Survey Results - Trainee feedback on The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

Why did you choose this firm over any other? ‘There are few to no better trainers in this field for me than the CPS due to the diverse areas of criminal law which the organisation covers and the diversity of training which we receive’; ‘I wanted to work in the public sector in a line of work I felt really made a difference to those in my local area’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The interesting and fast-paced nature of criminal law and the human impact we have’; ‘the ethos of the organisation and public service’; ‘the amount of flexibility we are given to tailor our training contract to our own interests’; ‘the atmosphere in the offices is so inclusive – you feel like you can approach anyone and ask a question’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The application process was long and drawn out. The stages themselves were fine but the time between them and then time taken to receive the decision was long’; ‘the work presents itself in large volumes with quick turnarounds so you need to ensure you make yourself available to assist as people are often busy’

Best moment? ‘Researching whether to add an additional count to the indictment on a blackmail case, deciding to do so and then obtaining a conviction for it and the police officer shaking my hand and saying thank you’; ‘charging a suspect with murder – they were found guilty by a jury at trial at the Old Bailey’

Worst moment? ‘Coronavirus impact! This is not the end of the world but it’s a shame it happened at the start’; ‘sometimes the emotion of the work at the CPS can get you down but there are support mechanisms in place to deal with this’

The Lex 100 verdict on The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

About the CPS: The Crown Prosecution Service is the government department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. As the principal prosecuting authority in England and Wales, it is responsible for:

  • advising the police on cases for possible prosecution;
  • reviewing cases submitted by the police;
  • determining any charges in all but minor cases;
  • preparing cases for court; and
  • presenting cases at court.

The verdict

The Crown Prosecution Service continues to impress both the Lex 100 and its trainees, winning a tremendous eight Lex 100 Winner awards for overall job satisfaction, living up to expectations, quality of work, work/life balance, confidence in being kept on after the training contract, financial remuneration, inclusivity, and the approachability of partners/ supervisors. For criminal law-minded trainees, the CPS sets a high standard for training with current trainees commenting that ‘there are few to no better trainers in this field due to the diverse areas of criminal law which the organisation covers and the training which we receive’. The CPS, being in the public sector, is different from other law firms in many ways, which suits some trainees, but it still follows SRA training programme standards. One respondent noted that ‘the traditional law firm set up is not for me and the chance to work in public services, prosecuting crime and feeling like you’re making a difference is exactly why I went into law’. The training is described as ‘self-directed’ and is ‘quite flexible compared to others; we have real control over how we complete the training contract. It has been quite hands-on with a lot of experience in court situations’. Trainees are offered ‘the flexibility to arrange my own secondments’ and they applaud the organisation and its culture of inclusion. With offices around the UK, a flexible working scheme and exemplary work/life balance, the CPS is an excellent option for those wishing to focus on criminal law and seeking the freedom to pursue a varied training programme within the sector.

A day in the life of… Max Hinchcliffe, trainee, The Crown Prosecution Service

Max Hinchcliffe, The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

Departments to date: Magistrates Court, Crown Court

University: University of Sheffield

Degree: Law LLB; Masters in Legal Practice

I joined the CPS in November 2019 after applying for the legal trainee scheme in February 2019. My educational background is fairly conventional, having attended the University of Sheffield for both my Law LLB and Masters in Legal Practice, before working in a variety of roles as a paralegal while applying for training contracts.

Truthfully I struggled to find my feet in the legal profession, not really sure how I fit in and in which area of practice. Criminal law always resonated with me due to the impact that crime has on individuals and society as a whole, but I was put off by years of pessimism from the profession with many stating that a career path in criminal law was untenable due to years of austerity affecting legal aid funding. The Civil Service had a recruitment freeze, so prosecuting never really came into my mind, and I looked to other areas in which I could forge a successful career.

After my Masters graduation in January 2019, I posted on LinkedIn asking if any of my connections knew about the process of becoming a magistrate, as this had been something I considered to engage my passion for criminal law outside my day job. It was at this point that I was put in touch with a mutual connection who is a District Crown Prosecutor at the CPS who offered me the opportunity to come to the Saturday courts with him to get a better taste of the atmosphere.

It was at this point that my passion to work in the area was reignited. I pictured myself on my feet in court delivering the Crown’s case with the same tenacity as the prosecutor did and knew immediately that prosecuting crime would suit me very well and be a career path in which I would excel. That prosecutor is now my training supervisor!

Since beginning in November 2019, I have mainly been placed in the Magistrates Court team, both observing advocates in court as well as taking part in the office-based role. This can take the form of providing pre-charge advice to the police, preparing files for each hearing, as well as drafting applications to court so that an effective trial can take place. My workload changes daily and the variety of work keeps me engaged and learning at every stage of what I do. Where I identify areas in which I am not comfortable providing information without further research, the CPS has a huge digital library of information that explains the law comprehensively and clearly so that prosecutors can conduct their work with confidence. I don’t know of any other organisation that invests so much in training so that we may each achieve our career goals and provide a vitally important public service.

I have recently started doing some work in the Crown Court team, assessing the evidence sent through by the police and making a determination on what further evidence we need in order for the Full Code Test to be met. This has really opened my eyes to the gravity of crime that occurs in society, and it has only bolstered my belief that the work we do is hugely important to the longevity of our way of life. I am also organising to spend time in our specialist prosecution teams, namely the serious fraud and Proceeds of Crime Act teams to get a better understanding of their work; in January 2020 I attended the Court of Appeal for a two-day hearing along with members of the serious fraud team and became fascinated with the work they do.

I cannot think of a better place to work. Everyone at the CPS is delightful and takes a genuine interest in watching you and your career develop, and knowing that I am part of such a supportive team and organisation is so reassuring. The job we have exposes us to humanity at its very worst, but knowing that we are supporting victims and their families through their experiences and achieving justice for them makes every moment worthwhile.

About the firm

Director of Public Prosecutions: Max Hill QC

Other offices: East Midlands, East of England, London, Mersey-Cheshire, North East, North West, South East, South West, Thames and Chiltern, Wales, Wessex, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside.

Who we are: The Crown Prosecution Service is the government department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.

What we do: The Crown Prosecution Service is the principal prosecuting authority in England and Wales.

What we’re looking for: Applicants with good oral advocacy skills who can present an argument in an ordered and structured manner. Good analytical and writing skills are also essential to the role.

What you’ll do: Trainees will work with their allocated supervisor to gain experience of all areas of CPS work. Trainees also have access to secondments in other areas of law during their time training with the CPS.

Perks: 25 days leave, rising to 30 days after five years’ service; eight bank holidays plus one privilege day; maternity, paternity and adoption leave; flexible working; interest-free season ticket loan; Cycle2work scheme; employee savings including ticket discounts, shopping voucher discounts, holiday offers; civil service pension.