That was unexpected. It seems my first ever blog was not only read by my mother and long-suffering wife, but actual real-life people (not that my mother and wife are fictitious, you understand). Sure, I know all of the people who have read it so far, and they were probably just humouring me in the short-term, but I’m still rather chuffed. Even better, it appears to have been quite well-received and I actually have people ‘following’ me. So long as they keep a safe distance, and don’t start sending me bits of their hair, I’m happy with that. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll reach the wider masses with my ramblings? For now, though, I’m just happy that I haven’t been immediately told to pack it in.
I suppose that, in my first few outings as a bloggerista, I should explain a bit about myself, just in case anyone outside of my immediate friends and family should happen to stumble onto here.
I mentioned in my opening piece that I’m a personal injury solicitor and that, given my time over again, I almost certainly wouldn’t be. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a well-paid and (occasionally) rewarding job, it’s just that it isn’t particularly what I signed up for when I slogged my way through six years of university, law school and my ‘training contract’. After completing my law degree at Lancaster, it just seemed the natural progression to carry on to law school and, since so many of my peers were applying to the College of Law in Chester for the one-year Legal Practice Course, I decided to join them. I don’t necessarily regret that decision, and I made some fantastic friends while I was there, it’s just that, in hindsight, that was probably my last chance of pursuing a career other than the one I now find myself in.
After law school came the inevitable scrap for that most precious of things – a ‘training contract’. Unlike some of my fellow post-grads, I didn’t have any contacts in the profession, so even securing work experience to get the proverbial foot in the door had been a challenge. In the end, I must have applied to over one hundred firms and, lawyers being lawyers, only a handful of the miserable bastards even had the decency to reply. Even the ones that did bother to respond rejected me. Not good for a scrawny kid with low self-esteem.
The worst part was, I’m pretty certain many of the larger firms just looked at my background, the university I had attended, and my lack of experience/contacts in the profession, and dismissed me straight away. I have no doubt that, if I’d gone to Oxbridge, and Daddy had played golf every Wednesday with the senior partner of a firm, I could have written my application in crayon, and sealed the envelope with my own faeces and I still would have got an interview.
That might sound like I’m being bitter, but I’m honestly not. I still resent the snobbery in some of the bigger firms, and take great delight in winning cases against the chinless-wonders they employed instead, but I wouldn’t swap places with any of them. Even now, I take calls daily from arrogant, egotistical tosspots working at big city firms, who still think that a solicitor at a small Cheshire firm is beneath them, even when he’s been qualified for far longer. The level of self-importance they can muster is astonishing.
I even had someone at Aviva try to exude superiority over me not so long ago. Never have I come across a company so filled-to-the-brim with lobotomised window-lickers as Aviva. In fairness, they’re surprisingly successful at what they do, so they must employ people with above-average intelligence somewhere along the line, but they sure-as-hell haven’t given them a telephone and let them speak to me. This one numpty had phoned me regarding a case that had just settled for £3,000 and, having talked down to me for a few minutes, he genuinely asked whether my client wanted her damages in the form of one cheque. My sarcastic response of “No, actually she has asked for 30 identical cheques of £100 each, please” was completely lost on him, and there followed five minutes of speaking to his supervisor to see if that was possible. Honestly.
But it’s moments like that, which make being a small-town personal injury lawyer entertaining. I obviously can’t divulge anything confidential or relating to my clients, but you can’t fail to be amused by someone confirming that their accident took place “in that month that comes before December, you know the one, what’s it called?” or accidentally sending you compromising photos of their wife rather than of their injury.
Speaking of which, I genuinely had one old fella send me photos of his… well, old fella, once. I wouldn’t mind so much if it was necessary for the claim, but it was the first time he’d contacted me and we hadn’t even agreed to take his case on. Apparently he was collecting his newspaper in just a dressing gown, when he tripped over a pothole and fell forwards, the dressing gown opening to reveal his ancient and shrivelled genitalia, shortly before a heavy (and no doubt painful) skidded impact with the pavement. The image was burned onto my retinas for some time, and I couldn’t eat shrimp for months afterwards, but the thought of him sailing through the air, like a shaved flying squirrel, still makes me chuckle.
Or there was the unfortunate character from Stoke who, when trying to confirm his postcode and national insurance number for me on a particularly bad line, was suddenly struck with a debilitating case of Tourette’s, resulting in a highly awkward exchange between us. “My postcode is S for…. erm….. shit. Sorry about that, mate, I couldn’t think of another word. Erm, T… for…..oh dear…. erm… twat? Shit, sorry about this mate…. Shit.” I was just grateful he didn’t come from around here, as our postcode starts CW.
I won’t lie, I didn’t envisage myself working in the field of personal injury when I left law school all those years ago, but in the end I just needed a job and the first firm that I got an interview at specialised in personal injury claims. I only stayed there a few months, predominantly because I had been misled as to the job prospects by an obnoxious boss who resembled Peter Griffin from Family Guy, but the job I moved on to was also with a personal injury firm. Four years later, having grown weary of the pressure applied by the nouveau riche partners (and the detriment to my health that came with it), I moved to my current firm which, you guessed it, specialises in personal injury claims. And here I am, having just completed my eighth year with that company.
I don’t suppose my current boss will ever read this blog, but I do genuinely like the firm, even if the work can wear you down after a while. Some clients are pleasant, honest, and most importantly grateful human beings, and it can be genuinely rewarding to represent them. It’s just that some have become caught up in the whole ‘compensation culture’ image that the good solicitors among us strive to avoid, and believe they are owed everything, and are owed it yesterday. No, your six-month whiplash injury is not worth £1.5 million. No, I can’t settle your claim two weeks after you instructed me. No, it’s not my fault your case is ‘dragging on’ – it’s yours for pissing off abroad for six months without telling me.
I’d like to keep what I post on here as light-hearted as possible, so I won’t go into why the profession, and particularly the public perception of it, has changed so much in the past ten years, but suffice to say I’m now embarrassed to respond when someone asks me what I do for a living. Unless they work in the profession themselves, or have had a good first-hand experience of it, I’m invariably faced with the sort of disdainful look/response that used to be reserved for politicians, traffic wardens and The Inland Revenue. As far as most people are concerned, personal injury lawyers are only one rung up the scum ladder from Nigel Farage’s greasy little fingers, and this is mostly due to the barrage of dodgy companies you see advertising on TV, and phoning you several times a week to ask if you’ve had an accident in the last three years. Yeah, we hate them too.
But, when the job starts to wear me down, as it invariably does from time to time, I try to take a step back and think about how it could be worse. Much, much worse. Some people would love to have my job – indeed, any job – and I have to be grateful for that. If nothing else, I’m paid well and I work indoors, so I can’t complain.