My first seat at BLM was occupational disease, which to be honest, I had not heard of before I started. (I was pleased to find out later that the other trainees who had sat in this seat said the same when they started!) Being part of this team provides interesting work and is very hands on. It has given me great customer exposure– basically the perfect first seat.
Occupational disease deals mostly with claims brought against current or former employers for medical afflictions sustained in the course of employment. The most common ones I have had to deal with are Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) claims. This is basically where workers, mostly manual labourers, are claiming that persistent loud noise in their workplace over many years has damaged their hearing and that their employers should compensate them for the hearing loss, if they can prove the employers are liable! Asbestos claims are very common as well.
The seat, like many at BLM, is geared towards dispute resolution/litigation. This means all those hours spent reading the CPRs and drafting court forms for the Civil Litigation module on the LPC were not wasted! I have had to draft a lot of witness statements, defences and particulars of claim. This is the kind of work that is so useful as a trainee because these sorts of tasks are universal to all dispute resolution seats, regardless of the area of law (a court form is a court form!).
The seat can be quite technical (lots of medical and engineering jargon from the reports) but don’t think trainees have to crack open a copy of ‘Essentials of Anatomy’ in order to get anywhere. You pick it up as you go and you’re not expected to be able to interpret medical records and record them in great detail.
Drafting witness statements has presented a major benefit in this seat – being able to conduct meetings and telephone conferences with customers unsupervised. I have had to interview five separate witnesses in my first month here in interviews that generally last about an hour. If you’re looking to really test your ability to deal with customers, this is a good seat.
Highlights of the seats so far? Accompanying counsel to court twice within my first month…and not to just sit there quietly and watch. You have to have a good grasp of the case because you’ll be tasked with reporting back to the customer. In this case the customer wanted a report that day! These reports cover what the counsels for both sides have said in the initial meeting (so lots of bickering over issues like whether certain pieces of evidence should be admitted), what the witnesses have said under cross-examination and (most importantly) what the outcome was. It sounds like it could be stressful but I’ve had loads of support from my team partner and supervisor and was given plenty of time to read over the trial bundle and the case overall. The experience ended up being really fun and if you have an opportunity to accompany counsel to court in any seat I’d highly recommend it.