I started working at Irwin Mitchell as a paralegal in 2008 before training and qualifying with the firm. I joined the Public Law & Human Rights department in Irwin Mitchell LLP as a solicitor in 2017.
I specialise and have experience in general public law cases and welfare cases in relation to vulnerable adults in the Court of Protection under the Mental Capacity Act relating to mental capacity, deprivation of liberty, health and welfare. I am regularly instructed by the Official Solicitor, family members, advocates and paid relevant persons representatives.
I have particular interest and my team have expertise in the following types of cases:
- S21A challenges to a deprivation of liberty.
- S16 best interests health and welfare applications dealing with disputes about residence, care and contact.
- Applications concerning a person's capacity to marry and to consent to sexual relations.
- Medical treatment disputes
- Safeguarding vulnerable adults
- Bringing legal challenges to unlawful care assessments and inadequate care packages for disabled children, adults and carers
I often work with highly vulnerable individuals who are suffering from conditions such as dementia, learning disabilities or brain injury. I am determined to ensure that those who are considered to have impaired decision-making capacity continue to have a 'voice' and that their wishes and feelings are upheld, where possible, and not unfairly marginalised.
I also advise on other areas of community care law, including challenges under the Care Act 2014, Children and Families Act 2014, challenges under the Human Rights Act 1998 and public law judicial review challenges.
I have a number of years' experience in working on complex, high value catastrophic injury cases and managing cases for vulnerable clients who have sustained serious injuries.
In 2016 I received the Trainee Solicitor of the Year award at the Northern Law Awards.
"The support, guidance and commitment from the team on this case has been outstanding. The legal journey presented a lot of challenges and at times was extremely emotional. Your staff were there at every stage ensuring issues were promptly addressed and reassurance given when problems felt overwhelming, this made a huge difference not only to me as a litigation friend but also to close members of the family who were closely involved. Amazing service from the whole team at Irwin Mitchell" - 5* Trustpilot review
"I have worked with Helen Smith on a few cases and it is always a pleasure. This particular case was a rather difficult one but Helen got us through it with her usual high standard of professionalism and wonderful people skills." - 5* Trustpilot review
"I've worked alongside Helen on a few cases now. I can't fault her work. She has the client at heart, and is a very kind and warm person, but also very thorough and professional. Her communication skills are faultless too." – Trustpilot review from professional advocate
“Thank you for all the work you put into securing a return home for mum. Your efforts have reassured me that the legal system can and does work to safeguard and protect vulnerable individuals. We both wish you all the best for the future and hope you have many more successes.” – Peter Smith
“We are pleased that the case has been resolved correctly. In no small measure to your efforts and for that you have our gratitude. By the time I got to you with the case I was tearing out what little hair I have left... Thank you so much for your work Helen.” – Mr J
“I am most grateful for your consistently clear and professional communication during what has been a nightmare scenario for some considerable time, and thankfully has now ended.” – Mrs F
“Thank you for all your support and guidance in this matter. Your attentiveness has been very much appreciated.” – Mrs G
What inspired you to get into law?
I am committed to being able to use my expertise to protect the rights of those most vulnerable in society and to ensure that they have a voice which is heard. I am very fortunate to work within a team which puts the client at the centre of all that we do and which is able to address wider policy challenges which affect the lives of our most vulnerable clients.
I wanted to work in a team which is frequently at the forefront of challenging and developing the law; the Public Law & Human Rights department certainly ticks that box.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?
The most rewarding aspect of my role is being able to achieve an outcome which benefits my client. The clients I act for are often experiencing extremely difficult circumstances and can be very anxious about decisions which are being made which have a significant impact on their lives.
As a solicitor, to be able to provide reassurance, guidance and to achieve a positive outcome for my clients in these circumstances is an aspect of my job which provides great satisfaction to me.
What do you like about working at Irwin Mitchell?
I am very fortunate to work with a team of equally committed, hard-working people who are all dedicated to protecting and promoting our clients’ rights. In my previous role at the firm, I worked within our Serious Injuries team and acted on behalf of clients who had sustained catastrophic brain and spinal injuries to access rehabilitation and to regain the best possible quality of life.
The firm stands out in that we are able to call on colleagues within other departments for their expertise so as to ensure that the client receives the best possible service.
What do you do away from the office?
Away from work, I am a Trustee of the Northern Neurological Alliance, a charity which campaigns to improve the lives of people living with and affected by neurological conditions.
I am also an avid football fan and hold a season ticket to Sunderland AFC. Sadly, my Newcastle colleagues enjoy this more than I do at present.