As business development and marketing director at criminal defence specialist Olliers Solicitors, Ruth Peters plays a key role advising individuals who have been arrested and released under investigation or on pre-charge bail, as well as sitting on the firm’s board, and was named “Solicitor of the Year” at the 2021 Manchester Legal Awards. She shares a day in her life with The Brief.
Olliers is a criminal defence firm, and our specialism is dealing with pre-charge investigation. A lot of criminal defence firms represent individuals at the police station but then, owing to the limitations of Legal Aid funding, don’t do much until the client is going to be prosecuted and the case goes to court.
We deal with this pre-charge stage on a proactive basis, doing all we can to minimise the chance of prosecution. Although we do still take on Legal Aid cases, this pre-charge work is all privately funded.
I spend a lot of time dealing with new enquiries, explaining the support Olliers can provide during this stage and trying to bring them on board as a client. I also spend a lot of time on general business development.
At least 90 per cent of our enquiries come from the website, which is quite unusual for a criminal defence firm. So, we put an awful lot of work into the website, web content, video content etc.
I spend two or three days a week in the office, and work from home the rest of the time.
Every day is different – you can make as many plans as you like but it is impossible to predict when somebody will call because they have been arrested.
This how a recent Wednesday, working in the office, turned out.
I get up at 6.00, start getting ready and have a cup of coffee in peace. This is my favourite time of the day!
I have two boys, who are both at secondary school. I get them up at 6.30 and continually hurry them so they get out of the door at 7.20 for their bus.
Then I breathe a sigh of relief, get everything ready for a day in the office, and drop my dog off at doggy day care. I drive into Manchester from where I live in Bolton – I love driving and having the time to think about things before the busy day ahead.
It takes about an hour at rush hour and, while it’s not the most relaxing drive, I rarely get phone calls at 7.30/8.00 in the morning, so it gives me a little bit of time to myself.
When I get to the office I grab a coffee. Calls come in from two potential clients, both of whom are very worried, and I try to provide reassurance as to how our proactive approach will benefit them.
We get a lot of people who have been arrested and interviewed, and then released from the police station, either under investigation or on pre-charge bail. A lot of the time, they are represented by the duty solicitor at the police station and feel they are in limbo, that there is nothing they can do, and that they are going to be waiting months and months for any decision in relation to their matter.
A lot of the work we do relates to allegations of a sexual nature, dealing with indecent images and sexual communication offences. So, a lot of them are quite embarrassed, and it’s not something they can easily discuss with friends and family.
A lot of the time it also has implications in relation to their career, depending on what they do, and so they are really in a very low place. Many of them are also struggling with their mental health, so I try to provide some reassurance and explain that actually there are things that can be done.
These initial calls can go on for quite some time, and we don’t know when to expect them. A lot of the time, the individuals just feel that they want to tell somebody what’s happened, and hopefully come away with some reassurance that, actually, we can assist them moving forward.
The number of people who are being arrested and then investigated in relation to sexual offences has increased hugely. And we also get a lot of enquiries from worried parents whose young adult children have been arrested – sometimes the parents are beside themselves and more concerned about the matter than the individuals themselves.
At 11.00, we have our main monthly directors’ meeting. We have a lot to discuss including the onboarding and new enquiries process, new roles, expanding and other areas.
We have a number of trainees, and we want to discuss their training and development. We offer our own internal pre-charge accreditation, which is akin to the more formal police station accreditation, but which we have developed ourselves.
One of our solicitors is in charge of this and we put all the trainees through it, as well as some of our newer solicitors who have joined us quite recently. We discuss the structure of this.
At 1.00, I catch up with colleagues over lunch. If colleagues with whom I work closely are all in, we may go out and have a nice lunch somewhere.
But if it’s a busy day we are more likely to pop somewhere local, pick something up and bring it back to the office – which is what we do on this occasion.
At 2.00, I have a client meeting in the office. The client had come in the previous week for a conference with his barrister in relation to his case and is finding the whole process quite difficult to deal with.
He wanted to have a chat with me to go through some of the points that the barrister had raised. He had gone away and reflected on them and just had some questions.
It is something that probably could have been dealt with over the phone, but he asked if he could come in and discuss it in person. I was more than happy to agree and I think he has perhaps misunderstood one of the points that the barrister had explained, so I feel that he goes away with some reassurance.
Between 3.00 and 4.30, I get together with colleagues to discuss the next stages of cases and finances/billing.
A lot of the cases that we deal with are on an agreed fee basis, so we may come to the end of a particular stage of a case and need to quote for the next stage if, say, we have represented them pre-charge but it still goes to court and we have to quote them for Magistrates Court and Crown Court proceedings.
I tend to coordinate all of that and give a lot of advice. This is still quite a new way of working for many criminal defence solicitors. It was only a few years ago that a lot of the work we did was publicly funded.
At 4.30, I leave the office and head home. One son gets the bus home but I have to pick the other one up one from school at 5.30 after football training.
We pick the dog up on our way then, once I get home, I get the boys a quick snack and then get changed and dash out to the gym at 6.30.
At 7.45, I get home, make dinner and chat with the boys. After dinner, they play a game with the dog which is far too energetic for the time of day and is likely to break everything!
At 9.30, I try to encourage them to wind down and, at 10.00, everyone goes to bed. After all that, I’m grateful that I will be working from home the next day!
- Connect with Ruth Peters via LinkedIn