Professional negligence solicitors are lawyers trained in the English tradition who handle malpractice cases against doctors, lawyers, architects, and other professionals. The main goal of a professional negligence solicitor is to build the foundations of a negligence case, beginning with legal research and including witness interviews, evidence collection, and issue briefing. Solicitors can represent either professionals and insurance companies, if applicable, or individual clients who feel that they have been wronged by services rendered by a professional. Most of the time, professional negligence solicitors work in law firms, often in close association with barristers and other negligence law specialists.
The traditional English law system operates based on a “split” legal profession, where case research and preparation are held separate from litigation. In most countries, the job of the lawyer or attorney incorporates both of these tasks. The United Kingdom holds fast to the traditional separation, however, titling researchers “solicitors” and litigators “barristers.” Ireland and most Australian states have followed suit.
Solicitors and barristers can often cross the lines of their respective professions with relative ease. Performing the role of both solicitor and barrister is always an option, however. Professional negligence solicitors may litigate a negligence case as well as research and prepare it, but not always. The core role of the negligence solicitor is to study the law, apply it to a given client’s facts, and build as strong a case as possible.
Professional negligence under the English law system relates exclusively to negligent actions of a select group of professionals. Most professional negligence cases present as medical, dental, or legal malpractice cases. For this reason, professional negligence solicitors are sometimes called professional malpractice solicitors. Negligence cases against architects and accounting professionals are also typically included in the definition of professional negligence. General negligence claims against corporations or other individuals, while often actionable, do not usually come under the “professional negligence” banner, however.
A professional malpractice solicitor may represent either an injured client or an accused professional. In either case, the solicitor will focus his time and attention on characterizing the accident or injury at stake. Professional negligence solicitors research the governing law, interview similarly-situated professionals, and ultimately argue that the professional either should or should not be held liable for the damages or injuries that befell. Negligence litigation comes at the culmination of this research and can either be performed by the negligence solicitor or by a barrister of the solicitor’s choosing.
Negligence is a rather nuanced area of law. Most of the time, a simple error does not amount to negligence. Each jurisdiction has its own precise definition of negligence, but it typically centers on reason. Assessing how a “reasonable” professional in a similar circumstance would have responded is usually the standard for determining whether a misstep was unavoidable or otherwise understandable or whether it was negligent. Recognized standards in the industry are also important to this determination.