As part of our Life at Irwin Mitchell campaign, we sat down with Steve Hill, a senior associate solicitor in our serious injury team, and Lorna Benson, a trainee solicitor in our serious injury team.
Steve was Lorna’s line manager when she was a paralegal, and we wanted to find out more about how he supported her when she was applying for her training contract and how it feels to make such a positive difference to their client’s lives.
VIDEO Can you tell us how long you’ve been at Irwin Mitchell and what your role is?
Steve Hill (SH): I'm a senior associate in the serious injury team. I have a small caseload of catastrophically injured clients, which includes those with brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, amputation, or a fatal accident. Everyone who comes to me has had their lives turned upside down, so it’s up to me and my team to guide them through the process and try and get them the right amount of compensation.
Lorna Benson (LB): I joined the firm in 2017 and started my journey in Ascent, which is a subsidiary company of Irwin Mitchell. I then applied for a paralegal role in the serious injury team, and I’m now a second-year trainee. My first seat was in Court of Protection and my second seat was in Family. I have now moved onto my third seat in the Catastrophic Personal Injury team. How does supporting clients make you feel?
SH: It's a great privilege to be in this role and provide support to clients who’ve experienced a life-changing event. It doesn’t just affect the client; it affects their family too. No amount of compensation will take them back to the life they had before the injury, but part of our role is to help the client to build a new life. Knowing that our clients and their families are financially secure and have all the care they require is extremely rewarding. It’s satisfying to see how we’ve played a part in helping them look ahead to a brighter future.
LB: In my paralegal role, I initially found it quite tough hearing about the various stories and accidents. Having no experience in this area, I lacked confidence in my abilities. But with a supportive team around me, my confidence grew stronger and stronger. I’ve been able to help clients through devastating times in their lives, which is extremely fulfilling. The prospect of being a qualified solicitor in the future and having clients of my own means the world to me. To be able to give them clear advice and support to move their case forward so they feel optimistic for the future is something I’m really excited about. Why’s it important to build a trusting relationship with your clients?
SH: Building strong relationships with your clients is crucial in this job. Clients and their families may feel very vulnerable and alone, struggling to comprehend what’s happened. It isn’t just about providing straightforward legal advice, but it’s about supporting them through their case and sharing your experience from similar cases. You can have all the legal knowledge in the world, but without your client’s trust and your ability to communicate effectively, they won’t feel comfortable enough to open up to you. How important is your team in delivering an excellent service for your clients?
SH: My team are central to the success of every case. Bringing colleagues to client meetings is incredibly important because it isn't just a relationship with one person, but with a team of our dedicated and talented people here. Having a diverse team allows us to see things from various perspectives. Both the junior and senior members of the team bring their different skills to the table and by working together and supporting one another, we can achieve the best results for our clients. Can you tell us a bit more about your relationship as line manager and trainee solicitor?
LB: Steve is very personable and similar to me in lots of ways. He’s a great line manager who’s very supportive and relaxed in his approach. I can talk to him about anything, whether that’s personal or professional, which I find extremely valuable. Having undertaken a seat in the Court of Protection team, I was able to continue working alongside my personal injury colleagues and in particular, Steve which was comforting.
SH: I believe that managers should always be looking to develop the people they lead because it’s so rewarding. If you want to deliver great results, you need to invest time in the people in your team. I knew Lorna was set on securing a training contract, so I helped her through the process. It was challenging as there’s lots of steps involved but seeing her achieve her goal was fantastic. What’s a training contract?
LB: During a training contract, you sit in four seats, covering different legal areas ranging from contentious to non-contentious seats. Having the opportunity to move around the different departments gives you various transferable skills and a range of knowledge in different legal areas which will eventually aid in being a well-rounded Solicitor upon qualification. Why did you apply for a training contract?
LB: When I applied for the paralegal job in the catastrophic injury team, my Mum had just been involved in an accident and unfortunately had to endure an above-knee amputation. Having that life-changing event happen to me and my family, it made me more determined to use my personal experience to help others. I am able to empathise with clients and support them through incredibly tough times, because I could personally understand the difficulties they were going through.
Growing up, I didn't have much academic guidance or support from my family members. I was the first person in my immediate family to have gone onto university. I didn’t apply for training contracts at a time when others around me were as I didn’t know what a training contract entailed and assumed that no reputable law firm would look twice at my application. It was only until I joined Irwin Mitchell and spoke to various colleagues, who gave me an insight into the application process, that I applied. I had a great mentor alongside my line manager, Steve that supported and guided me through the process. In my application I opened up about the situation that happened to my Mum and emphasised my clear passion to help others. I’m ambitious and always look ahead to the next step, so after university and working as a paralegal, the training contract was my goal.
Can you tell us about the process?
LB: The training contract process is competitive and requires lots of resilience. When I applied for the first time, I tailored my application to what I thought Irwin Mitchell were looking for and I didn’t get to the assessment centre. The second time I applied, I had Steve’s support and he told me to just be myself and be honest. I was authentic in my application and managed to reach the assessment centre stage, but unfortunately didn’t secure the contract the second time due to the pandemic. After this knock back, I had to rebuild my confidence. Steve played a vital role in improving my self-esteem and encouraging me to be the best I could be. If I didn’t have his support, the process would have been much harder. It took me a lot to reapply for a third time. I think I was just mentally exhausted with so many different aspects of my work life and personal life, but Steve kept me going and made me believe in myself. I was over the moon to finally secure the training contract in 2022. How did it feel when you got the news that you’d secured the training contract?
LB: When I got the call to say I was successful in securing a training contract, I burst into tears in the middle of the office. I was speechless! It was just an overwhelming feeling of joy. I felt extremely proud of myself for getting through the process whilst doing the LPC and working full-time. It was an amazing feeling, and I couldn’t thank Steve enough for his support.
SH: I was delighted when Lorna told me she’d secured the training contract. She worked incredibly hard to get through the process. It’s extremely disappointing when you see someone you know who’s talented enough get knocked back. But it’s important to stop them from losing motivation. Lorna had everything she needed to get herself to the next level. I was just in the background to support her and make sure that she delivered it when she needed to deliver it. I know Lorna will support someone else through their training contract one day. Whenever you climb to the next level, you always need to help someone else up as well. That is how we build a better world.
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Please read Steve’s professional profile