Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Crown Prosecution Service

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

Why did you choose this organisation over any others? ‘Being from a non-fee paying school, working class and ethnic minority background, the firm’s merit-based “Success Profiles” recruitment policy stood out to me’, ‘amazing people to work with and the role itself is rewarding’, ‘once I qualify I will be a full time advocate in the Magistrates Court, something I would not get anywhere else’, ‘the criminal law opportunities’, ‘I already worked here and enjoyed the type of work and the culture of the organisation’

Best thing about the organisation? ‘The significance of the work’, ‘the flexibility of hybrid working, the subject matter of the work and the opportunities to explore different areas of work and specialise’, ‘everyone is very approachable and happy to help’, ‘the flexi-working and hybrid-working policy allow for a maximised work/life balance, and the pension is a plus’, ‘the work is very interesting and the people are great’, ‘co-workers are very supportive’, ‘the variety of criminal work and expertise’

Worst thing about the organisation? ‘The pay is low for a job in London; particularly when you are prosecuting in court, you can incur substantial travel expenses’, ‘as it is in the public sector, the pay is less than in other firms’, ‘probably the legal tech – though this is expected at a government department’, ‘lack of social life’, ‘the pay’, ‘volume of work’, ‘being a government department, there is some needless bureaucracy’, ‘home working; I know this may be controversial to some, but I think trainees would benefit from being in the office more’

Best moment? ‘Seeing my work used in practice, in charges and in court’, ‘working with the Government Legal Department to negotiate a drop hands offer on a civil claim against the organisation’, ‘my secondment in real estate’, ‘working closely with my trainee supervisor on a manslaughter case’, ‘assisting an advocate during a week-long trial in the Crown Court’, ‘drafting legal documents for complex Crown Court cases and getting praised by the senior unit head for my work’

Worst moment? ‘Consoling witnesses/victims when the outcome of the court was not as expected’, ‘commencing training during Covid and sometimes feeling like I was thrown in at the deep end’, ‘some supervisors are not as involved as others when paired for training – however I have had a brilliant experience so far’, ‘trying to secure a secondment opportunity – it was very difficult!’, ‘role playing during the Professional Skills Course’

The Legal 500 Future Lawyers verdict on Crown Prosecution Service

Most respondents chose the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) because of ‘the important role it plays in the criminal justice system. Respondents were ‘committed to the organisation’s goal of delivering justice and, unsurprisingly, tend to ‘really enjoy criminal law’. ‘If you want to work in criminal practice, the CPS is by far the best place to train, explained more than one recruit. Several trainees wanted to work in the public sector, which they consider to have ‘many benefits’, job security being one of them. Indeed, CPS trainees are ‘encouraged to stay and grow’ within the organisation. The people at the CPS are ‘amazing’ and the best thing is ‘getting to work on highly-complex, interesting and sensitive cases of high media interest, and getting to see the value that your work has on the case’. Recruits love the ‘opportunities to explore many different units throughout the training contract’ and the advocacy: ‘in no other training contract would I have been able to conduct Magistrates Court advocacy. The hybrid-working policy at the CPS means that trainees don’t spend that much time in the office. As a result, they don’t get as much face-to-face time with supervisors as they would like, which ‘can feel a bit lonely’. The ‘pay, compared to independent law firms’ was also criticised, with some recruits arguing that ‘the employment benefits no longer sufficiently cover the disparity in salaries. On a more positive note, trainees’ best moments were far from run of the mill and include ‘securing a conviction for aggravated burglary on a case that I reviewed from start to finish’ and ‘helping on a conspiracy to import millions of pounds worth of heroin charge. CPS recruits did not look back fondly on the professional skills course nor ‘a secondment to do family law’. To be trusted with making meaningful legal decisions from day one of the training contract’, research the CPS. 

Interview with… Andy Madden, trainee solicitor, CPS

Andy Madden, Crown Prosecution Service

Departments to date: Crown Court Unit; secondment at Liverpool City Council; Magistrates Court Advocacy Unit

University: Northumbria University

Degree: Masters in Law – 1st Class Honours

What was your background before the CPS and why did you decide to apply to work at the CPS?

I always had a strong passion and interest in criminal law that stemmed from my parents’ jobs. I preferred my criminal law-based modules at university and never found myself immersed in commercial or corporate law. I obtained work experience at local criminal defence firms which solidified my interest in the sector before researching the CPS while at university. I applied because I wanted to make a difference to the local community and criminal justice system, specifically improving the experience for victims of crime. I am genuinely proud of the work we do, and it is clear that everyone in the organisation feels the same.

Tell us about your role. What do you do in a typical day?

As I am now two months away from qualifying and becoming a Crown Prosecutor, I am currently posted to the Magistrates Court Advocacy Unit and work from a range of local courts five days per week. A typical week while I am a legal trainee includes prosecuting my own courts independently two and a half days while shadowing a range of other courts the remainder of the time. Prosecuting my own courts is mainly guilty anticipated plea courts where 20-30 cases will be listed per day. I prefer preparing my cases the evening before, to ensure any last-minute issues can be corrected if necessary. The Magistrates Advocacy Unit carries a strong social presence due to the requirement to attend court every day. Conducting my own courts at this stage of a training contract is an opportunity that I would have not got anywhere else.

What do you enjoy most about the CPS? What are the best parts of working for the CPS and in your role?

No two days or cases are the same. From a very early stage, you will work on serious cases involving real people in real life situations. You are given a lot of responsibility and trusted to make important decisions, with the benefit of being supervised initially. Cultivating relationships with a range of organisations also enables the social side of the job to thrive. In my current unit, the work is high in volume, fast paced and unpredictable. However, prosecuting a significant number of cases each day provides rapid development from an early stage. Although the work is high volume and can be stressful, the organisation is flexible with working hours and taking ‘flexi days’. The period of training is a unique and precious time – you can really own it and have the scope to decide what you want to do. I have observed a murder and a manslaughter trial and other Crown Court advocacy, spent three months on an external secondment with the City Council and assisted the Crown Court Unit with charging advice on serious matters. I have spent the previous four months in the Magistrates Court Advocacy Unit which has developed my advocacy skills significantly.

What advice would you give to someone considering joining the CPS as a legal trainee?

If you’re looking to join the CPS, demonstrate a passion for criminal law and obtain work experience in the criminal sector – whether this is at the CPS or a local defence firm. Observe a Magistrates Court and get a feel for how the law operates in practice. Research the organisation, the values and the Code for Crown Prosecutors. This explains why we prosecute the cases that we do and will help you to understand the aims and ethos of the organisation further.

About the firm

The CPS: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) prosecutes criminal cases that have been investigated by the police and other investigative organisations in England and Wales. The CPS is independent, and we make our decisions independently of the police and government.

Our duty is to make sure that the right person is prosecuted for the right offence, and to bring offenders to justice wherever possible.

The CPS:

  • decides which cases should be prosecuted;
  • determines the appropriate charges in more serious or complex cases, and advises the police during the early stages of investigations;
  • prepares cases and presents them at court; and
  • provides information, assistance and support to victims and prosecution witnesses.

Prosecutors must be fair, objective and independent. When deciding whether to prosecute a criminal case, our lawyers must follow the Code for Crown Prosecutors. This means that to charge someone with a criminal offence, prosecutors must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction, and that prosecuting is in the public interest.

The cases: We regularly publish press releases on our website regarding successful convictions.

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.

What we do: The Crown Prosecution Service is the principle prosecuting authority responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.

What we’re looking for: We are looking for motivated individuals with a passion for criminal law. We are seeking 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: As a trainee solicitor, your day-to-day work will vary, and you’ll be involved in different parts of our legal work, including legal research and reviewing cases. In your first year, you’ll spend time shadowing our prosecutors at magistrates and Crown Court to allow you to observe a range of cases. During your traineeship you’ll get the opportunity to be based in a specialist CPS unit – such as the rape and serious sexual assault unit or complex casework unit.

If you’re a trainee barrister, one of the first things you’ll do is to shadow our advocates at magistrates and Crown Court – observing cases and seeing advocacy work in action. You’ll also have the opportunity to take part in a short secondment to a chambers. You’ll learn lots over the year, developing your skills and building up your advocacy work in court.

Perks: Civil service pension; access to employee savings; Cycle2Work scheme; 25 days’ leave, rising to 30 days after five years’ service; one extra privilege day entitlement to mark the king’s birthday; competitive maternity, paternity and parental leave; flexible working and a family-friendly approach to work; childcare vouchers (unless already registered with the Government Tax Free Childcare Scheme).