Sinead Hayes

Irwin Mitchell trainee solicitor Sinead Hayes advises you to never give up, despite rejection, and to start early if you want to stand out



Sinead Hayes

Firm: Irwin Mitchell

Position: Trainee Solicitor

Degree: LLB Law

Universities: Sheffield Hallam University


Hobbies: Reading, learning new languages, going to the cinema and socialising with friends.

Department: Medical Law and Patient’s Rights

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor? I undertook a law degree at Sheffield Hallam University, and thoroughly enjoyed studying the subject. After undertaking work experience at various law firms and sitting in the public galleries at court, I found the law in practice extremely interesting and decided to pursue a career in law. I wanted to protect individual’s rights and found the law amajor and influential instrument in order to implement this.

Why did you choose your firm? I researched numerous law firms in order to decide where I wanted to pursue my career in law. I knew I wanted to specialise in clinical negligence, and therefore, I wanted obtain the best training possible in this field of expertise. As Irwin Mitchell is the largest personal injury and clinical negligence practice in the UK, I knew I would get the best possible training to start my legal career.

What has been the highlight of your training contract so far?Working in the different areas of personal injury law, I have been able to assist in obtaining substantial monetary settlements, and rehabilitation programmes for our clients.

I was also able to get involved in a number of charity events as part of Irwin Mitchell’s social responsibility programme. I volunteered to sleep rough outside Sheffield City Cathedral in order to raise funds and awareness for the Cathedral Archer Project which helps the homeless and vulnerable, which is a worthwhile cause.

What does your typical day involve? I normally start work around 8am and check my emails, prioritising my work. I will review the work that my supervisor and other colleagues have provided me with, and work through these throughout the day. The work I undertake could range from attending meetings with clients, experts and counsel, reviewing medical reports and taking witness statements.

I will then normally have my lunch around 1pm. I will continue to work through my work load that I prioritised in the morning, but if my supervisor has provided me with work that needs undertaking urgently, I would need to prioritise this accordingly. 

In the afternoon on occasions, there will be some training that I could attend, whether that be a review of the recent changes to legislation, or an overview of medical practices and procedures. I then usually finish my day between 5.30pm – 6pm.

Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by your department? Irwin Mitchell has the UK’s largest and most experienced medical negligence team handling claims and recovering compensation for every kind of medical mistake.  There are many types of medical accidents, but most will include one of the following causes:

·      A delay in being diagnosed with a condition, which results in the changes of recovery being reduced;

·      Badly performed surgery;

·      Incorrect or inappropriate treatment; and

·      A delay in responding during child birth to signs of the baby’s distress which leads to either the child/or the mother being injured.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? I thoroughly enjoy meeting clients, whether that be at an initial meeting to take further information from them, or at a conference with counsel and the medical experts, in order to discuss the development of the case.

What are the worst aspects of your job? I tend to leave the administration tasks last on my to-do list. This could range from photocopying, filing or sorting and paginating medical notes and records.

What is the biggest misconception of the legal profession? That all lawyers must come from a public school background in order to commence a career in law.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law? Never give up; when I started my applications for training contracts, I got numerous rejection letters and unfortunately, that is something that is to be expected. When applying for training contracts or legal work placements, always be fully prepared and therefore, research the firm fully in order to provide good reasons as to why you are applying.

What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when pursuing a legal career? In order to stand out when pursuing a legal career you must start early, and therefore, preferably in your first year at university and if possible, even at college. This will show how committed you are to the law and through such experience, you will have more of an understanding of the law in practice to prepare you for pursuing a legal career.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract? When I applied for training contracts I was working alongside completing my studies, which I found difficult to manage at first. However, if anything I feel it has helped me to implement the organisational skills that are required when practising law.

Whilst applying for legal work placements and training contracts I did receive rejection letters, which were quite disheartening. However, this is to be expected and I interpreted this positively, so that I could work on and improve my future applications.

How is law in practice different from studying law? When studying law you may learn about the philosophy and how the law has developed, whether there have been criticisms of a particular are of law, so that you can prepare a detailed answer to such essay or problem type question. However, in practice you are able to see the fuller picture, and draft legal documents, court forms and attend conferences with counsel and experts which are imperative when practising the law. Therefore, although when studying the law this gives you the strong background to the law, the Legal Practice Course aims to give you the necessary skills to apply the law in practice in order to work for your client.

What are the common attributes of successful candidates? I feel that in order to be a successful candidate when pursuing a career in law you will need to show the necessary skills that a lawyer would need. For example, in order to run a case load you will need excellent organisational skills, so that important dates are not missed. Working in the personal injury field, you will need excellent client care skills, as the clients will have suffered a severe and possible life changing injury, and therefore, you need to be able to put your client at ease when speaking with them. Other skills that I feel are necessary include attention to detail, analytical skills, drafting skills and letter writing, as these will be skills that you use on a daily basis.