CEO and senior partner, Hilary Meredith Solicitors, Cheshire and London

I fell off a trampoline which seriously jeopardised my career in sports education. Faced with a complete life change I chose the law – and I’m glad I did. I was assistant solicitor to two senior partners and only dealt with heavyweight litigation from day one. It was great training.

I always looked very young for my age so starting out it was difficult to convince clients to trust me with their problems. In terms of dealing with one defendant, the Ministry of Defence time and time again presents its own unique problems, especially where there are fatalities and very little information is (made) available.

My work involves the most serious accident cases for the armed forces worldwide, in war time and while on manoeuvres. The way they deal with injury is truly inspiring and puts your own life in perspective.

A good lawyer is able to listen, understand their client’s expectations and deliver what they set out to do.

The hardest sort of client is without a doubt, and totally understandably, the families who have suffered the loss of a loved one. It doesn’t matter what you do, you can never bring them back. The only light you can bring is to make sure the same accident never happens again.

I only ever instruct barristers who are equally enthusiastic about the military clients we represent. We all want to do our best for them, and even the defence barristers are largely sympathetic.

I feel that the introduction of referral fees in 2005 turned personal injury law into just a commodity. It’s a shame as the passion to do your best for the client was lost in some cases and referrals on reputation became a thing of the past. Hopefully this trend will now be in reverse. Recognition of specialist niche practices has got to be good for the client.

In the 25 years I have been a lawyer I have seen many changes. We are, unfortunately, a ‘distressed purchase’, so instructing a lawyer is never going to be popular. Hopefully however, public opinion is changing. We are there when needed to provide support and a professional service.

There are possibly too many lawyers, but this situation was created by the fact that anyone could buy cases if they had a pot of money. With no credible reputation those firms will no longer survive.