This months Barrister of the Month is Colin Baran, called in 2003.
What caused you to want to specialise in Personal Injury?
During my pupillage with Tom Rochford here at St Philips, I saw a lot of personal injury work. One particularly memorable experience was a trial based on a claim involving an assault course on a Territorial Army weekend. I enjoyed the combination of interesting clients, fact situations and the occasional legal problem to solve. In all, I think it is the variety of work that most appealed to me. You never know, from one day to the next, what is going to cross your desk.
Describe the legal issues / challenges of a recent case
I seem to be on a run of chronic pain/somatoform disorder claims at the moment. These can be incredibly challenging and difficult to advise on. Having the best team of experts behind you, and ensuring that everyone pulls together and remains realistic as to what can be achieved for a claimant can be particularly tricky. One matter in particular involved a late application to resile from an admission of liability, which necessitated joining a further Defendant to the claim, out of time, and limitation arguments – all in the context of a bemused client asserting ongoing life changing chronic pain symptoms.
What was your worst / most embarrassing moment in Court or Court?
You try to blank them out, and moments where I have wanted the ground to open up and swallow me are thankfully few and far between. I suppose the one that sticks out in my mind was the most public one – when all 3 members of the Court of Appeal ganged up on me and took points that my opponent had not even noticed or put forward in his grounds of appeal. After a thorough grilling they must have felt sorry for me as they offered to give me 10 minutes to collect my thoughts. I lost.
Who or what is your inspiration?
Privately, my grandparents, in particular my grandmother. She instilled in me a love of reading, and taught me that the answers to most problems in life can be found in a good book. Other than that, I suppose Ian Botham, Headingly, 1981. I’m too young to remember it live but have seen it hundreds of times on television. Lesson – always give it your best shot, because you just never know when it might come off.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of entering into Personal Injury Law?
Don’t specialise too early – in either subject area or on taking the claimant-defendant side. Learn how to litigate generally before picking the area that interests you the most. Personal injury is an area of litigation that is susceptible to trends. Today’s boom area may very quickly fall out of favour with changes and reforms, especially in relation to costs. Too narrow a specialism can leave you high and dry. Stay flexible.
If you could create or change any Personal Injury law or regulation, what would it be?
I think that many of us would rather that regulatory attention was focused on outlawing cold calling and referral fees, rather than attempting to limit access to justice by fiddling with small claims limits and fixed costs. But one area which I think would be of real benefit in the larger claims would be the imposition of mediation or neutral evaluation as a preliminary stage after issue of proceedings, prior to any other case management. I think this would assist enormously in getting the right help for injured claimants as quickly as possible, to help them on their road to recovery or to live with any injury-related long term disability, whilst allowing defendants to get a realistic feel for their likely damages and costs exposure in a case and as to whether aspects of a case are really worth disputing further.
Away from the law, what do you like to do?
I love spending time by the sea with the family, going to see stand-up comedy (sometimes not too dissimilar from the day job) and cricket. I have to confess that I am a bit of a cricket anorak. During the summer months it may be noticed that my work capacity sometimes depends on the Test match schedule. But there really is nothing better than enjoying a day in the sunshine with friends, a picnic, a drink or two and the cricket in the background.
Written by Janita Patel