Maybe the profession should club together and help give TV solicitors a voice.
It always makes me wince how solicitors are portrayed on television, especially in crime dramas. Their role is usually to watch appalled as the defendant confesses everything. The solicitor does not spend any time taking instructions or giving advice. And no matter how badly the interviewing officer behaves the solicitor does not react.
They must have nerves of steel as the star playing the detective shouts, screams and utters various threats but the solicitor never intervenes.
I was watching a programme this week where the lawyer merely sat in the corner and had no lines to say at all. His only contribution was to stand up when the officer was threatening the suspect and then meekly sit down when told to. An extra with no lines to say is cheaper than an actor who would protest, send for the superintendent and get out his copy of PACE. The scripts often refer to legal concepts that are old-fashioned, if not wholly out of date.
These crime dramas have advisers to make sure the technical and scientific side is accurate, so why not the legal part?
In French crime dramas the lawyers have much more fun. They are smart, popular and sleep with virtually everyone including the judge and the client. Looking at their glamorous clothes they make plenty of money.
As a positive, it is good that the extras chosen for solicitor roles now tend to be younger ones and more representative than years ago. The middle-aged, white middle-class golf club member has hopefully disappeared.
In French crime dramas the lawyers have much more fun
But does art mimic life? I don’t think so. Solicitors have a vital role in communication and ensuring interviews are fair. Our role is not portrayed accurately on television. Perhaps realism does not make good drama but this means that it is not surprising that we receive no public support when duty solicitor services are cut.
I think the profession should club together and pay for a few lines for the ‘solicitors’ in these situations.
David Pickup is a partner at Aylesbury-based Pickup and Scott