How many times have you as a lawyer sat reading or watching a fictitious account of a criminal lawyer and fume as you shout out ’that just simply does not happen.’. This is normally greeted at my home with ‘can’t you just give it a chance?’ But no. If a writer cannot even get the most basic details right the whole exercise for me is something I cannot be bothered to invest time with. If it is a book I will throw it aside with disdain. If a TV drama I will not watch it as soon as it loses credibility in its inaccurate portrayal of characters or events. If I read or watch court room or crime drama I prefer them to be from the US or from Europe because I am not sure how accurate they are. UK crime dramas which focus on lawyers rarely cut the mustard.
But here we have a fictional book ‘In the Blood’ by Ruth Mancini about criminal practitioners which will break the mould because it is written by someone who actually knows what she is talking about. Because the author is a practicing UK criminal solicitor herself.
It is a story first and foremost, but there’s a strong message – Legal aid law firms are operating on the edge of their margins, that access to justice is under threat and that the Daily Mail image of us as fat cats living off the tax payer is a joke (or would be if it was actually funny).
The lawyer character Sarah Kellerman in this chilling story makes several comments about how poorly we are paid for the amazing job we do and also how non-disclosure is a big issue. See a short review here: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/reviews/just-out-new-books/5066982.article
The author explains without condescension to the layman about equality of arms – and the lack of it being so dangerous.
From my point of view though, what I am happy to report is that it does redress the TV image in police dramas of solicitors as idiots who doze through police interviews while the police are heroes. Or where they give random and inappropriate sporadic advice ‘don’t answer that question’ for no apparent or good reason. Or where they fail to intervene during the grossly unfairly conducted interviews. Fiction often ignores the vast amount of advocacy solicitors do on 93% of criminal case cases that come before the courts.
I know that TV/film scouts are interested in this book. I believe Radio 4 Women’s Hour may cover it from the point of view as to how this book became written, and its inspiration which I suspect has a lot to do with the magnificent work that Solicitors and barristers still manage to do, despite adverse circumstances due to Legal aid cut backs and disclosure problems.
So to all you heroes of the profession this book may be for you as it was inspired by you. I have always thought that one day someone might write a fascinating but accurate story about the role of a criminal solicitor. Sometimes, as I recently said in a speech, you do feel as if you are in drama because what we do is at times quite exciting and adrenalin pumping. https://mintedlaw.wordpress.com/2018/07/18/robin-murrays-address-to-the-young-fabian-lawyers-network-and-young-legal-aid-lawyers-the-secret-barrister-book-club/
But of course as a thriller it will reach far beyond the profession. But I feel it might be good for you to take this thriller away with you on your summer holiday despite it being a seriously chilling read. It is getting 4 and 5 star reviews everwhere.
Now I should declare a personal but not financial interest. Ruth Mancini is a pseudonym for a solicitor whom I know personally at Tuckers Solicitors. In fact she is my file supervisor (we all have to have these under the regulations and our firm’s contract). Now I have written this positive piece do you think she might go easy on me next time she reviews my files? No? Neither do I. Not a chance. Oh well at least she has given me a good read that I will definitely not be throwing across the room in disgust saying ‘that just wouldn’t happen’ because the author knows it just might. Hope you enjoy this. Published by Head of Zeus but available shortly in all good bookshops and on Amazon from 9th August.
Enjoy it everyone. Especially if you are a legal aid lawyer. You deserve to for all the fabulous work you do.
Robin Murray is a solicitor who founded Robin Murray and co on the 1st June 1988, which grew into a multi branch firm now known as the ‘Tuckers Kent Branch’ which is a combination of the might of firms of Robin Murray & Co and Kent Defence who merged as part of the nation-wide leading criminal defence firm Tuckers Solicitors.
Robin is a former winner of the Legal Aid Lawyer of the year award, plus a Kent Law Society Outstanding Achievement Award, and was nominated for Law Society Gazette Legal personality of the Year award.