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  • Writer's pictureArjun Gananathan

Progression as an Advocate: Civil to Criminal, Defense to Prosecution

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

Toward the end of his study at Chelmer Institute of Higher Education, Benjamin Aina chose to work at a solicitor’s firm in Chelmsford, Essex. After just two weeks sat at a desk, laboring through dozens of conveyancing files, Aina realized that his personality and interests were more suited to the job scope of a litigator. He hated regimented work and unchanging routines. Instead, he preferred dynamic environments, the ability to express his voice and argue, and self-selected eccentric work hours.

Aina had excelled in commercial law subjects at Chelmer, and after graduation, had lectured in these subjects at the Polytechnic of Central London. As such, Aina applied only to chambers with significant commercial law practice, and eventually received and accepted an offer for pupillage from Devereaux Chambers in London. With his first six, Aina was ironically stuck, yet again, processing large amounts of paperwork for personal injury matters. With his second six however, he began “working on his feet.” The employment law barristers at Devereaux delegated smaller cases from their main solicitor, The Transport and General Workers’ Union, to Aina. Aina litigated and won many of these cases in the Magistrates’ Courts, thereby actualizing his passion and aptitude for advocacy.

Devereaux, the leading barrister chambers in the UK

Although minimal at first, Aina was also assigned criminal cases. When he eventually left Devereaux, much of the criminal work followed him. Approximately a decade and a half into practice, Aina began litigating highly important, complex criminal fraud and murder trials that would oftentimes last seven to eight months. As his career progressed, Aina developed a specific expertise in criminal advocacy, first as a defender, and later on as a prosecutor.

Aina’s extensive experience and success in various forms of litigation generates incisive observation. For instance, during our interview, Aina explains the difference between the role of a defender and that of a prosecutor. A good defense typically rests upon a single major weakness in the prosecution’s case. It is therefore prudent for a good defense attorney to remain silent throughout much of the trial; indeed, the worst defenders are those that speak excessively. A prosecutor, on the other hand, is constantly moving, running the show, and ensuring that nothing goes wrong. While many British barristers engage in defense and prosecution work, few are renowned, and appointed Queen’s Counsel, for their capacity in both. From civil to criminal work, and from defense to prosecution, Aina represents the complete advocate.

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