Managing partner at Express Solicitors, Manchester
I wasn’t much good at science or maths but I was a great talker and arguer so law was an obvious choice.
I did an external London University LLB Hons and struggled through it, but I still use the contract principles I learnt then. I think some newer solicitors suffer from not reading full cases and detailed commentary from the leading text books. With law you need to get into the detail, even though there is a lot of wordy documentation to wade through.
The last year has been the most challenging with the Jackson reforms, and the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act. Like all personal injury practices, we’ve had to fight like mad to cope with the pace of change and everyone across the firm has had to put in more hours. It will still take a couple of years from now even to be starting to get fully organised in the post-LASPO regime.
Dealing with other lawyers is mostly okay, but both defendant and claimant solicitors can sometimes over-personalise litigation. You ought to keep a professional approach, for example, writing in the third person and making sure you are putting forward your client’s case and not yours. I’m afraid it’s the clients who need to take home the stress about Part 36 offers and so on, and not the litigator.
As a personal injury litigator, I’m used to all of the jokes about ambulance chasing. Over the last 15 years I’ve taken it in good humour but will ask people how they feel about somebody with massive injuries needing representation to which they reply ‘oh yes, of course they need help’. It then becomes hard to pick when injuries are trivial enough that somebody doesn’t need help to put their life back on track.
Not long ago I was asked by a reporter on a radio show about the fact that, as a personal injury lawyer, I must need/want people to carry on getting injured because I made a living by helping them. After I’d nearly fallen off my chair, I tried to explain to her what it was like meeting clients with horrific burns, paraplegia or lost limbs. Trust me, if there were some magic wand that could stop people being injured through the negligence of others, I would be very, very happy working in some other industry. Without the magic wand I am in the best place I can be.
Although it is upsetting to deal with injured people, there is some satisfaction when you get to the end of a case and you’ve wrangled them a settlement that will give them at least the financial freedom to start putting their lives back together.