Philippa Craven - Partner at Kennedys in Birmingham
What is your role at Kennedys?
I am a partner at Kennedys working in the Liability Division from our Birmingham office on Newhall Street.
Why did you become a solicitor?
Although I am a partner, I have not taken the conventional, qualified solicitor, route. I have been working in the legal profession for 20 years and have passed various law exams. I was delighted and very proud when I joined the partnership at Kennedys following the introduction of new regulations in 2009.
What's the best thing about your job?
There are lots of good things about my job but I think that the best is the personal satisfaction that I derive from achieving great results for my clients and knowing that they are pleased with the work that I do for them.
What keeps you working at the firm?
I joined Kennedys from DLA Piper in January 2009 and can honestly say that I have not looked back once. Kennedys is a dispute resolution firm and acts for clients involved in the insurance market. As a defendant personal injury lawyer, it is important to me to work within a firm where insurance litigation is its core business. Kennedys is also a great place to work, with its culture & values playing an important role in everyday working life here.
What's the most interesting case you have dealt with?
I acted for the owners of a horse which, when ridden by a third party, bolted and caused very serious spinal injury. The accident occurred not long after the House of Lords case of Mirvahedy -v- Henley, which provoked much debate as to the meaning and interpretation of the Animals Act. In order to consider liability we had to examine equine behaviour and we had equine experts, who were able to ride the horse in question, and provide their opinions as to this particular horse's behaviour and whether it was typical of all horses. The case was high profile so there was also some press involvement. The claimant was an experienced rider and there were also allegations of contributory negligence to be resolved. It culminated in a trial at the Royal Courts in London.
Where do you see your firm in five to ten years? What are the biggest challenges you'll face?
The legal profession is facing significant challenges in the future with the implementation of the Jackson reforms and the Legal Services Act, amongst others. There have been recent announcements of mergers and proposed mergers between insurance law firms which appear to be in response to the increasing commoditisation of the insurance industry. We all, Kennedys included, need to be ready to deal with these changes.
As a firm, we have grown considerably during the past four years with UK and international investment and development. We are well placed to represent our current and prospective clients and have a clear vision for our future. We will need, however, to be willing and prepared to adapt that vision and our business strategy to deal with any of these new changes as they take place. There is much discussion as to how Alternative Business Structures will work and what impact they will have on our profession. It is likely that we will face new competitors in our markets. It is possible that we will need to assess the viability of aligning ourselves with other businesses. I think that all law firms, although working in line with their business plans, will need to be prepared to be flexible and, at times, daring.
What would you have been if you weren't a lawyer?
If I hadn't become a lawyer, and whilst I would have loved to be a helicopter pilot, I think I would have probably done something like journalism (I'm not sure that I should be admitting to this at this time!)
What would you advise lawyers beginning their legal career today?
I would advise any lawyer beginning their career to be enthusiastic, personable, adaptable, confident and strategic. Technical skills are a given. It's all of the extras that will get people noticed.