Hudgell Solicitors, Hull
I had a legal career in mind after work experience at a local law firm when I was 15. I then decided to take law at A-level. This is not a prerequisite for a law degree but it helped me feel confident to choose law over an English degree.
LASPO, flanked by new Civil Procedure Rules, gave effect to most of Lord Justice Jackson’s recommendations. These changes have reshaped clinical negligence and brought new challenges.
The variety of my work is something I enjoy about this area of law. One day I can be representing a family at an inquest, another day working from the office, drafting documents and reviewing medical records. The sheer range of activities means I’m more confident in advising in a much wider range of contexts.
When I finished my LPC in July 2007, I started work as a conveyancing assistant at a firm in Leeds. It felt like a huge achievement as it was difficult to gain a role without experience. At times, I did doubt whether I would secure the much-needed training contract, but I started as a trainee solicitor in April 2010.
I worked at Hudgell Solicitors as a litigation assistant in the clinical negligence department for a year before the firm gave me a contract. It felt like all my hard work had finally paid off. It also enabled me to become qualified in an area of law I was interested in and at a firm with which I had already built up a relationship. More recently I have been made a team supervisor.
Clinical negligence clients are not difficult. But because they have often suffered life-changing injuries, and since claims can take a long time to reach a successful conclusion, it can be difficult to be patient when the wrongdoing appears so obvious to the layperson. I find managing a client’s expectations and providing good client care helps to address these issues.
The bereavement award available in fatal claims is an amount of compensation that simply serves as a recognition of grief and a financial token or public recognition that the death was wrongful. However, the compensation is minimal. The government has assessed it over the years for the loss of a close family member (wife, husband, son, daughter) and it is currently £12,980. Considering that someone has lost a loved one, this is a nominal sum. It also surprises me that it is only payable to a surviving spouse; a surviving civil partner; and parents (if the child was under 18).
The restriction of legal aid is disappointing, as is the [proposal for] fixed recoverable costs in clinical negligence cases. This will mean that this area of law will face further challenges. There are concerns that access to justice will be also be curtailed.
Some firms may be more reluctant to act for clients who have lower-value claims. Ultimately, I am hopeful that, despite the changes, firms will ensure that we continue to find ways to guarantee access to justice for the people we represent.