It has been 12 years since Sita joined Boyes Turner as a trainee solicitor, straight out of law school. Since then she has developed her interest and expertise in clinical (medical) negligence claims to become an established, successful and dedicated clinical negligence associate solicitor whose motivation is always about getting answers for her clients.
We took 60 seconds of her time to find out more about her successful career at Boyes Turner, her approach to working with clients, and why making relationships with the charities that also help her clients is so important to her.
A bit about Sita…
Sita has helped improve the lives of clients whose medical care left them disabled by spinal injury, limb-loss and amputation, cancer, blindness, and injuries to women and children during childbirth, such as Erb’s Palsy. In addition to her own cases, she helps investigate and value claims and attend court for clients with maximum severity injuries from cerebral palsy and other neurological disability in cases led by Richard Money-Kyrle.
Sita is known for her supportive yet professional approach to clients, her charitable work and campaigning for improvements in women’s healthcare.
What made you choose a career in medical negligence?
My interest in medicine and law started in my teenage years. From then on, I aimed for a career that would include aspects of both and followed that goal through school, to university where I chose modules involving medicine and civil litigation, and then to law school.
When I started my training contract at Boyes Turner it was important to me that I did a clinical negligence ‘seat’ and straight away I enjoyed analysing medical records and working with medical experts to establish what had happened to a client and why. I knew very early on that this was the area of law I was passionate about and I was eager to learn more.
What aspect of your work do you enjoy the most?
Whilst I really enjoy investigating liability or where mistakes were made in a patient’s care, I particularly enjoy valuing cases. This is the part of the case that allows me to get to know the client and their family and tailor the case to their needs based on understanding their life before the injury and their goals for the future. It’s so important to look at each client as an individual. The compensation we obtain determines the client’s ability to rebuild their life. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Whilst I can’t change what has happened, it’s vitally important to me that I ensure that their compensation helps their future look as close as possible to how it would have been if their injury had not happened.
What do you enjoy about working at Boyes Turner?
I think the fact that many of us have been at Boyes Turner since we qualified is a testament to the firm and the clinical negligence team. It is rare to have that level of continuity nowadays and something that we are really proud of. Personally, (pre-Covid!) Reading was not the easiest commute for me but, for me, the sense of family and support within this team is so important. Another reason that I value working at Boyes Turner is the quality of our work. I am fortunate to have been able to work on high value and life-changing cases so early in my career.
What personal skills does it take to succeed at this type of work?
Alongside the key skills needed to be a good lawyer, personal skills are vital when working for people who have been injured by clinical negligence. To me that means that it’s important to be dedicated, compassionate, empathetic, a good listener and supportive. It takes skill to listen and understand from the client why they are making the claim and what they are hoping to achieve. We are working with families whose lives have been turned upside down and we have a key role in helping them achieve a sense that they have been heard and their injury recognised as well as putting them in a position to move forwards. It’s important to be able to work around the needs and challenges faced by parents and families with disabled children. I have to be dedicated to my clients, to helping them find answers and keep my eye on the final goal.
I took over a claim for a client after it had been discontinued by another solicitor. This client had been advised that the claim was worth around £10,000 but after taking the time to understand the client and prepare the case I managed to settle it for £1million.
I have also taken over cases that were close to being discontinued based on unsupportive expert evidence but I have taken time to understand the claim, tested the expert’s assumptions and secured an admission of liability. In one particularly sad case involving the death of a mother leaving behind three young children and a devastated husband, it didn’t feel right to let it go without a more thorough investigation. Obviously, there are times when the evidence does not support a positive result and we never mislead our clients into pursuing a claim that we believe will not succeed. However, I have learned that there are times when I must be confident in my abilities as a lawyer and know when something needs to be challenged.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
There’s no doubt that this work brings bittersweet results. For example, whilst an admission of liability brings answers which may be the key to success in a compensation claim, it can also cause upset and anger to clients as they learn that what happened to them or their loved one could have been avoided. Understandably, this is hard for everyone, but I get a sense of fulfilment from knowing that I am helping clients and families through such a challenging time, leading to closure and the ability to move forward and get their life back on track. It is also incredibly rewarding when I am able to secure compensation, either as an interim (advance) payment, or via a settlement at the end of a case and can see the difference it makes, such as by providing access to professional and respite care, or a move to a more suitable house.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
I find it challenging where there have clearly been mistakes in a client’s care but it cannot be proven that these mistakes caused the injury. Of course, as lawyers, we understand and work within the confines of the law, but it can be difficult to explain to clients that their claim cannot continue knowing the challenges they are facing.
It’s also hard being unable to provide financial help to a family who may be struggling in the early stages of their child’s cerebral palsy claim before we have an admission of liability and can get them an interim payment. It’s the reason we focus all our early efforts on proving the hospital or doctor’s responsibility for our clients’ injuries, because as soon as liability is admitted we can get real help to our clients by funding care, suitable housing and other essential needs with substantial interim payments.
You are a keen supporter of health-related charities - why is it important to you to build those relationships?
I have worked with UK Sepsis Trust, Meningitis Now, and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust for whom I provided advice to members of the public at their roadshow.
I am also now working closely with the White Lodge Centre in Woking. They provide support and therapy to children and adults with disabilities. We did a wreath making event via zoom last Christmas and plan to do some more events, such as a training day and afternoon tea event, with them in the future. It is important to me that we help to raise their profile as much as possible. They are such an enthusiastic and inspiring team and have been hard hit as a result of Covid this year, and so it’s really important that they receive support to be able to keep such vital services going. I will be on maternity leave this summer but I’m going to continue my work with them to ensure the momentum is not lost.
Our relationships with charities such as the White Lodge Centre allow us to help raise their profile but also allow us to signpost our clients to use their facilities. Having a mutual relationship also helps charities understand more about what we do and how we can help those they are supporting who might be entitled to compensation to improve their lives. Ultimately, we both have the same desire to help disabled individuals live a fulfilled life.
If you have been seriously injured as a result of medical negligence and would like to find out more about making a claim, you can talk to one of our experienced solicitors, free and confidentially, by contacting us here firstname.lastname@example.org