The One Case
by Helen Newman
I was watching a well-known US medical drama series set in Seattle last night (ok, I give in, yep my guilty secret – I love Greys Anatomy!) and they were talking about their ‘one’ case – the patient that stays with you and influences every decision you make in the future as it’s always there in the back of your mind. Now I know that is just fiction but it got me thinking – is there really a ‘One’ case and client?
For me the answer is yes. And I think for my boss at least there is too. I know his ‘One’ – the client who drove him to strive to ensure that every client was served by an advocate trusting and believing him. So it got me to thinking about mine.
My ‘One’ was actually the first client who ever came to me for advice. She was a lady in her 40s charged with Drink Driving. Her reading was high – three and a half times the legal limit but this was a first offence and she had no previous convictions. She had been at a friend’s house and shared a couple of bottles of wine before forgetting she was meant to be walking home and instead drove the mile to her house.
En route she had an accident. She couldn’t tell me what happened; she didn’t really remember what caused it to be able to tell me. She had, allegedly, gone off the road and impacted with a dwelling. The police were called and arrested her for Drink Driving. She was in her car a little further down the road.
I was very new to the job – it was only my first ‘proper’ day having done a couple of days training before hand and I was, I’ll admit, overwhelmed. I could feel the responsibility of this lady’s fear and desperation. She knew, as did I, that for an offence such as this then custody would be a consideration for the court – potentially of up to six months. A truly terrifying prospect.
I didn’t do enough to comfort her, to support her through her fears. I know I didn’t. And I think it had a profound effect on how I relate to clients. When her barrister told me she was definitely going to prison I passed that message on. She panicked and cancelled her instructions to me, advising that if she was going to prison she needed to save every penny to help her children while she was away.
It didn’t occur to me at that time to fight for a different advocate for my client, to give her a different voice in court. (Incidentally we have never used that Chambers since – and this was almost 4 years ago!). Now I know I would act differently, I would fight to ensure that even though custody was a risk, that we had done everything possible to mitigate that possibility and to try to ensure that even if a custodial sentence were applied that it would be a suspended one.
In my interview I was asked how I would feel about working with Drink Drivers because my interviewer knew it was an emotive subject and that people can have strong feelings. I don’t remember my response but it can’t have been too bad because I was offered the job! In all seriousness though we know that everyone has a story, a reason. And that as black and white it can appear, that there is, in fact, a great deal of grey. And that same belief applies to almost every offence. Yes you may be guilty or not in the eyes of the law, but what is your story and why are you before the court. It is our job to make sure that the courts see you, see your story, and not just the offence.
Incidentally that client did not go to prison. She didn’t even get a suspended sentence.
If you want a team who will fight for the best possible outcome for you, who will make sure that you have a voice in court, then give Forrest Williams a call on 01623 397200. We will do our very best for you.