Why I chose to specialise as a serious injury solicitor

Kirsty O'Donnell Partner in our Serious Injury Team

If you had asked me at university if I thought I would have a career as a Personal Injury Solicitor I probably would have told you that I hadn’t really considered it...

But moving to the field of Personal Injury Law from a commercial law firm was the best decision I have made in my career. I find that there is genuine job satisfaction in this field and you really do make a difference, which is ultimately why I wanted to be a lawyer in the first place.

Our role is to help people at sometimes the most difficult and darkest time of their lives. It is a privilege to do the work that we do and hopefully I will have a long career helping people in this way.

I knew I was a litigator at heart…

Like many lawyers of my generation, I thought a career in law would closely resemble that of Ally McBeal. I always enjoyed debating and public speaking and I had the necessary grades, so, off I went to study law and French at the University of Glasgow with my heart set on becoming a litigator.

I was very fortunate to secure a traineeship after a summer placement at the end of my third year at university. It was a shock to the system though as I had just returned from spending the year in Strasbourg studying law - well that sandwiched between playing hockey and many a weekend away travelling all over Europe.

I completed my Traineeship at another law firm in Glasgow, and although I had seats in corporate, construction and engineering and litigation, I knew that I was a litigator through and through. Although I had no experience whatsoever of doing personal injury, Digby Brown took a chance on me and hired me as a newly qualified (NQ) within the general Personal Injury Law team.

My career: from my first court case to Partner in Serious Injury Team

When it comes to personal injury, there are many misconceptions about it. At first, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting myself into having come from a corporate background. The work is certainly varied and you get to meet clients from all different walks of life.

Initially, I got a lot of questions like: don’t a lot of clients make it up or over egg the pudding? The reality is that our firm is not interested in acting in fraudulent claims, so these sorts of situations are few and far between. If they do arise, they are dealt with quickly and appropriately. I really feel like we make a difference to people’s lives and help them when they often don’t know where to turn. That isn’t necessarily the case in other fields of law which makes our role really quite special.

I was fortunate to gain a lot of court experience personally and through the instruction of counsel in a wide variety of cases.

I actually had to run my first full evidential hearing (proof) within a matter of weeks of joining the firm – it was a terrifying prospect until I was on my feet.

Throughout my career, I have gone on to conduct a good number of proofs. I’m happy to say I have won many more than I have lost, but some my best experience has come from running these court cases and all that goes with it.

Digby Brown also gave me the opportunity to polish my supervision skills from a relatively early stage so that became an integral part of my job, particularly in the general team.

That sparked an interest in teaching and I became a tutor at the University of Glasgow on the diploma course. In addition to tutoring at the university, I also carry out training for the firm both internally and externally.

The experience I gained from the work that I have done in the firm has also allowed me to gain the Law Society Specialist accreditation in personal injury and I am a senior litigator for APIL.

Throughout my career, my supervisors have been really engaged which allowed me to develop my skill set, and secure lots of valuable experience in different types of personal injury cases including:

I always had an interest in the specialist area of Serious Injury and joined the team in April 2019. Each case is unique and we work hard with experts in their fields to put an individual care and rehabilitation packages in place that meets our clients’ needs.

Early intervention in these cases is key and the rehabilitation aspect is a real focus in our team. We look at all avenues of our clients’ lives to ensure their compensation is suffice to meet their individual needs whether that be:

  • at home
  • socially
  • or from a general financial perspective

We also ensure that clients are safeguarded where necessary. We are always available to the clients to assist them along the litigation journey and to help them on their way into the future following often life changing injuries.

Compensation will never be enough in these cases but we try to put measures in place so that clients can live as independently as possible. For me, being able to help in this way is one of the best aspects of my job.

I was made Partner in May of this year whilst I was on maternity leave and I am now back in the saddle adjusting to family and office life with the full support of the firm.

Kirsty O'Donnell

Partner

Serious Injury Team

Glasgow