs to be considered. So, for our blog this week, we wanted to share some of our top tips to help trainee and qualified solicitors get to grips with this integral part of your legal career, as you work to establish yourself in the criminal courts and legal industry as a whole.

Work with your client to find what’s right for them
According to The Guardian, more people are representing themselves during legal cases than ever before. In fact, the Magistrates’ Association found that a whole quarter of defendants choose to fight criminal charges without a lawyer. Transform Justice found the main cause of this action was due to the financial strain legal fees represent. It stated that some people of middle income cannot afford to employ a lawyer and many people earn too much to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to afford to employ a lawyer privately. This rising popularity of self-representation means that clients could often require added justification for your services and ultimately, a decision will be made based upon trust. Work with them to discover their concerns and determine what would equate to a favourable outcome for them. Be a reliable source of encouragement because after all, you’re the expert, so let them know they’re in safe hands.

Develop your essential skills
At Altior, we know that ongoing learning and development is crucial for helping legal professionals enhance their practical skills, which is why we run a module called ‘Finding your feet in the Magistrates’ Court’. This aims to equip solicitors with the essential skills and knowledge for advocating effectively and efficiently preparing you to conduct your appearances with confidence and professionalism. This course will delve into the pivotal elements of conducting a hearing in Magistrates’ Court, along with tips for delivering a solid pre-trial review and writing well-organised applications. Working to develop these new skills is a great way to ensure that you can walk into the courtroom knowing what to expect, helping to secure that all important outcome for your client.

Confidence is key
When presenting and compiling a case on behalf of your client, confidence and professionalism are two key skills which will prove essential. Work hard to prepare for any outcome and be ready to confront any obstacles with a calm, strategic outlook, whether it’s a non-trial issue or one that occurs in the Magistrates’ Court directly. Solicitor-Advocate Sarah Newens believes that it’s vital to be able to speak confidently and knowledgeably on your subject: “It goes without saying that if you are going to refer to the law, you must be able to quote it, have sufficient copies of any relevant case law with you, and that you have circulated it to your fellow advocates.” Additionally, the Lawyer believes that self-confidence is an essential skill when operating within the legal sector, so ensure you continuously look to develop this with additional Continued Professional Development (CPD) courses.

The Magistrates’ Court will be a fundamental experience for criminal solicitors but knowing what to expect and how to prepare for the worst is often what breeds success. With this in mind, our course, Finding your feet in the Magistrates’ Court is an essential advocacy module to have in your arsenal.  If you’d like more information about our upcoming Advocacy and Litigation courses or if you would like to book a place, please get in touch by calling 02920 451 000 or email us at

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