Vidisha Joshi. Managing partner, Hodge Jones & Allen, London
I was always interested in the law but had a falsely glamourised view of lawyers from watching too many episodes of LA Law and Ally McBeal. That all changed, when I did work experience in a local legal aid practice. This was law at the coal face, dealing with life-changing events such as tenant evictions, domestic violence and horrific injuries. I realised that you could use the law to make people’s lives better and have a positive impact on society. I never saw myself as a corporate lawyer after that.
Going to law school is akin to going to music school and being told you cannot play an instrument for three years. I was fortunate that my training contract was with really great lawyers, at Mayfair firm Portner & Jaskel. Rather than just learning how to fill out forms and tick boxes, I was given responsibilities and dealt with clients. This is where my training really started.
The hardest set of challenges I’ve faced as a lawyer arose from the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). As head of personal injury at Hodge Jones & Allen, I foresaw the potential impact it would have on the firm and on people’s ability to access justice.
I do not think any genuine thought had gone into what these reforms would mean. We all know damages are supposed to put the individual back in the position that they were before their injury, and now having to deduct damages does not sit right with me, morally. Yet, as lawyers, we cannot act for free and it would be far worse for claimants if we were not there to navigate the system for them.
Many PI firms left the market or stopped doing fast-track work, which sadly opened up the door for claims firms. Yet, people still got injured and needed to make a claim – and I am proud that we have been able to adapt and are still able to help claimants.
Memorable career highlights include becoming managing partner of Hodge Jones & Allen this year and knowing that the senior partner, Patrick Allen, and the equity partners recognised my work.
Those with unrealistic expectations are the hardest sort of client. It can be very difficult to manage them, particularly when, as the injured party, they are rightly aggrieved but are being dictated to by the rulebook.
I always explain that as the lawyer, I do not get to decide what damages they will get. All PI lawyers think that damages are too low, so you can only begin to imagine how a client feels.
I would like to stop having to get to grips with a constant raft of reforms and be allowed to get on with the job of providing access to justice for ordinary people. I would also like to see bad behaviour by defendants in litigation tackled. It has never been addressed by any reforms.