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Important Information

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Reception is closed until Monday 9 August.

Reception will be open from 9am-3pm every day from Monday 9 August until 8am on Tuesday 31 August inclusive (except for Results Days – 10 & 12 August – when Reception will be open from 8am-3.30pm).

Please do continue to use email as your first form of communication and bear in mind that many of our staff will be on annual leave during this period.

Please continue to check our website for any updates. FAQs with our latest information about Coronavirus (COVID-19) can be found HERE

James Yates

Solicitor Advocate at Martin Cray & Co

Current Occupation: Solicitor Advocate at Martin Cray & Co practicing privately funded criminal defence and civil litigation mostly. Now qualified for almost 3 years.

Secondary School: Longhill Secondary School.

A Levels: Politics, History, Law.

AS Levels: Maths, Physics.

Undergraduate Degree: University of Sussex – LLB Law.

Postgraduate Degree: University of Sussex (Chancellor’s scholarship) – LLM International Criminal Law.

Further Qualifications: University of Law - Legal Practice Course.

BHASVIC to me:

BHASVIC introduced me to the possibility that I would enjoy studying and practicing law and came about by accident during an open evening.

 I was left to wander around the law corridor while my mother caught up with an ex-colleague of hers (Neil Commin) and by the time they had finished catching up, I had my final option for AS level decided. I was going to study Law at AS level.

I loved studying AS and A level law and strongly believe that this introduction into the principles and process of practicing law gave me the enthusiasm and drive to pursue it as a career.

I found that the classes and teachers engaged with the topics being studied and encouraged us to think about practical applications for what we were learning. 

Work experience: 

From my first year studying law at AS level – I knew that this was what I wanted to do as my career and so in the summer between AS and A levels, I completed my first 2 weeks of work experience with Martin Cray & Co.

Martin Cray & Co is a firm of solicitors in Brighton who specialise in most forms of litigation (the process of taking an argument between people or groups to a court of law) and after my first year of work experience, I returned every summer for at least a month until I began working there full time 7 years later.  

I was particularly interested in practicing criminal defence and seriously considered taking the bar and becoming a barrister at one stage.

This interest resulted in my attending a 2-week, 12 Defendant, murder trial at the Old Bailey as a mini-pupil to Lewis Power QC and Ross Talbot. This experience – sat at the side of a court room filled with some the brightest legal minds in the country (Courtney Griffiths QC, Aftab Jafferjee QC, James Scobie QC and Michael Turner QC – to name a few) showed me what could be achieved at the very top of the criminal legal profession and gave me something to drive towards.

Further education:

I went on to study law at the University of Sussex and loved my time there. I loved the subject, although it is worth noting that you will not always enjoy every module (I detested land law), but on the whole I was deeply in love with legal study.

I ended my undergraduate degree with a high 2:1 and was offered a Chancellor’s Scholarship to stay on at Sussex to study a Masters degree. I chose to study international criminal law and loved every minute.

My masters allowed me to engage with a single subject in far greater depth than you can at undergraduate level and my masters dissertation (An analysis of aiding and under the Rome Statute with a focus on the sale and supply of weapons) remains the single biggest piece of work I have ever completed.

While at Sussex I participated in a number of extra-curricular competitions including national client interviewing competitions and both national and international criminal advocacy competitions. After I left Sussex – I returned to coach their criminal advocacy teams for 4 years.

After my Masters I went on to study for the Legal Practice Course (LPC) up in London which is a mandatory requirement in order to qualify as a Solicitor. This course seeks to bridge the gap between theoretical legal study and practical application of the law.

While I did not particularly enjoy this course – I think I was fed up of education by this point – it was a valuable exercise in understanding how what you learnt at University transfers into the real world.

Work after education:

After my LPC I gained a training contract for 18 months at Martin Cray & Co where I began developing my practice in criminal defence, civil litigation, private client and family law – while under the supervision of Martin Cray himself – a Solicitor Advocate with over 30 years’ experience.

I also undertook my Higher Rights of Audience examination so that when I qualified, I would possess the rights of audience to appear in any Court dealing with a criminal allegation. This provided me with a compromise between becoming a solicitor or a barrister since I now have the rights of audience of a barrister while practicing at a firm of solicitors.

I am now almost 3 years qualified and run my own Crown Court and Magistrates Court cases – both as the primary advocate and as the instructing solicitor to a barrister. Indeed – I am currently instructing both Lewis Power QC and Ross Talbott who I followed around 9 years ago at the Old Bailey.

While practicing law can be stressful and complicated at times, I cannot imagine doing anything else.

The thrill of a trial, the analysis of a complicated case, the strategizing of how to gain a good result gets me out of bed in the morning and engages me in the same way that it did when I first began studying it at BHASVIC.

If anyone has questions about studying or practicing law – please do not hesitate to contact me via LinkedIn or through Neil Commin.

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