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Spotlight on: Sarah

Date: 13 April 2017

This is a longer post helping you get to know Sarah a little better.

Sarah qualified as a solicitor in 1996. After taking a degree at The University of Central Lancashire she completed her Law Society Final Examinations by a correspondence course whilst working and gaining experience at a law firm. Her actual degree was in Law and Politics.

Before working in medical negligence what other legal experience did you have?
For the first few years I did a mixture of personal injury and medical negligence but very quickly decided I wanted to specialise in medical negligence.

Why did you decide to focus on medical negligence?

When I was at school I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer. In the end I decided on law and when I was working in my first job, in Blackpool, I did a few medical negligence cases and thought this gives me the opportunity to do both, without any blood! Not that I mind blood.

Within a couple of years of taking on my first few clinical negligence cases I had experienced the very best and very worst of medical care. In 1993 my son was born at 29 ½ weeks gestation weighing 2lb 12oz (in old money!). I was in hospital for 6 weeks before he was born and the care was fantastic. I was monitored so carefully and we were both looked after very carefully and he came out of it with no major problems. I was, and still am, acutely aware that things could have been very difficult.

A year later a very close family member suffered a devastating brain haemorrhage. The care he received within the critical first few hours was very poor and he was basically written off by the hospital. I still remember how upset and frustrated we were when the doctors kept fobbing us off. He was only 47. He survived but was severely disabled for the rest of his life. I investigated whether he had a claim and although I got expert evidence which confirmed that the care was poor and he should have had an operation, because he had fought and struggled to stay alive and then get better (bullied along by 3 feisty women!), the evidence said that his outcome would probably have been more or less the same.

Having seen the very best and worst of care, I suppose, motivated me to do this work.

What has been your best experience working on cases with your team?

The best experience is working as a team when we’re getting towards the end of a big case, preparing for a settlement meeting or a trial. Everybody ends up working on it; everyone has a different job to do and we just pull together to get it done. And because I have such a good team everybody is so prepared to get involved, and everyone gets so invested in the case and wants to see the best result for the client. To have everyone so invested makes for a really good atmosphere.

It’s hard to pick a specific best moment because I have one every time I get a good result, especially if it’s a case there have been problems with, or that’s gone on for a long time or with a particularly deserving client; I always think that’s been my best experience, and then six months later I’ll have another one because we’ll have won another important case where the odds were stacked against us. So I’m constantly having best experiences. It’s those experiences that make this such a rewarding job.

What was the first case that stuck with you?

In 1994, I assisted on my first cerebral palsy case which was also my first experience of a trial at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. It settled partway through the trial for a substantial sum of damages. That’s when I realised how challenging and rewarding these cases can be and how deserving the clients were. It was the first time I properly experienced that feeling of making a difference to someone’s life.

Can you give an example of a really memorable case, or a particular moment in a case?

This is difficult as there have been so many and I’m struggling to think of one.

There is one but it’s quite a long time ago. We went to trial in a wrongful birth case. The whole case hinged on the Judge believing my client’s evidence. I believed her from the word go, but you can never be sure what will happen at trial. But the Judge accepted her evidence and we won which was brilliant. It’s a big thing for a client to be believed, especially when the client is saying one thing and the doctor is saying another. From the first time I met her I believed in her and to have the Judge to believe in her as much as I did, that was special for both of us. I kept in touch with the family for a long time. They were amazing!

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Following that heartfelt moment, let’s move onto some sillier stuff: first, what would you be if you weren’t a solicitor?

I would open a book/sweet shop.

An important part of office life: what is your favourite biscuit?
Jaffa Cakes. That’s a cake, they proved it with science.

Ok, if I can’t have Jaffa Cakes I’ll have Jammie Dodgers. Just as long there are a lot of them! My lovely son recently bought me a Jammie Dodger trinket box for my desk, not that I am obsessed or anything.

Favourite holiday destination?
St Lucia.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

Reading. Walking with my lovely dog, (which often ends in having to bath him which is less lovely). Shopping. And Manchester City, but we don’t watch Match of the Day if they lose!

Favourite thing about living in the North West?
Manchester City! Going to the Etihad and supporting the blues. And Eccles Cakes.

Could you share a surprising or interesting fact about yourself?

I was an Assistant Deputy Coroner in Blackpool for a while. It was all very interesting and eye opening work but also very sad.

If you were a contestant on GBBO what would your showstopper be?
Well, I wouldn’t be a contestant but I’d be an excellent judge because I have a lot of experience with cakeage. Anyone who knows me knows I could never bake a cake let alone be a contestant! When we went to a friend’s BBQ and were supposed to bring dessert I just bought a few boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts! But I would be a far better judge than Paul Hollywood. Or I could bribe Jackie to make one for me.

 

 

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