In The Spotlight: Carol Cook
What area of law do you specialise in and why?
I practice in the field of medical negligence handling claims against hospitals, GP’s and dentists for a wide ranging number of conditions. My specialism within this field is Birth Injuries, handling complex and emotional high-value birth injury claims from start to end, fighting for justice for the affected patient and their families.
What inspired you to go into a career in law?
I have wanted to do a law degree since attending secondary school. I have always been involved in activities that enabled me to help people get their voice heard, from being a member of student voice at school many years ago to running a local community group. It was only after having my child I decided that I wanted to put my advocacy skills to further use and I pursed a career in law.
What are the three essential skills you believe a legal professional should have?
Listening, analytical and organisation.
Any area of law requires a significant extent of research and analysis to be undertaken, not only into the law itself and decisions made by the Courts but into the matter to which you are instructed. For Medical negligence claims I have to establish that the treating clinician’s actions or advice were unreasonable and would not be supported by a reasonable body of clinicians in the same field. To allow me to assess whether the claim will surpass this test I have to know what is reasonable or not given a particular set of circumstances. A significant extent of investigations and research needs to be completed and all of the same needs to be thoroughly analysed to ensure the best possible outcome for the claim.
It goes without saying that the complexity of cases and the extent of investigations required demands a high level of organisation. I am a great believer in the old saying….. to fail to prepare is preparing to fail! Organisation is key in any area of law.
Listening is an acquired skill. It is important for me to listen to my clients’ every word, not only so I can get a better understanding of their case, their instructions and what they have been through to assist me in gathering evidence, but also so I can relate to my client, so I can try to understand where they are coming from and what they need to make their lives a little better. If I can help in even the smallest of ways to make my clients position better then I will have complete job satisfaction.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
It goes without saying from my answers above that I enjoy helping people the most. As cliché as that may sound, it is true. I enjoy being in a position where I can help people have a voice. I can assist people in having their concerns listened to and addressed and I get great satisfaction and enjoyment from seeing positive results at the end of the claims process.
I also enjoy the fight for justice and getting the answers to my clients all important questions.. why did this happen… what can be done to help me?
What do you enjoy least about your job?
The long hours required to pursue these claims often overlaps with my home life, especially when heading towards trial. It is often difficult to turn off from claims and stop thinking about them. It has taken many years to get a reasonable work/life balance of some description in place. But to make up for it, I remind myself that I work hard for myself and my family and family time is precious protected time where we live life to the full and have lots of fun.
What is your advice for anyone that wishes to start a legal career?
Honestly…….. I would say only enter a legal career if your heart is in it. The hours are long, the work is hard and the pay is not as everyone expects it to be (we are not American lawyers earning millions)! If you are passionate about your work and eager to learn and develop for the rest of your life then you will go far.
In another life, you’d be a…
A musician. I love music, from classical to rap and rock to country I love it all.
If you could tell your 18-year-old self one thing; what would it be?
Follow your dreams and never give up….. that simple!
Read more about Carol and her experience here.
Look out for our next Spotlight Q&A next month!