Ewing Law: the power of private practice in crime?
By Tony Wyatt
Tony Wyatt sets out the attributes and approaches of Ewing Law, a criminal firm serving private clients
Founded by renowned criminal solicitor, Scott Ewing, in 2013, working from a prestigious address in Westminster, Ewing Law was designed to be a modern, streamlined firm, providing specialist private advice and representation.
When it was founded, almost a decade ago, this ‘new model’ firm was so far removed from high street and specialist legal aid firms, it seemed an anomaly. But now, with publicly-funded rates and resources in free-fall and the decline of criminal justice only accelerating due to the covid-19 pandemic, Ewing Law’s time has arrived.
Prior to 2013, managing director, Ewing, spent almost 20 years growing the criminal team at one of the UK’s largest, busiest legal aid solicitors, taking it nationwide, from a local Liverpool firm.
In this time, Ewing secured his position as, arguably, the most sought-after serious criminal solicitor of his generation and earned a reputation second to none – built on his insistence of the importance of client care, communication, thorough forensic analysis of every aspect of a prosecution case, and provision of realistic advice and guidance at every stage.
Towards the end of this time, Ewing began to see the government’s cuts to legal aid make it impossible for publicly funded firms to deliver the level of representation he insists upon.
Ewing concluded that to service his client base to the fullest – and maintain his reputation – he needed to step away from legal aid and ‘representation in bulk,’ and focus on a smaller number of serious criminal cases at any one time, supplemented by quasi-criminal and regulatory advisory work.
He believed such a focus would only be possible by operating on a private client basis only.
Ewing spent considerable time forming a key team to deliver the level of service he envisaged. This team included a small number of dedicated solicitors and legal executives, chosen from the many with whom he had worked over the years; an experienced administrative staff; and a leading junior barrister who, while independent of Ewing Law, shared the firm’s premises, to offer the unique perspective of experienced independent counsel on every appropriate case, from the earliest stage.
Even with this team in place, it took longer to temper the expectations of historic clients as to what they could now expect in terms of service, in a world of dwindling legal aid fees, against that which could be delivered for them privately.
As a result, Ewing chose to supplement the firm’s initial private work with a legal aid contract. This quickly, and inevitably, began to move Ewing Law away from its original model; the administrative demands of a legal aid contract were such that it became a far greater percentage of the firm’s caseload than ever intended.
This continued until 2018, when Ewing and the initial core team made the collective decision to step away from the ‘safety net’ of legal aid and return to the original practice model under which Ewing Law had been established.
It was an expensive and risky realignment, though immediately successful. Since 2013, the effects of legal aid cuts have become apparent even to those outside the criminal justice system.
What Ewing Law could offer private clients that was not available under legal aid became much more apparent and so the firm’s client base understood the need to move away from public funding and embrace the new model.
The result has been the busiest three-year period in the firm’s history, with a private case load now significantly larger than even the most over-burdened days of legal aid.
Specialising still in the most serious criminal work, with a near 50/50 split between general serious crime and complex financial crime, Ewing Law also offers pre-charge regulatory advice across a variety of industries; pre-charge representation in matters arising from HMRC; and the firm has acted in a series of complicated, ultra-sensitive multi-jurisdictional matters, including dealings with FBI and Interpol.
The firm’s clients include a well-known members of the aristocracy and business community, as well as politicians, philanthropists, sports personalities and celebrities. All this was achieved with no marketing budget, no advertising and no duty slots; Ewing relies on referrals from previous clients and other professionals.
Ewing Law’s ethos has always been to offer excellence in representation. In 2021, it is widely recognised the firm offers exactly that.
Tony Wyatt is an independent, self-employed barrister with Ewing Law: ewinglaw.co.uk