University: University of Reading
Personal injury (PI) law falls under the law of tort. It involves civil law cases brought to obtain compensation for injuries sustained, to restore the injured person to the position they would have been in had the injury not happened. The subject matter varies considerably and can range from controversial, high-profile disasters to road traffic accidents to health and safety cases. A related specialised practice area of PI law is clinical negligence, which involves injuries suffered during medical procedures.
After seven years at the firm, Amber Jenner is an expert not only in personal injury, but also of Kennedys itself. It’s surprising then that Amber initially considered becoming a barrister having watched “American TV shows featuring US attorneys at large”; however, following work experience in a solicitors’ firm and mooting, she realised she “actually preferred the office and team environment more than the solitary barrister lifestyle”. For Amber, the work experience helped her to make informed decisions about her future career and practice area. Reflecting on her journey and the experiences she was involved in, Amber highlights that she’s ended up where she is because of the people, not just the practice. “They were a very welcoming team, so I really enjoyed my time there during my training contract.”
These experiences and the understanding Amber built up across these years, led her to the serious and catastrophic injury team at Kennedys, which was coincidently “the very first seat I completed for my training contract”. She demonstrates how important it is for trainees to recognise how they feel in particular practice areas or seats during their training contract to help them make more informed decisions. “When it came to qualification, it was an obvious choice for me. I could see myself having a career in the serious and catastrophic injury team,” she explains.
Variety in abundance
Amber’s work as legal director in the serious and catastrophic injury team is diverse. “I never have the same day. One day I could be in court, listening to a hearing or a trial, the next I could be drafting a report for a client and going through the initial papers, giving them my initial advice on liability, what the value is and what the next steps are. I could be drafting any number of court documents or attending business development meetings.” Although at times this may be extremely demanding, it’s what Amber enjoys most about her career because it’s an opportunity to “continually learn”. For example, when “someone quotes a random section of the civil procedure rules at you, you've got to look it up and conduct more research. It's not an area you'll have necessarily come across before, which is an aspect I really like”.
Equally, the litigious nature of the work means that there’s a big focus on detail so excellent attention to detail is crucial. “We might have to read someone's medical records, read what the expert has said or go through all of the documentary evidence in a case and have to collate all of that to get an overall picture.” Working with numerous documents is time consuming, so Amber must know her case inside out to ensure that she’s picking out all the important details. To this end, she says, “often, in 3,000 pages, you're going to have to go back to find that one sentence that was actually useful to you”.
Looking to the future
The issues facing the legal profession are constantly changing, but Amber highlights two talking points that are currently on her mind. Firstly, hybrid working poses a unique set of challenges to her practice area and the legal profession as a whole . “We no longer work nine to five at a desk, and we’re all still adapting within the firms as to how we handle that for employee wellbeing, junior education and also with the courts. Do we just have remote hearings all the time? Should they be hybrid? Do we have remote expert examinations, or do they need to see the claimant and be with them?” These are important questions for a practice area that focuses on difficult and traumatic events. Knowing how to deal with these issues compassionately in a hybrid environment is certainly on Amber’s mind.
Equally, Amber considers how her involvement in corporate social responsibility has shaped her individual practice and the profession more widely. “I work closely with our social impact team to see what more can be done within the firm and to help promote Kennedys’ charitable efforts internally to get as much engagement as we possibly can.” It’s important to Amber that she’s conscious of the impact her work has on all aspects of society, including environmental, social and governance. Working alongside Kennedys’ senior social impact manager, Amber is “heavily involved in the charity work” at the firm – from organising the team for the London Legal Walk in June 2023 to assisting in the organisation of the summer challenges, which this year involves a hike through the Peak District, and partnering with The Children's Society to help fund vital mental health and wellbeing support for vulnerable young people. Amber is up for the challenge, noting: “I'm expecting lots of blisters but hopefully lots of money raised as well.”
Take your time
Kickstarting your legal career can be tough and at times may even feel out of reach. Amber says: “It took me four years to get my training contract, but those four years were spent working out which firm was going to be the best one for me.” It may seem like everybody around you has an easy journey into law or that the success stories are everywhere, but, in Amber’s words, “don’t stress” because there’s no one-size-fits-all route into law. In fact, she says: “I don't think I’d be sat here as a lawyer today had I not had the experiences I had – I wouldn't have found my passion for working in specialised insurance litigation.” With the hindsight of her experience, Amber stresses that time is on your side, so “take the time, research which firm is best what qualification route is best for you”.
She also emphasises the many options now available to aspiring lawyers. She says: “Now you've got training contracts, solicitor and graduate apprenticeships and the Solicitors Qualifying Exam, for example, and everyone will have a different opinion of what’s best for them.” Having not necessarily had the same flexibility and choice when she was qualifying, Amber is hugely supportive of opening more doors into the profession. Her personal career highlight exemplifies this: “For me, one of my particular highlights was the first time my apprentice ever ran a case all by herself. I couldn't have been prouder.”
Overall, Amber is keen to acknowledge how experience and research play a key role in choosing a career pathway and practice area. “So, go out and try to get some work experience, whether it's mooting, work experience at a law firm, marshalling a judge or a mini-pupillage, to identify whether a specific practice is for you.” The practical side of law is often very different to the theoretical side of a law degree. While “the base knowledge is there, it's a very different world”, she closes.