Partner, Nelsons Solicitors, Leicester
I was a general qualified nurse for eight years but have always been interested in justice and the law. I moved into the legal profession and landed a job as a paralegal in a claimant clinical negligence department. Being on the claimant side, representing patients and their families, felt like a natural extension of my nursing role.
I have the utmost respect and admiration for those working within the NHS. They do an incredible job, often in the most straitened of circumstances. When something goes wrong they deserve the other side to be represented by specialist claimant lawyers.
I completed the LPC while working as a paralegal. This gave me a good grounding. I learned a lot on the job which was good preparation.
I’ve been involved in numerous fatal cases, including those concerning children, which are always difficult. I’m lucky to be part of a really good team, however, which helps a great deal.
Wrongful birth claims are also particularly challenging, given the uncertainties in the law and the fact that the claimant is seeking to argue that a disabled and much-loved child would have been terminated during the antenatal stage had proper screening and/or advice taken place.
A memorable career highlight has been working as part of a team on Article 2 (Right to Life) inquests. These have often resulted in major changes to clinical policy and/or procedure and a sense of justice for bereaved families. Getting funding and therefore any chance of a level legal playing field for representation for families at complex inquests remains nightmarishly difficult.
The law in secondary victim psychiatric claims is a mess and in need of a major overhaul. The criterion set down in Alcock is in need of a Supreme Court shake-up.
Part 1 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act has resulted in a marked reduction in access to justice for the average person in a range of important areas, including clinical negligence.
The Human Rights Act 1998 came in just as I started. It’s had a major and helpful impact, in particular on shaping and developing coronial law for the benefit of bereaved families.
The Department of Health and Ministry of Justice are looking to introduce a fixed-fee scheme for clinical negligence claims. Along with many other claimant lawyers, charity organisations and agencies, I am concerned that this will lead to a further restriction in access to justice for injured patients.
The NHS Litigation Authority needs to take a more proactive and pragmatic approach to cases. This would save an awful lot in legal costs and distress on both sides.
My hopes for the profession as a whole is that, whatever area of law, we stick together to maintain and promote our unique role in enabling access to justice for all.