Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland legal firm let staff work from hotel in Lanzarote for month if targets are met

By Margaret Canning

The managing director of Northern Ireland's biggest personal injury law firm says she's hoping to grow its work in clinical negligence.

Maurece Hutchinson of JMK Solicitors in Newry and Belfast said she had a special interest in acting for families where children had suffered brain injuries at birth.

The practice, which has annual revenues of around £5m, also took a novel approach to upping productivity last year, offering staff the opportunity to work from a hotel in Lanzarote for a month if certain targets were met.

Ms Hutchinson said the approach had paid off.

"I loved the personal injury side as I was very interested in anatomy and medicine and loved understanding that area of work. I might have gone into medicine but I couldn't stand the gore.

"And with personal injury, I have really loved helping people and feeling like I was making a tangible difference."

Where a case results in a satisfactory settlement for a client against a party who has caused them an injury, "people are so much happier at the end of the process", says Maurece.

"It's an area where you can really make things better."

She's still haunted by some of the horrific injuries suffered by clients in road traffic accidents.

"There was the lady who survived a terrible accident when she was pinned to a car. Another male client was given a 5% chance of survival and in fact the police thought it was a fatal road accident when they found him.

"He had suffered a catastrophic brain injury but all he wanted from a settlement was to have enough to leave and live a new life in Spain."

Maurece joined JMK Solicitors in 2005. It's owned by Jonathan McKeown - also the owner of accident management firm Crash Services, which he bought over from his father Michael McKeown.

JMK has been ranked the top personal injury firm in Northern Ireland for the fourth year in a row after figures from the Compensation Recovery Unit showed it had handled 1,420 separate personal injury cases in 2017.

Maurece is keen to develop its clinical negligence side, and has extensive experience in representing parents whose children have suffered brain injury at birth, leaving them needing constant care.

The sums awarded to parents where hospitals admit liability can be significant, but she adds: "Nearly all the money goes to provide care but very little goes to the injury itself. Often liability may not be admitted until the last minute and for the lawyers that is a breakthrough, but for parents it's finally the realisation that they could have had a healthy child without the negligence."

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