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Staying power with Clare Thompson, Head of Clinical Negligence

06 Jun 2022

Did you always envisage a career in the industry?

I enjoy problem solving and a challenge, and thought that law might be something that I’d enjoy and could be good at, so I took it as an option at GCSE.  I found it really interesting and so went on to study it at University. More than 30 years on, I have no regrets about my decision!

What is your favourite aspect of the job?

There is a lot of satisfaction in achieving a good settlement for a client and knowing that the award of compensation will make their future more comfortable and secure. There is also an increasing focus on improving patient safety and clients are often happy with an apology, an explanation as to what went wrong and to feel that, in raising their concerns, similar mistakes will be avoided in the future. The recent Ockenden enquiry into maternity services at Shrewsbury Trust brought this into sharp focus.

What has been your career defining moment?

Judgment being handed down in favour of a client with a severe brain injury in what was a very difficult case and following a fully contested trial, and seeing them then awarded a life-changing sum of money.

Being appointed as head of Hay & Kilner’s clinical negligence team was also a major milestone.  I’ve dedicated over 25 years of my career to claimant clinical negligence work, with the majority of that time spent very happily at Hay & Kilner. Having my experience and commitment recognised with the head of team appointment was a career-defining moment for me.

How do you measure success?

In my career, success is all about achieving the best outcomes for clients, improving patient safety and being part of a happy and committed team.

Outside of work, success is all about enjoying good times with my lovely family and friends.

What have been the biggest changes in the industry since you started?

Advances in technology is the obvious one – I can remember life without emails!

As a trainee, I can recall the secretaries producing forms on a typewriter and we used the fax machine to send urgent documents.

Everything of course took a bit longer, but there was also much less stress and we enjoyed the occasional long lunch with a glass of wine!

I do think the pandemic forced us to change the way in which we worked, mostly for the better.  In contrast to my trainee days, Hay & Kilner is now working paper-free and we are about to move to modern new offices without filing cabinets. The move to hybrid working is another positive change which should result in a better work-life balance, reduced stress and better mental health for many in the industry.

I also think that the role of the solicitor, and the qualities needed to fulfil it, have changed. There is a much greater emphasis on business development skills, networking and building trusted relationships with clients.

How has your skillset developed accordingly?

My IT skills have improved significantly, especially over the last couple of years.

In terms of business development and networking skills, I’m a sociable person and really like meeting new people, so enhancing that side of my role is something I’ve really enjoyed.

Clare Thompson 6

For a number of years, I’ve chaired the regional Women Lawyers’ Division, which supports practising and aspiring women solicitors, and that has been a lovely way to meet and network with other female lawyers.

Are you a risk taker by nature or more conservative?

I’m definitely a cautious person by nature. I’ve not ever really been called upon to take any great risks in my career, which is probably just as well!

To what would you attribute your success?

I’m lucky to have always been well supported by family and colleagues throughout my career. I work hard and am very focussed on what I need to achieve, but I’ve also been inspired by the many amazing solicitors I have worked with over the years. Success is almost always due to a team effort, as opposed to any one individual’s.

What’s your biggest weakness and how have you managed this?

I’m a perfectionist and always want to achieve the very best that I can, so I can be disappointed if the results fall short of my (often ambitious) goals. I suspect this is a character trait I’m stuck with!

How do you remain motivated?

I have been a trainee supervisor for years and really enjoy engaging with the younger members of the team. Whilst there are a lot of experienced solicitors within the Hay & Kilner team, I am committed to supporting and developing the trainees and newly qualified solicitors, who will be the future of the firm.

Would you prefer to be liked or respected?

Within my team, I would prefer to be liked. In respect of my job as a litigator, the aim isn’t necessarily to be liked, but I would like to think that I am well respected.

I’ll retire when….

I feel like I’ve achieved everything I set out to do in my career – and I’m not quite there yet!

If you would like to discuss a clinical negligence claim with Clare, you can email clare.thompson@hay-kilner.co.uk, visit www.hay-kilner.co.uk or call 0191 232 8345.