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The Legal 500 Hall of Fame highlights individuals who have received constant praise by their clients for continued excellence.

Nigel Richardson, Partner and Head of Criminal Defence Department

What has been your greatest achievement, in a professional and personal capability?

Over nearly 30 years I’ve built up the Hodge Jones and Allen defence department. Its been a privilege to work with such talented and committed lawyers, some of whom I’ve trained but it’s been a reciprocal process and I’ve learned just as much from them. I’m proud of the team, its reputation and the fact that we fight hard for our clients who are often the most unpopular people in society. I’ve encouraged my colleagues to develop specialisms within criminal litigation with the result that we have some real experts in the team. It feels like a good place to be.

What do you do differently from your peers in the industry?

I deal with people who are at a crisis point in their lives. They have usually been accused of committing a serious offence and the consequences of this are life changing for them. I find I can empathise with their situation and I like to make order out of chaos, working out their defence early on, helping them mitigate the damage and putting things into some sort of perspective. Some of my clients are virtually suicidal when I first meet them and I hope this approach gives them the strength to carry on. I’m very non-judgemental and understand that my clients’ predicament is not just a legal one – it effects their work, their relationships and their sense of self and requires a holistic approach.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Well, obviously, buying those shares in Microsoft. Failing that, I’d say young lawyers should plan to ring the changes and keep their careers fresh. During my career I’ve been a duty solicitor, prosecuted cases, taught law, conducted jury trials, written a legal textbook, sat as a District Judge and managed a large team of professionals. I’ve ended up as an acknowledged expert in sexual offences. All of this has kept me on my toes, maintained my enthusiasm for my work and deepened my knowledge criminal litigation.

Can you give me a practical example of how you helped a client add value to the business?

I spent a lot of time last year trying to find social media uploads which indicated that a complainant had lied to police in her allegations against my client. We found it just before trial and, when we confronted the CPS with it, they discontinued the case. We had a good case but trials are never predictable and, had the jury found against us, an innocent man would have gone to prison for many years.

Within your sector, what do you think will be the biggest challenge for clients over the next 12 months?

The criminal justice system is reaching crisis point over the management of information. Huge amounts of information and communication is contained on ordinary people’s phones and devices. My colleagues and I have dealt with a number of high profile cases recently involving the failure of the prosecution to disclose electronic material that assisted the defence case. The challenge for the authorities is in identifying and analysing all of this material within timescales that do not prevent effective prosecution of cases; the challenge for defence lawyers is in working out where there might be helpful information and pressing the right buttons to get it.

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