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The defence lawyer in the modern era

Johnston, Ed


Ed Johnston
Associate Lecturer - FBL - LAW - ULAW0001


In the adversarial legal system the criminal defence lawyer is a fundamental cornerstone. Traditionally, defence lawyers had to consider three competing duties when carrying out their work; the duty to the client, the duty to the court and finally the duty to public and the administration of justice. Historically, the three competing duties were never afforded any particular weight. However, by establishing a Classic Conception of the defence lawyer, the duties could be theoretically prioritised. The Classic Conception drew upon a wide range literature and underpinned the empirical fieldwork. Indeed, the fieldwork would examine how the defence lawyer viewed their role and the way they prioritised their duties. The fieldwork employed semi-structured interviews to examine the role of the lawyer. The findings were juxtaposed with the Classic Conception and found that three types of lawyer existed in England and Wales:

1. The Classic Adversarial Lawyer – The lawyer identifies their role as being to advance the best interest of the client.
2. The Conflicted Adversarial Lawyer– The lawyer maintains that their primary obligation is to the client but recognises that, in a culture of cooperation, they are required to satisfy more than one duty.
3. The Procedural Adversarial Lawyer – The lawyer sees no conflict between their obligations; any conflict encountered by the lawyer is viewed as an occupational hazard that requires careful navigation. By following the rules, there is no clash of duties.
As well as establishing the three types of lawyer, this thesis examined the implications for traditional conception of Adversarialism in England and Wales. The thesis concluded that, whilst the role of defence lawyer is changing, the arena in which he operates is also changing. Adversarialim has been diluted and this dilution, has given rise to an approach centred in managerialism, which is underpinned by the dual goals of economy and efficiency.


Johnston, E. The defence lawyer in the modern era. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publicly Available Date Aug 1, 2019
Keywords criminal defence, defence lawyer, managerialism, CrimPR, disclosure, CPIA, adversarialism
Public URL


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