An Interview with Sami Palmer-Latif, Solicitor at Potter Rees Dolan

Posted in Interviews on 11 Feb 2019

Tell us a bit about yourself 
I am a Manchester based Personal Injury Solicitor with nine years post qualification experience. I specialise in high value serious injury work, predominantly relating to brain and complex orthopaedic injuries. I trained at a large commercial and private client law firm before qualifying into a personal injury role and then moving to a niche practice, Potter Rees Dolan, to enable me to further develop my knowledge and expertise.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in the legal sector?
I chose to pursue a career in law specialising in personal injury because I wanted to work in a rewarding and challenging field where, through representation, I would help vulnerable individuals progress from adverse situations to hopefully more promising futures with added security and an improved quality of life. It is both a humbling and fulfilling experience to represent an individual on this pathway in a professional capacity. 

Tell us about your role
Personal injury is a facet of civil litigation and analysing, advising, drafting, negotiating and advocacy work all feature prominently in what I do. My cases arise from a variety of contexts including road traffic accidents, accidents at work, criminal injuries and public liability accidents. Often, I will be instructed during the acute stage of a client’s recovery and their claim will run in tandem. I am a fervent believer in maximising the level of rehabilitation for a client during the course of a claim alongside the task of securing a proper level of financial recompense; ultimately they value their health and wellbeing above all else and all that can be done should be done to optimise their recovery.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the fact that the job is so very varied. It is often not appreciated that personal injury is so expansive and transcends many other disciplines including employment law, engineering, medicine, social welfare and finance. This makes for a wider learning experience within a domain of law which is ever evolving through case law and legislation. Each client I represent is different and brings their own particular set of circumstances and issues to be addressed. All in all, it makes for a dynamic area of practice.

What’s the most challenging element of your job? / Have you faced any crossroads in your career so far and if so how did you manage that?
At the beginning of my career, I quickly came to expect to encounter a wide variety of vexed issues between opposing parties. It was not however until I became involved in serious injury work that I gained a true appreciation of the distinct client management challenges of dealing with someone, for example, who has trauma related cognitive and behavioural issues arising from a brain injury or a bereaved family member in the case of fatality.   It is important to be able to continually adapt and strategise throughout the course of a claim because whilst prospective planning is essential, an element of unpredictability is an inherent part of the process.

So far what has been your career highlight?
I have worked on many interesting cases from my training contract through to the present day. My most notable cases to date include representing a gentleman who suffered injuries in a watersports accident compounded to a life changing extent by substandard medical treatment. He brought a claim which had both personal injury and clinical negligence dimensions to it. It was vigorously contested and settled shortly before Trial. I also acted for the parents of a deceased child arising from a fairground accident in an inquest and civil claim proceedings. Despite the oppositional approach taken by the other parties, the parents were ultimately vindicated and important HSE safety recommendations were made at the inquest. They also succeeded in their civil claims.

Who or what has had the biggest influence on your professional career so far?
My interest in law was ignited at University by one of my lecturers, Professor Fareda Banda who was incredibly knowledgeable and passionate in her delivery and gave me an inspiring perception of the profession, especially from a BME perspective. During my career, I have had the privilege of working with some very talented and eminent lawyers including leading QCs and other professionals who have imparted guidance and experience. What do you think the emerging skills are which will best equip lawyers for the future?
The long-valued skills in the profession such as good judgement, an analytical mind and strong interpersonal skills remain key but there is a need for lawyers in the future to demonstrate more than this. Rapidly emerging technologies are an inescapable part of our lives and lawyers need to understand how best they can be utilised to improve the delivery of their legal services and manage the expectations of clients.

Do you have any advice for new trainees or paralegals beginning a career in law?
I would advise aspiring lawyers to try to ensure they get a broad-based grounding in order to develop both the technical and soft skill attributes they will need in the profession. They should take advantage of opportunities where possible to obtain legal exposure outside the office environment, for example, by attending Court and conferences with Counsel. Such forums facilitate insight and learning from different perspectives. Also, alongside fee earning work, it is never too early to demonstrate an interest for other areas integral to practice, such as business development, social media or internal projects.

What could you see yourself being or doing if you had not pursued a career in the legal sector?
If I had not pursued a career in private practice I would have liked to work for an intergovernmental organisation. I have always had a deep interest in the interplay between politics with social and cultural mores around the world. Prior to starting my training contract, I worked for a charity abroad linked to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and found this to be a fascinating and transformative experience.

What do you do to relax outside the office?
Aside from spending time with my family, I enjoy different sporting pursuits as well as exploring my creative side through performance and visual arts and travel (where I use my foreign language skills with mixed success!). 

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