I work in a university medical school and am in the midst of finding out more about a career as a medico-legal adviser. Can you advise as to whether MLAs advocate on behalf of patients, as opposed to only doctors? Also, what is the difference between work as an expert witness and work as an MLA?

Elizabeth O'Mahony

Elizabeth O’Mahony, associate, Enable Law says…

It is a bit of a general term for a quasi-legal position. I think it could apply to both claimant and defendant work. For example, I am a qualified claimant solicitor but worked as an MLA at Action Against Medical Accidents for two years providing general advice to the public about medico-legal matters. However, in a medical setting an MLA could work as the link between medics and the legal process for claims, complaints advice or regulatory issues. I do not think you necessarily have to be a qualified solicitor with a practising certificate to hold this role, but of course you would need the relevant training and skills, and a legal background is no doubt going to help.

A medical expert witness is a different animal. Appropriate medical qualification, experience, training on how to write CPR-compliant medico- legal reports and an understanding of the duty to the court, not the individual that instructs, are fundamental. A medico-legal expert will write reports for legal proceedings which may be used at trial. There are serious consequences for these expert witnesses if they do not follow the necessary rules and requirements.