Principal Associate Solicitor at Shoosmiths LLP
LL.B. Bachelor of Laws, 2004
What does your role involve?
I presently work as a Principal Associate solicitor based in the Birmingham office of Shoosmiths in the medical negligence department. I manage a case load of complex medical negligence claims and also assist with the operation of the business development activity for our department. I left the University without a training contract and therefore initially decided that I wanted to gain an appreciation for the area of law that I would like to qualify into and started to paralegal with a firm that specialised in trade union law. I worked full time while studying the LPC part time. I was eventually promoted within the firm into the medical negligence department and was offered a training contract. Upon qualification, I benefitted from the experience that I had built up during my time at the firm and progressed to the point of managing a small team when I left to work at Shoosmiths in 2016.
Did you know what you wanted to do before you started University?
Before starting University, I wasn't entirely clear as to what I wanted to do and therefore chose a degree that worked to my strengths in terms of my A Levels. My initial choices were between law and psychology. I eventually decided law thinking that by doing this degree, it would keep my options open with respect to future careers. I ended up enjoying the degree and wanting to pursue a career in the profession.
Did you have any work experience before you graduated?
I had been lucky enough to secure a few summer placements in law firms while at university working in immigration and family law in addition to volunteering at a legal clinic. Other than legal experience, I had worked consistently part time from when I was 16 years old in mainly retail and office customer service based roles. Both of these areas provided me with a good foundation to working with clients and learning to handle challenging situations. I really value the experience (and income!) that they provided me with just as much as the direct legal work experience.
What do you love most about your role?
I have the opportunity to make a real impact on the lives of my clients and, sometimes to highlight changes needed in the interest of patient safety within the medical system. A lot of my clients are vulnerable and have complex needs. My role is to use the law to assist them both with compensation to help with their condition and treatment and to achieve justice where needed. This area of law often leads you to learning about external topics such as medicine and rehabilitation. I find it fascinating. My work with people who have suffered avoidable amputations, for example, has led me to learn about the different types of prosthesis available to patients and the impact that they can have on their lives. I have also learnt a lot about care and rehabilitation available to people with complex needs including brain injury patients, spinal injury and amputees in addition to numerous others.
What is most challenging about your role?
I represent people who are understandably frustrated and aggrieved by what has happened to them. Managing the emotion and frustration of clients is part of the job and can be challenging at times. Part of the role involves being able to clearly explain how the law can assist them and what we can achieve. Putting a client at ease with respect to their situation is both the most challenging aspect of the role but also rewarding when you're able to do it effectively.
Have you faced any key challenges during your career journey, if so, how did you overcome them?
My main challenge was knowing what route to take out of university. I had submitted applications for training contacts and was getting disheartened by rejections received. I also had the feeling that I wasn't entirely sure as to what area of law that I wanted to work in though had very much enjoyed the medical law module at university and thought that this could be a potential path. The process of applying for training contracts was quite onerous at the same time as concentrating on my degree. I therefore decided to hold back on the process, complete my degree and search for paralegal roles instead to achieve some experience and proper working knowledge of the field. For me, this was the best decision I made. It may have taken me slightly longer to get to the point of qualification (a matter of a few years more) but I had gained the ability to get to know my field, work, learn and progress within it and qualify at the same time. Taking a different approach (one which is more common now than it was when I qualified) meant having to be adaptable and prepared to learn, but I ended up enjoying this route and valuing having qualified in this way.
How did your time at Birmingham help you prepare for this role?
The medical law module in the law degree definitely assisted with igniting my interest in medical law; I am very thankful to the University for offering this. The topic of my medical law dissertation was something that I valued being able to talk about at interviews and at work even to the present day (having been working in the field for over 16 years!). I also valued having the opportunity to work in a legal clinic; an opportunity that I found out about through mentoring received at the University and helped me to gain an appreciation for applying legal knowledge to the benefit of clients. This assisted to provide me with a good foundation for my future career.
What are your career plans for the future?
I hope to progress and excel in my present role and area of work and also to develop my skills with respect to the business development side of the field in terms of producing content for our website and working with social media to help inform others of the services that we provide and to discuss change within the healthcare system, where needed. I hope to continue to contribute to meaningful and needed change within the healthcare system - to provide better services to patients, for example, or to achieve a better system for coroners inquests when someone passes away. I am also interested in ensuring that patients receive the correct care and assistance when they experience medical accidents. I intend on achieving this through my continuing work as a medical negligence solicitor.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in getting into your industry or role, or if they’re unsure what they want to do?
I would always say, based on my own experience, always research the different routes into the profession. There isn't a 'one size fits all' approach and nor should there be. The route of achieving a training contract is a great one but also look into working as a paralegal or qualifying via other methods. These alternative methods can be a good way of achieving some work experience, exploring different areas of the law before committing, and also can be easier financially depending on your situation. In terms of attributes; always try to be positive and resilient. It's definitely an area which has its challenges to work in and it's important that you're alive to that before committing to a career. Building up a level of resilience and the ability to communicate with different people and navigate challenging situations is key to longevity within the profession.
What would be your key piece of career advice for a student just entering the employment market?
Be patient, confident and don't be afraid to go for whatever it is that you want to do. Imposter syndrome is real and exists in so many different professions. It's important to be prepared to think about and highlight your strengths to potential employers; if you don't, they may never realise your value in the application / interview process! It's easy to think that you may not be good enough for a particular job / field; we all experience thoughts like this at one time or another. Early in my career, I tried to remember that all of my colleagues would have been in my very situation at some point in their life and many had gone onto achieve great things and have really made their mark; there's no reason that you won't be able to do the same.