Crown Law is the ideal place to start a legal career for any law graduate wishing to practice law in the Kingdom or elsewhere.
Crown Law's policy in developing legal careers is: "That all Crown Law counsels are skilful in all three areas of law - litigation, legislative drafting and legal advice".
Despite the limited resources that Crown Law has available, there has always been a commitment to guide and nurture legal careers of recent graduates who join Crown Law. Crown Law has been described as the place where you 'do everything, very early' in your legal career.
Crown Law has never been able to recruit experienced lawyers simply because it did not have the resources to offer competitive remuneration. So it has always relied on recruiting law graduates from university, who are often Government sponsored scholarship holders that Crown Law is obligated to recruit.
Once the new law graduates join Crown Law, after completing their legal professional’s course and admission to the Roll of Practitioners, there is every effort to accelerate the accumulation of legal experience. The main reason for this is to respond to the high turnover of Crown Law counsels because they become marketable after Crown Counsel level or after 3 to 5 years experience. Other measures to address the high turnover are to seek adequate remuneration, building a compatible team and adding a social side in addition to a good working environment.
New recruits are first assigned to work as Assistant Crown Counsels. Assistant Crown Counsels work with other experienced lawyers at intermediate or senior level, normally in criminal prosecution work. They are taught to prepare briefs on criminal files, draft indictments and basically to learn how to plan out a prosecution, including sifting through the evidence, identifying potential legal issues and strategising how to deal positively with those legal issues. This also involves acting as junior to intermediate or senior Crown counsels in jury trials. New recruits are also given family matters in order that they brush up on their Tongan language when interviewing adoption or guardianship applicants, and also legal writing skills when they prepare guardian ad litem reports for the Courts. New recruits also carry out legal research so they familiarise themselves with sources and substance of Tongan legislation and case law.
The next step is the Crown Counsel level. Crown Counsels are given more independence to handle trials on their own in judge alone trials, and also participate more in criminal jury trials. They are also introduced to civil and land cases mainly to prepare briefs. It is at this stage that Crown Counsels are nominated to undergo legislative drafting courses, and assist in legislative drafting by assisting in translations.
The next stage is at Assistant Senior Crown Counsel level. The Assistant Senior Crown Counsel is given authority to prosecute on their own criminal jury trials involving serious, but not complex, criminal cases. They also participate in civil and land cases as junior counsel in Court. They are also required to write legal opinions. Crown counsels are then involved in drafting minor legislation, or assist some Ministries in the drafting of proposed legislation.
The final stage is the Senior Crown Counsel level. The Senior Crown Counsels prosecute very complex criminal cases, such as murder and rape, represent the Crown in land and civil cases, and also provide written legal advice to Government ministries, under supervision of the Solicitor General. Senior Crown Counsels are also able to draft more substantial legislation for Government ministries. Most importantly, is that Senior Crown Counsels can deputise for the Solicitor General, when the Solicitor General is away overseas or incapacitated.
Normally a Crown counsel would take an average of 2 to 3 years at every level, so around Senior Crown Counsel level, 9 to 10 years experience has been accumulated.
After Senior Crown Counsel level, the career paths could lead to the Solicitor General role, the Attorney General role, the Judiciary or as a Senior Counsel in private practice, a legal firm or consultancy work.
Wherever a Crown counsel role leads him or her, Crown Law will always be the place where his or her legal career started and developed.