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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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