Areas of work, specialisms and alternatives

What is personal injury law? A guide for aspiring barrister pupils

23 Aug 2023, 17:09

Personal injury barristers require empathy and emotional resilience to succeed.

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Personal injury law has a reputation for allowing juniors to take their own small cases quite early on but can scale up into incredibly complex cases for KCs.

What is personal injury law at the Bar?

Personal injury cases have a heavy focus on factual detail. They involve injuries sustained in a road traffic accident or accidents abroad; injuries caused by animals or workplace accidents; occupational stress or non-recent sexual abuse. Clinical negligence cases are claims against medical professionals, such as doctors in NHS or private hospitals, GPs or dentists, and medical treatment in a range of locations including prisons, care homes and psychiatric facilities.

What do personal injury barristers do?

Personal injury work is common for juniors, particularly fast-track, one-day road traffic accident claims. Trials increase in length with factual and legal complexity. Clinical negligence claims require a consideration of medical as well as legal causation. In both areas the duration of litigation can be dependent on a claimant’s current health or age – sometimes it is important to wait for the outcome of a medical procedure or until a claimant is old enough for damage to be assessed.

Personal injury cases at the junior end tend to be heard in the county courts, while higher value cases and those for clinical negligence may be heard in the High Court.

Hours across the Bar are long. You have to be disciplined and these cases often involve wading through medical records and expert reports. On the positive side, being self-employed means that you can take time out when your diary allows it.

What is life like as a personal injury law pupil?

During pupillage tasks will likely include drafting medical chronologies and pleadings, attending conferences with medical experts and round table meetings for settlement negotiations.

In the first six months the focus is on observation. In the second six months pupils are instructed on their own cases. Court hearings at this stage are normally for infant approval hearings, case management conferences or straightforward trials.

What skills do you need to be a personal injury law barrister?

Empathy and emotional resilience are key for personal injury barristers, as is the ability to process large volumes of information in a short time and a a strong grasp of maths for calculating complex schedules of losses.

Types of law practised within personal injury law

  • Contract
  • Tort
  • European

How much can I earn as a personal injury law pupil?

You will likely shadow a number of different members of chambers alongside your pupil supervisor and may later specialise in one area of law (generally one of chambers’ specialties) once you have been in practice for some time. As such it can be tricky to nail down exact earnings for early tenants, but you can take a look at our overview of how much you can earn as a pupil barrister to get a general idea of how much each chambers offers to pupils. Sets in the more commercially orientated areas tend to offer between £40,000 and £75,000 for 12 months but there is a huge variation by practice area.

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