So, Franklin – how have the past few weeks been for you and the team since The Briefs aired on ITV1?
In one word… hectic! The show has been in the pipeline for about a year and a half so there’s been a buzz and a sense of excitement knowing that we were going to be on TV. We were all slightly fearful about how we’d come across to our clients, the wider general public as well as our colleagues in the legal world. As you can imagine, there was a sense of relief once the first programme had aired.
What has the reaction been like?
The response has been insane! When you appear on a primetime programme like The Briefs, you’re bound to attract all kinds of people who start contacting you – both good and bad! We’ve had everything from old clients trying to dig up complaints, to compliments from our peers as well as many new requests for representation. Some are – of course – hopeless causes and we’ve received way too many long pleading letters to even list. Some of my colleagues have also been recognised in police stations by potential clients who automatically want to switch lawyers. All in all, the reaction has been really positive and we’re pleased with how it’s gone so far.
How did your involvement in the programme come about?
About two years ago, I was approached by Alan Jewhurst who is a producer and owner of Chameleon Productions. Alan had previously shot a short 20 minute film following a criminal firm and he thought the idea had legs. I jumped at the opportunity straight away as I thought it was a great marketing opportunity that would really raise the awareness of Tuckers. He then started selling the programme concept to the networks and ITV bit which was amazing.
Do you feel it was an accurate portrayal of the legal aid sector?
The important thing to state is that the show isn’t a portrayal of the legal aid sector per se as it was all about the clients. It didn’t give viewers a detailed lowdown of what my day – or our job – is actually like. The programme followed the criminals and Tuckers was there to simply represent them. It showed the dynamics between the solicitor and client well but not the life of a criminal lawyer.
It seems like a challenging environment to work in. Is that really the case?
It is obviously challenging and one of the differences in what we do compared to colleagues who maybe work in conveyancing or employment is that you can never ever plan your diary as you have no idea of what’s happening from one hour to the next. The hardest thing is to plan your day; it could be quiet or it could be manic. You just have to respond and find the right lawyers in the firm who can stop their cases and deal with things straight away.
It was strange to watch the show and then hear what people had to say as it’s just our average day and what was shown doesn’t seem unusual to us. Legal colleagues who are not criminal lawyers were the most shocked! We also have to leave our ‘work heads’ in work and we deal with cases in a dispassionate way. I don’t mean that in a negative way as we always do our best but we never moralise. Our job is to just look at what the prosecution can prove, the evidence and the client’s wider story. If we did think about every detail then we’d go mad. However, I always say that our job is a piece of cake compared to the folk who work in A&E as they deal with life and death on a daily basis.
Do you think the show has dispelled any myths?
One of our aims of being part of the show was to demonstrate to the public that we’re not there to just get criminals off. I passionately believe that fair and accessible representation is vital in any civilised criminal justice system. We sometimes get accused of making up stories or advising clients to lie but that is just not the case as that would undermine everything we do. We’ve had lots of messages of support on Twitter and we know what we’re doing is necessary. Fair representation is the right of everyone and a democracy can only be judged by how it treats its people; from the top to the very bottom.
Are you pleased the firm took part?
Yes totally – myself and the team have few regrets. We had no editorial control, which we knew from the start, but we were pleased with how things worked out. There’s been a great buzz which has been a positive experience. We’ve also collected all the press clippings!
Will we be seeing more of Franklin Sinclair or Tuckers Solicitors on TV anytime soon?
Well, another series of The Briefs could be on the way but we’ll just have to wait and see. The first show drew an audience of about 2.4 million viewers and the second one was up against Usain Bolt which was pretty stiff competition! Filming wasn’t a huge invasion as the camera crew was wonderful. After a few weeks, it became an extension of the team and it didn’t hamper the business at all. The real issue was trying to persuade our clients to take part. We also act for white collar clients – as well as for people who have never been charged with any offence before – so most refused to be filmed.
Many firms are still moving away from legal aid, would that ever have been an option for Tuckers?
Legal aid is the core of our business but I have grave doubts that our current model is sustainable long-term as legal aid has been decimated. We’re now pushing for more private crime work and that’ll be the big driver moving forward.
Finally, any words of wisdom for our readers?
I have a motto that has always guided me in life and that’s to always treat everyone the same – whether you’re dealing with a judge or a tramp who has been charged with begging. Also, don’t take yourself too seriously as nothing is that important.