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new seat, new skills

3 February 2014

Having moved into my third seat in September, it has been a busy couple of months settling in to a new department. One of the main challenges that FPR brings compared to other seats is the fact that your main client is an insurer, rather than an individual or a company. This results in certain challenges as well as benefits. Due to the way that insurers like to work, there are new processes to familiarise yourself with, as well as deadlines to follow to ensure that they are kept up to date and informed at regular intervals. However, there are also a number of benefits, which include a very commercially aware attitude towards litigation and claims.

This being the case, it is not surprising that a large part of working in FPR is dealing with negotiation and settlement of claims at a commercially practical level. This does involve considerations of the cost of legal advice and time, as well as potential reputation costs for any insured party who is taken to trial by a claimant. To deal with claims effectively, this requires you to balance the costs of any action against the amount being claimed and the prospects of success as you (and your supervisor!) evaluate them. This in itself is a challenge, but is a very intellectually stimulating one.

As a result of this practical attitude to litigation, I have been involved in reporting to the insurers on our prospects, discussing offer levels with my supervisor, and evaluating the prospect of success in each claim I have been asked to deal with or assist on. This seat provides a good amount of tactical litigation experience and a great opportunity to get involved in mediation, negotiation and offer-making. I have been fortunate enough to have conducted a small claims telephone mediation, which led to a settlement the following day, and will be attending a large mediation in London before Christmas. I have also settled two claims outright since starting the seat and have been involved in a number of successful applications and one successful trial.

Finally, I have had the opportunity of working with Counsel on a trial in the past month, which has given me an insight into the importance of preparation for trial. A good working relationship and taking the time to prepare a comprehensive and logically organised bundle makes working with Counsel much more straightforward, and often much more successful. Seeing the outcome of your work does make preparing a bundle a little easier!

The seat has given me the opportunity to appreciate the gamut of litigation and develop my skills in a variety of areas, which should hopefully provide me with an advantage moving forward towards qualification.