Director and head of litigation, Winn Solicitors, Newcastle upon Tyne
I always enjoyed problem-solving and felt strongly about social justice, which gave me an appetite to fight cases for the man on the street against those who did not want to be accountable. Being the youngest of four siblings meant that I often had to adopt clever arguments to get my voice heard.
I trained at a small high street practice and dealt with a wide range of cases. I was thrown into the deep end but was fortunate enough to have good training on the importance of being tenacious and presenting the best case possible.
Being involved in the establishment of Winns in 2002 was a turning point in my career. It was a huge risk managing something bigger and being financially committed – I had to make many personal sacrifices.
Some of my hardest challenges have been in the last five years, dealing with ‘test case’ litigation involving legal practice affecting the PI industry as a whole. The amount of work and detail to consider in these cases is phenomenal and the level of responsibility is stressful.
The hardest challenge is on the horizon with the next phase of legislative challenges proposed by the government, including the increase in the small-claims limit for PI cases. Managing a large workforce and ensuring we continue to provide an excellent service and be profitable during such a change is not easy.
It can be very hard to have a successful career and a good family life, but you have to make time for your family, get support and try and prioritise.
Victory at the Court of Appeal is always sweet. Securing two very significant judgments earlier this year was a great achievement. I try to remain hands-on and every time we win a case it is rewarding and motivating.
Being shortlisted as Lawyer of the Year last year at two prestigious industry awards was definitely a highlight. And being involved in the success of the business – starting with eight staff and building this up to a multi-million-pound business employing 300 people has been thrilling.
I judge our success by securing results for clients and the positive feedback that they give. The key to growth was listening to what clients wanted – a one-stop shop, a reliable, fast service with someone who wanted to fight their corner. Much of our new business still comes from recommendations.
Of course some clients may be mistrustful of the system, or have unrealistic expectations, but the real skill in this job is effective communication, no matter who the client may be or the issues they may have.