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Medical negligence

21 March 2011

What does the team do? 

The vast majority of the work is medical negligence work on behalf of either NHS Resolution or the Medical Protection Society. We act on behalf of NHS Trusts and clinicians on claims in relation to alleged negligent treatment. A couple of the fee earners in the team also represent NHS trusts in relation to inquests (hearings at which a coroner determines the cause of someone’s death) and mental health issues, such as applications to admit patients under the mental health act, issues surrounding providing consent to treatment and the application of the deprivation of liberty safeguards.

What type of work does a trainee do? 

The trainee in the team can undertake a wide range of tasks, from drafting litigation documents and NHS Resolution reports to attending inquests with other fee earners and researching mental health issues. Due to their complicated nature clinical negligence files often require a lot of case management, so trainees can expect to develop their case management and communication skills through arranging conferences, corresponding with witnesses and drafting case management documents such as allocation questionnaires and draft directions. There is a lot of drafting in this seat, I have drafted a wide variety of litigation documents from letters of response to application notices and witness statements. 

What level of responsibility/hands on experience (i.e. manage your own files etc) does a trainee receive? 

There is perhaps not as much responsibility in this seat as in others due to the high value of the cases and the stringent requirements of the client. Whilst a trainee in this seat will often be closely supervised there are opportunities to go out and conduct advocacy and contact witnesses, counsel and clients directly. It is possible to manage your own fixed fee files, but these do not require very much legal work and follow a set pattern. 

How much client contact does a trainee get? 

Trainees in this team can get a lot of direct contact with the trust contacts through letters and e-mails and over the telephone, and with NHS Resolution
contacts through drafting regular advice reports. 

What has been the highlight for you in this seat?

Towards the end of this seat I attended a three week trial in the Royal Courts of Justice in London, which was far from a usual case. Complex procedural matters arose a few days prior to the planned start of the trial and we applied for an injunction on the first day. This injunction application provided fantastic experience as I was able to witness 4 QCs in action at one hearing! The trial was then set back by a few days and then on the amended start date the Claimant raised new allegations which the Judge decided should be heard. This meant that further witness statements and evidence had to be obtained at very short notice whilst we were down in London, providing a great opportunity to get involved.