Max Hinchliffe - Trainee Solicitor - Crown Prosecution Service
Updated: Apr 28, 2020
How did you hear about the CPS training contract?
I never have been a great or frequent user of social media, however I found LinkedIn to be a really useful tool when I was looking for jobs. When I graduated from the LPC/MA in Legal Practice I decided to post something on LinkedIn, which was picked up by a prosecutor who offered for me to come down to the Saturday courts with him to get a better idea of criminal law. I had always had an interest in criminal law however never really pursued it due to years of legal aid cuts making it look like a career would never be tenable. However after a few months the CPS trainee scheme was published and I was encouraged to apply. He’s now my training supervisor!
"The tenets of the CPS mirror the values of any lawyer who wants to make a difference: treating everyone with respect, being independent and fair, being honest and open, and striving for excellence and success."
Why did you apply?
I always wanted to work in an area of law where I could see the difference in the work I would be doing. Previously I worked as a paralegal in public law children matters in which emotions ran extremely high and we did all we could to make a bad situation better for our clients. Working for the CPS offers the opportunity to achieve justice for victims at some of the worst times in their lives, while remaining professional and fair while doing so. The tenets of the CPS mirror the values of any lawyer who wants to make a difference: treating everyone with respect, being independent and fair, being honest and open, and striving for excellence and success.
Were you looking for an in-house role?
Personally I applied for training contracts based on my location. While the work is concentrated in one specific area, it means that your colleagues have a much greater knowledge and set of expertise of the day-to-day issues that arise as well as the more complex points of law that don’t come up as often. The smaller circle of people means that everyone is approachable and will always have time to help you as best they can.
What is the structure of the CPS TC?
The emphasis at the CPS is that it is very much your training contract rather than it being prescribed to you what seats you must do. Obviously there is a strong emphasis on prosecuting crime which accounts for 18 months of the training, with the remaining six months being split into two seats, each lasting three months. These two seats can be spent in an area entirely up to you, so long as it counts as sufficiently different so as to satisfy the SRA requirements. I understand that the training regulations have recently changed, but as far as I am aware the CPS are continuing with the tradition of sending trainees out on secondment to gain those client skills that we simply do not use at the CPS.
"I don’t know of an organisation where professional development is encouraged as much."
What is supervision and development like?
I don’t know of an organisation where professional development is encouraged as much. We have a whole department which exists solely to accommodate training and development requirements of our staff. We each have an Individual Learning Allowance which we can use to either buy books or go on training courses that are suited to our individual needs. So far I have used mine on a Magistrates Court Handbook (the department in which I’m currently based) as well as an advocacy handbook to give me pointers on the presentation skills of a strong advocate.
How big is the trainee intake?
When I applied the CPS was offering 30 placed nationally. I understand that 44 places were ultimately offered however there were over 1600 applicants. The trick so success in the CPS application process is to read the guidance that is released with the application. All the information you need to succeed is in there, with any gaps coming from your personal experiences and passion and desire to work in criminal law.
How do you do your PSC?
Personally I applied for training contracts based on my location While the work is concentrated in one specific area, it means that your colleagues have a much greater knowledge and set of expertise of the day-to-day issues that arise as well as the more complex points of law that don’t come up as often. The smaller circle of people means that everyone is approachable and will always have time to help you as best they can.
This is left to each trainee to organise. Along with the other trainee in the Sheffield office, we had organised to go to Manchester for our core modules around three weeks ago, however the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to this and we have reorganised this for Autumn. Again there is no prescription on the optional modules you have to do, and there are two schools of thought as to which you should do. The first is do those modules you believe to be interesting and would not otherwise have an opportunity to engage in, with the second being do those modules that will have a practical benefit to your day to day work. I went down the middle and elected two criminal law modules, one family law module, and one private client module. This essentially tied all my interests together.
Three top tips for an application:
Have at least three examples for any behaviour you are trying to demonstrate: the worst thing that can happen is you try and force an example that doesn’t quite fit. Being over-prepared is always better!
Become familiar with yourself on camera. Much of the application process is done with video interview components. The more familiar you are with seeing and hearing yourself speak, the easier it will be when it comes to doing so.
Show and demonstrate a genuine desire to learn. The opportunities at the CPS are extraordinary; I’ve been to the Court of Appeal for a three-day hearing and organising to spend some time with the specialist departments of Serious Fraud and Proceeds of Crime. Ultimately if you can show that you have a desire to throw yourself at the opportunities that the CPS can offer it will only work in your favour.