PDA

View Full Version : British Lawyers



LimeyDawg
02-25-2007, 05:20 AM
One of the very minor characters in my WIP is a British Lawyer/barrister. My question is: how do these folks introduce themselves to clients? My MC is in jail and meets the barrister working for a Duke who offers him a deal. Here in the states they would likely just say "Hi, I'm John Saville and I'm a lawyer representing the Duke of Mellon." Anyone have any ideas? Also, if anyone knows what the inside of a British jail cell looks like, a description would be most welcome (no questions asked. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink)

frimble3
02-25-2007, 05:51 AM
I don't know anything useful about the British legal system, except for 'as seen on TV', but out of sheer curiosity, what is the Duke doing in jail that his barrister is paying him a visit? Also, are prisoners allowed to have visitors in their cells, or would it be a visiting room?

scarletpeaches
02-25-2007, 06:20 AM
Depends on where in Britain your book is set; there are different legal systems in each country in the British Isles. Even what we call lawyers is different.

pdr
02-25-2007, 06:30 AM
the word lawyer is not mentioned.

In your case your MC's solicitor would introduce him to his up and coming barrister or his expensively best-of-all experienced Queen's Council.

Solicitors deal with every day, mundane legal things. Your barrister or QC deals with legal matters in court.

Get the British TV drama series Judge?!!! Rats, I've forgotten the name. PM Scarlet Peaches. I'm sure she mentioned she was a fan of this series. It will show you how the courts work, the inside of court cells and the inside of a British prison.

LimeyDawg
02-25-2007, 06:53 AM
I don't know anything useful about the British legal system, except for 'as seen on TV', but out of sheer curiosity, what is the Duke doing in jail that his barrister is paying him a visit? Also, are prisoners allowed to have visitors in their cells, or would it be a visiting room?
LOL, no, no, my main character is a petty thief who stole something that the Duke wants. The barrister is sent to secure his release with a "deal he can't refuse"....

LimeyDawg
02-25-2007, 06:55 AM
the word lawyer is not mentioned.

In your case your MC's solicitor would introduce him to his up and coming barrister or his expensively best-of-all experienced Queen's Council.

Solicitors deal with every day, mundane legal things. Your barrister or QC deals with legal matters in court.

Get the British TV drama series Judge?!!! Rats, I've forgotten the name. PM Scarlet Peaches. I'm sure she mentioned she was a fan of this series. It will show you how the courts work, the inside of court cells and the inside of a British prison.
So, would it be improper for this character to introduce himself as "John Saville, Q.C."? He is the "lawyer" for the Duke, handling most of his legal matters, so would it be improper to expect him to be Q.C.?

scarletpeaches
02-25-2007, 06:56 AM
Either Judge John Deed (which I don't watch) or Kavanagh QC, which I loved.

Gawd rest John Thaw. :)

scarletpeaches
02-25-2007, 06:56 AM
So, would it be improper for this character to introduce himself as "John Saville, Q.C."? He is the "lawyer" for the Duke, handling most of his legal matters, so would it be improper to expect him to be Q.C.?

He might say something like, "I'm John Saville, Lord Thingummybob's QC."

LimeyDawg
02-25-2007, 07:01 AM
He might say something like, "I'm John Saville, Lord Thingummybob's QC."
Brilliant! Thanks. Errr, anyone you know spent the night in the Witney (Oxon) jail? I'm trying to get some realism in the book. It's a long shot, I know, but just yesterday I met a woman who lives near Chipping Norton, where I was born. I currently live in Florida, so who knows, lol.

scarletpeaches
02-25-2007, 07:05 AM
I don't think, if it was one night only, they would be put in jail. British jails are WAY overcrowded. A night or a weekender would probably be spent in a police station, and there would be opportunity for the 'prisoner' to spend time alone with the QC.

The QC would have to claim to be the prisoner's own lawyer to have access to him, alone, and it would stick out that this guy had a silk for a lawyer rather than a 'duty solicitor'.

Normally the police officers at the station say if you can't afford a solicitor one will be provided for you (the duty solicitor). But if the prisoner already knew the QC, he could call him in and claim, "He's my lawyer. Get him in here, now."

I don't think the QC would be able to get in unless the prisoner okayed it, or sort of wangled his way in by hearing of the crime and stepping in quickly and volunteering his services, but how would the QC know who this guy was, what he'd done and which police station was holding him?

LimeyDawg
02-25-2007, 07:10 AM
I don't think, if it was one night only, they would be put in jail. British jails are WAY overcrowded. A night or a weekender would probably be spent in a police station, and there would be opportunity for the 'prisoner' to spend time alone with the QC.

The QC would have to claim to be the prisoner's own lawyer to have access to him, alone, and it would stick out that this guy had a silk for a lawyer rather than a 'duty solicitor'.

Normally the police officers at the station say if you can't afford a solicitor one will be provided for you (the duty solicitor). But if the prisoner already knew the QC, he could call him in and claim, "He's my lawyer. Get him in here, now."

I don't think the QC would be able to get in unless the prisoner okayed it, or sort of wangled his way in by hearing of the crime and stepping in quickly and volunteering his services, but how would the QC know who this guy was, what he'd done and which police station was holding him?
Thanks Scarlet. I've been out of England so long I've forgotten. No, the way I get around this is that the Chief Constable of that particular police force pulls some strings, and the watch officer is in on the game. You have pointed out a few things I'm going to have to clear up, but it is an easy fix for my book.

As to the jails, I should have clarified Police Station, because that's what I meant. My MC steals some money, ends up trespassing on the Duke's property, gets caught, ends up in the police station overnight....(Of course, since I am expecting this book to be an international blockbuster, complete with movie rights and a snazzy video game, I can't go into details, lol.) It is a minor detail, but it's a detail I want to get right...

scarletpeaches
02-25-2007, 07:15 AM
There's no problem with them having a private chat, though. Due to the lawyer/client privilege, no one has the right to listen in, or to know what they discuss in private. It's just setting up this private chat that might present a few problems.

You mentioned England, so I'm assuming that's where in Britain this book is set, which is handy. There are a lot more TV shows dealing with the English legal system than the Scottish. For a start I don't think we even call them QCs up here.

But all over Britain, the lawyer/client relationship is sacred, like the doctor/patient one, or clergyman/worshipper.

LimeyDawg
02-25-2007, 07:21 AM
See, this is what I love about fiction. I can write my characters into and out of any situation. My MC happens to be in no position to argue with the arangements, which are to his benefit, sort of...Thank you so much for the great help. I need to hang out here more often.

scarletpeaches
02-25-2007, 07:38 AM
As long as the MC has the QC's contact details to summon him, or the QC has some way of finding out what's happened to the character and has a way of announcing his presence at the police station, I don't see any problems beyond that.

pdr
02-25-2007, 07:55 AM
If this is England a petty thief would not be introduced to his QC by his solicitor using Christian names.

Americans always get this wrong.

The Solicitor would introduce the QC as Mr John Saville Q.C. If this man is a petty thief and it's the first time he's had or met the solicitor it would Mr James Smith the duty solicitor or Mr Smith The Duke of Blah's solicitor.

And your thief would get an ear-full if he tried to address either as anything other than Mr Saville or Mr Smith.

LimeyDawg
02-25-2007, 11:11 AM
Yes, probably in reality. In my fiction, there is a pressing need for the QC to handle matters quickly. Thanks for the input

pdr
02-25-2007, 01:07 PM
and rereading your posts, Limey Dawg.

If the legal chappy handles the Duke's affairs then he is his solicitor. QCs don't handle everyday legal stuff, only court stuff.

However as speed is the essence in your story then perhaps the QC could be a pal of the Duke's and arrive at the request of his Ducal pal. That is likely. The Duke's solicitor would also be from a large firm (often a firm containing relatives of the Duke's family) which would also have its own QCs on tap and quickly available.

Hope that helps a little.

waylander
02-25-2007, 01:50 PM
I agree that the Duke's solicitor would be the mostly likely man to handle this. However, if you want it to be the barrister then it would be entirely feasible that the QC was visiting the Duke socially - they could easily have been at Eton together.

LimeyDawg
02-25-2007, 08:37 PM
Man, the level of help here has been amazing and I appreciate everyone for the time they took to respond.
The reason I put the QC in instead of the solicitor is that some strings had to be pulled (when you read the book you'll see). The Duke and a few others are part of a secret society and they need something from my main character. Based on the feedback I've gotten here, I had it mostly right...mostly. Now that particular chapter of my book is much tighter. Thank you all. Hopefully I can repay the help at some point in the future.

LimeyDawg
02-25-2007, 08:39 PM
If this is England a petty thief would not be introduced to his QC by his solicitor using Christian names.

Americans always get this wrong.

The Solicitor would introduce the QC as Mr John Saville Q.C. If this man is a petty thief and it's the first time he's had or met the solicitor it would Mr James Smith the duty solicitor or Mr Smith The Duke of Blah's solicitor.

And your thief would get an ear-full if he tried to address either as anything other than Mr Saville or Mr Smith.
LOL, well, I was raised in England so I know that much, at least. The formality is important and it was written with this in mind in my chapter. Thanks for the help.

ideagirl
02-25-2007, 10:49 PM
Depends on where in Britain your book is set; there are different legal systems in each country in the British Isles. Even what we call lawyers is different.

That's a good point, although stated a little too broadly. I assume he was talking about Great Britain, i.e. England, Scotland and Wales. So in that case, there's the England and Wales bar (i.e. one legal system, and one bar exam, for both countries), and then the Scottish bar, which is a separate system; England and Wales are "common law" systems like the USA, but Scotland uses a system that's a lot closer to civil law (i.e. like continental Europe). As long as he keeps his story in England or Wales, he'll be less likely to make major errors, because their system is more similar to ours than Scotland's is.

ideagirl
02-25-2007, 10:56 PM
LOL, no, no, my main character is a petty thief who stole something that the Duke wants. The barrister is sent to secure his release with a "deal he can't refuse"....

In that situation, I doubt it would be the barrister who was sent. As other posters noted, the barrister is the lawyer who actually represents you in court. The litigator, in other words. Why a barrister would come to a jail to make this deal I can't imagine. The duke probably wouldn't even have a barrister, because you only need a barrister if you're suing, being sued, or being charged with a crime (i.e. if you're going to court). But the duke would have a solicitor, I mean, he would probably have a solicitor on retainer to whom he turns every time any random everyday legal issue comes up (buying a house, drafting a will, etc.). So it would strike me as more realistic if the duke sent his solicitor down to the jail to make this deal.

ideagirl
02-25-2007, 11:00 PM
The reason I put the QC in instead of the solicitor is that some strings had to be pulled (when you read the book you'll see). The Duke and a few others are part of a secret society and they need something from my main character.

But strings are normally pulled on the down-low, I mean, under the table. So the strings could be pulled, I mean the QC could be involved, without the QC actually going to the jail to talk with the thief. If the thief is in jail already then presumably the charges have to be dropped to get him out (is that part of the deal?), and maybe the QC would be somehow involved in that, but that wouldn't happen at the jail; the thief wouldn't be there when that happened. That's just one example, but my point is that having the QC physically go to the jail is a different thing than having the QC pull strings to bring about this deal.

LimeyDawg
02-25-2007, 11:02 PM
In that situation, I doubt it would be the barrister who was sent. As other posters noted, the barrister is the lawyer who actually represents you in court. The litigator, in other words. Why a barrister would come to a jail to make this deal I can't imagine. The duke probably wouldn't even have a barrister, because you only need a barrister if you're suing, being sued, or being charged with a crime (i.e. if you're going to court). But the duke would have a solicitor, I mean, he would probably have a solicitor on retainer to whom he turns every time any random everyday legal issue comes up (buying a house, drafting a will, etc.). So it would strike me as more realistic if the duke sent his solicitor down to the jail to make this deal.
The barrister is a friend of the Dukes, a cohort, and well-connected to "pull a few strings". It's a minor detail. This is a fictional work, so I'm taking a little license with how things would happen if it wasn't a book about magic. Thanks for the input.

LimeyDawg
02-25-2007, 11:04 PM
But strings are normally pulled on the down-low, I mean, under the table. So the strings could be pulled, I mean the QC could be involved, without the QC actually going to the jail to talk with the thief. If the thief is in jail already then presumably the charges have to be dropped to get him out (is that part of the deal?), and maybe the QC would be somehow involved in that, but that wouldn't happen at the jail; the thief wouldn't be there when that happened. That's just one example, but my point is that having the QC physically go to the jail is a different thing than having the QC pull strings to bring about this deal.
I see I've created some intrigue, maybe I'll post that chapter on the SYW board...maybe. Thanks for the insight.