Why CILEx Qualification Matters

Photo of Daniel Fitzsimmons, a Fellow of CILEx
Daniel Fitzsimmons, Chartered Legal Executive and Fellow of CILEx

By Daniel Fitzsimmons FCILEx, Chartered Legal Executive

On Monday I got the news I’ve waited years to hear. I am now a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx). Because I am in “active practice” I am called a “Chartered Legal Executive”. I can also use the letters “FCILEx” after my name.

So what? This is why it matters to my clients, colleagues, and me personally.

What is CILEx?

CILEx is the professional body for Chartered Legal Executives, legal practitioners, paralegals and apprentices. Established 50 years ago, it holds a Royal Charter and is one of the three core regulators of the legal profession (the other two are the Law Society, which regulates solicitors through the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and the Bar Council, which regulates barristers through the Bar Standards Board).

CILEx represents 20,000 members and offers an alternative route to a legal qualification. This means that people, like me, can become qualified lawyers without going to university for a law degree. Instead, they get on-the-job training, study, and take exams in their own time.

How Do You Become a Chartered Legal Executive?

To qualify as a Fellow of CILEx and earn the title “Chartered Legal Executive” I had to meet the qualification criteria:

  1. Pass numerous exams in law and practice. Because I worked full-time, I attended classes and studied over evenings and weekends for my qualifications. It takes years to complete the required stages.
  2. Be in “qualifying employment” for at least 3 years, 1 of which must have been as a Graduate member of CILEx, completed after finishing the exams. Qualifying employment is “work wholly of a legal nature undertaken for at least 20 hours each week, preferably under the supervision of an authorised person (as defined in the Legal Services Act 2007)”. I met that target easily as I have continuously worked in law firms for 10 years, and been at Donoghue Solicitors for 6, working closely with our Solicitor Director Kevin Donoghue.
  3. Meet “work-based learning” outcomes. I had to provide a portfolio of evidence proving that I met 27 different learning outcomes, which included showing how I apply the law and practice, communication skills, professional conduct, client care, and many other outcomes. I gave CILEx real-life (redacted) examples of my work to prove that I met the criteria. My portfolio was well over 100 pages long, and was very time-consuming to prepare.

By satisfying these strict requirements CILEx has confirmed that I meet its “Day One Outcomes”, meaning that on my first day of employment as a Chartered Legal Executive I can apply the required knowledge, experience, and skills required to my work.

Screenshot of Daniel Fitzsimmons, FCILEx listing on CILEx's website.
Screenshot of my membership listing on the CILEx website.

Why Does it Matter?

Becoming a Chartered Legal Executive means that I have proven to my regulator that I am a competent and qualified legal professional. My commitment to the highest professional standards is reflected in the oath I must recite:

I promise to discharge diligently my duties and responsibilities as a Chartered Legal Executive. I will protect my independence as a lawyer, uphold the Rule of Law, and act at all times with integrity. I will justify the confidence and trust that is placed in me by my clients, the courts, the public and by my profession.

This impacts on clients, others, and colleagues in the following ways:

1. Clients

Current and prospective clients benefit because they know they are dealing with a professional, dedicated lawyer acting in their best interests. Compare this to Government-led changes in the legal profession which have contributed to:

  1. the growth of unregulated “McKenzie friends”. Unlike Chartered Legal Executives, solicitors, and barristers, these “advisers” are under no duty to put their clients first, and
  2. claims management companies, who do not have to work to our high ethical and professional standards.

2. Others

People I deal with in my work, such as opponent insurers, solicitors, and the courts, know from my title that they are dealing with a qualified lawyer. I demand, and expect, respect for my work and the job I do for my clients. The letters “FCILEx” after my name prove my credentials and help with that.

3. Colleagues

Lastly, my colleagues know that I am committed to my career in the law and that I have the necessary skills and determination to complete the long process of qualification.

My Admission Certificate from The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.

Thanks

On a personal note, I want to take this opportunity to thank my family for their unwavering support and encouragement. Qualifying as a Fellow of CILEx can take its toll on personal lives. In my case, I settled down and had a daughter, Olivia, with my partner, Jade while working towards becoming a Chartered Legal Executive. I could not have kept going without their patience, backing, and understanding.

I would also like to thank Kevin Donoghue, our Solicitor Director. Kevin inspired me to qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive and guided me through the process. I hope to repay his support with many more years of dedicated service to our clients at Donoghue Solicitors.

 

Contact me for help with your compensation claim by completing the form this page or call me on 08000 124 246.

Can I Claim Compensation for a Mistaken Identity Arrest?

Photo of Daniel Fitzsimmons who discusses mistaken identity arrest compensation.
Daniel Fitzsimmons discusses mistaken identity arrest compensation.

 

By Daniel Fitzsimmons, GCILEx

In the past couple of weeks, I have taken on three new clients who want to pursue actions against the police after a mistaken identity arrest. All three men have suffered mentally and physically due to the incompetence of the police. This is why I believe they should be compensated.

Client 1: mistaken identity arrest at an airport

Mr. L called me following his arrest at an airport. He was with a group of friends waiting to fly out to Spain on holiday when, while at the gate, he was arrested by police officers on suspicion of domestic violence against a Miss G. Mr L told the police he did not know Miss G and denied the allegation. He was arrested and taken to a local police station for interview anyway.

After being processed and having his fingerprints and DNA taken, Mr L was detained for six hours until the police were ready to interview him.

While in the interview the interviewing officers asked him if his name was Mr W (same first name, different last name).

Mr L confirmed his name and, realising their mistake, the police eventually released Mr L without charge more than an hour later.

Unsurprisingly, he missed his flight and part of his holiday. He had to buy another ticket and join his friends the next day. The rest of his holiday was ruined because he was worried that he would be arrested again on his return. He was angry and upset that the police’s incompetence caused him to suffer stress, upset, and financial loss.

Client 2: Police arrest wrong man accused of actual bodily harm

A woman reported domestic abuse (actual bodily harm) to the police. She gave them the names of two ex-boyfriends, one of whom was my client. Both men were apparently of Nigerian descent but the woman told the police that her abuser was the other man.

Despite this clear instruction, the police mistakenly arrested my client at home, took him to a police station, and kept him in custody for five hours before eventually releasing him without charge.

Client 3: Mistaken Identity Arrest for serious sexual offences

My client, a respectable middle-aged civil servant, was leaving home to go to work in his car when three police cars arrived at speed and blocked him in.

Police officers jumped out and screamed at my client to get out of his own car. He did as he was told. The police grabbed and searched him and told him he was being arrested for the serious and upsetting offences of rape of a child under 13, slavery, and assault of a minor.

Naturally, my client was shocked and confused. He thought it was a practical joke and told the police they were mistaken and had the wrong person but they ignored him. He was bundled into the back of a police car and taken to a nearby station.

After being processed, fingerprints and DNA taken, and held for over 12 hours my client was eventually interviewed.

During the interview my client confirmed that he did not know the complainant and had never lived in the area where she said she was held. He insisted that they had the wrong person and that he could easily prove it. Despite this the police continued with their upsetting and intrusive questioning.

Again, following interview, the police confirmed that this was another case of mistaken identity arrest.

He too was released without charge.

Reasonable Suspicion and False Imprisonment

My clients were deprived of their liberty so have potential compensation claims for unlawful (or wrongful) arrest, false imprisonment, and personal injury assault/ psychological damage. There may also be claims for trespass and breach of the Human Rights Act.

But are they entitled to compensation? To answer that we have to consider the law going back to the Magna Carta (1215) which says:

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

False imprisonment is the cornerstone of their claims and is defined as the “Complete deprivation of liberty for any time, however short, without lawful cause.”

(from Clerk & Lindsell on Torts, 19th Edition, 2006)

It is established on proof of:

  1. the fact of imprisonment, and
  2. the absence of lawful authority to justify that imprisonment.

Once the claimant (victim) has proven that he or she was imprisoned the defendant (police officer) has to justify it. (see Hicks v Faulkner 1881).

Because every imprisonment is prima facie (on its face) unlawful, this is one of the rare situations in civil law where the burden of proof shifts from the claimant to the defendant.

Police prove the lawfulness of an arrest by relying on a warrant (here’s more information on police warrant claims) or, if they don’t have one, applying s.24(2) and (3) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1984) (as amended).

This law says:

(2) If a constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed, he may arrest without a warrant anyone whom he has reasonable grounds to suspect of being guilty of it.

(3) If an offence has been committed, a constable may arrest without a warrant—

(a)anyone who is guilty of the offence;

(b)anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be guilty of it.

(my emphasis in bold)

There are other conditions which must be met before arrest, such as also having reasonable grounds for believing that it is necessary to arrest.

Two-Stage Test

But what are “reasonable grounds for suspecting”? The former Master of the Rolls and Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, set down a two-stage test in Castorina v Chief Constable of Surrey (1988):

  1. Did the arresting officer suspect that the person who was arrested was guilty of the offence? The answer to this question depends entirely on the findings of fact as to the officer’s state of mind.
  2. Assuming that the officer had the necessary suspicion, was there reasonable cause for that suspicion? This is a purely objective requirement to be determined by the judge if necessary on facts found by the jury.

If my clients’ cases get that far, the trial judge(s) will be asked to consider each question in turn. Both limbs must be satisfied to justify arrest.

Public policy leans heavily in favour of the police to encourage them to get on with the job of policing effectively. As a result, the threshold for an arresting officer to justify reasonable suspicion for arrest is low. But in the cases I describe above I am confident that these mistaken identity arrests cannot be justified.

This is because even though the arresting officer might say that he personally suspected my client of guilt (Question 1: known as “the subjective test)”, the court must also be satisfied as to the reasonableness of the officer’s assumption from an outsider’s point of view (Question 2: known as “the objective test”).

So, in the case of Client 1, when my client explained to the arresting officer that he was not the person they were looking for, and that he did not know his accuser, this ought to have put doubt into the arresting officer’s mind. The officer failed to resolve this before arrest, which he could have easily done by checking my client’s passport (which he was holding as he was about to board a plane).

In my opinion, this means that the officer did not have an objectively reasonable suspicion which makes the arrest unlawful, and means that my client is entitled to compensation and, if necessary, an apology.

In short, arresting officers have to use their brains. Despite police-friendly public policy, our 800-year old right to liberty trumps their right to investigate and suppress crime without consequences.

 

If you have a mistaken identity arrest case call me, Daniel Fitzsimmons, on 0151 933 1474 or complete the online form on this page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Co-operating Helps You Win Your Compensation Claim

 

Photo of Daniel Fitzsimmons who specialises in compensation claims.
Daniel Fitzsimmons specialises in compensation claims.

By Daniel Fitzsimmons

My daughter, Olivia, loves watching old episodes of “Sesame Street” on YouTube.

I grew up with the show and, as a parent, appreciate the way the writers combined education and entertainment. Recently we watched a song about co-operation. Enjoy it here.

As the song says, “sometimes there is a job so big, if we want to get it done, we’ve got to bring those birds together and all work as one, and that’s co-operation…”.

In compensation claims I couldn’t agree more.

After the merits of the case, co-operation between legal team and client is the most important factor in winning your compensation claim.

Without it, you might lose your claim completely due to missing court deadlines or failing to get crucial evidence.

Even if you co-operate half-heartedly your claim will take longer, be harder to win, and might be worth less.

For me, winning a compensation claim is as much about being a project manager as it is about legal skills.

I need to assemble and manage a team including experts, barristers, witnesses, my colleagues, and, most importantly, my client.

Only when we all work together can we achieve a successful result.

Compensation Claim Management

An example of co-operation in practice is my client Alan N’s case. Alan received £3,600 for his compensation claim. His claim might have failed if we hadn’t worked together so well.

Alan, a newly qualified pharmacist, was riding his bike to work when he was hit by a van. He suffered various injuries, including cuts and bruises to his elbows and right knee and a puncture wound to his left thigh.

As well as his personal injuries he lost earnings and damaged his bike.

Alan instructed me to pursue his bike accident compensation claim against the van driver. Alan told me that he was on the major road when the van pulled out of a side road and hit him.

I agreed to take Alan’s claim on a “no win no fee” basis. I found the van driver’s insurers with help from the DVLA and sent them details of Alan’s compensation claim.

The insurers failed to admit liability so, at this point, we had a choice to make.

Fight on, all the way to trial if necessary, or abandon the compensation claim.

I explained to Alan that, despite what people tell you, there are no guarantees of success with compensation claims. If you go to trial the other side’s lawyer is equally confident. If they weren’t they would settle before court.

It was a risk he was willing to take.

Compensation Claim Preparation

Alan was sure he was in the right and I agreed, so I put a team together to issue proceedings.

To prepare Alan’s case I asked him to be a willing member of the team. Alan understood this and played his part. He:

  • responded promptly to my phone calls, emails, and letters;
  • provided information quickly so that I could preserve crucial evidence to prove liability;
  • attended a medical appointment on time and gave clear evidence for the doctor’s report;
  • gave a site inspector information to prepare a report to help show that his version of events was correct; and
  • met with me at his home and our offices so I could progress his compensation claim. This involved preparing schedules of losses, court pleadings, witness statements, and other items essential for court proceedings.

The experts I instructed helped by keeping appointments and providing usable reports on time.

And my colleagues at Donoghue Solicitors ensured that I was able to reply to every phone call, letter, and email, and provided me with advice and support when I took the important decision to back Alan’s case.

Court Proceedings for Compensation

After I issued court proceedings the driver’s insurers filed a defence.

They said the accident was not their driver’s fault. They claimed Alan was cycling on the wrong side of the road and he crashed into the van, not the other way round.

As his claim proceeded towards trial we spoke and met regularly to review:

  • the defence;
  • evidence both sides intended to produce at court; and
  • witness statements.

Alan agreed to free up his diary and booked time off work to give evidence at court.

Fortunately, less than two months before trial I was able to use the evidence we had prepared to convince the van driver’s insurers to admit blame. I then negotiated settlement of Alan’s compensation claim.

When I entered into negotiations it was important that I had his co-operation to keep the pressure on. We were in constant touch by email and phone.

By working together to settle his claim Alan received more than double the amount he would have recovered if we took our chances at court.

Compensation Claim Team

By readily co-operating Alan received excellent compensation and ensured that the claim process was a good experience.

It was also a powerful motivator for the rest of the team.

The group I assembled worked well with Alan’s help. We were all committed to the goal of helping him recover the most compensation possible.

This joint effort and expert help ensured that I could present Alan’s case in the best possible way, and at the right time, so that his prospects of success and compensation were greatly increased.

Without this level of communication and co-operation Alan’s case would not have progressed as quickly or as well, if at all.

That’s well worth remembering when dealing with your own compensation claim.

 

For help with your compensation claim, contact me on 0151 933 1474 or through the Donoghue Solicitors website. I am an accredited “Litigator” practitioner member in the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers.

 

 

Donoghue Solicitors win the “World Cup”

 

Picture of Daniel Fitzsimmons, team captain of the Donoghue Solicitors 5-a-side football team, who won the "World Cup" recently.

By Daniel Fitzsimmons

We won!

On Tuesday 27 May a team representing Donoghue Solicitors won the Powerleague Liverpool World Cup 5-a-side football tournament.

As a keen footballer outside of work, I put together a crack team of fellow “athletes” to play in the competition.

 

Picture of Donoghue Solicitors' "World Cup" winning 5-a-side football team.
Donoghue Solicitors World Cup Winning 5-a-side Team (left-right): Stefan Valentine, Tom Stafford, Daniel Fitzsimmons (captain), Jack Fitzsimmons, and Kevin Donoghue.

Donoghue Solicitors’ team competed against various other businesses from throughout Merseyside. The games were played at the Powerleague Liverpool (known locally as ‘The Pitz’) Centre in Walton throughout May. For those unfamiliar with the area, this is walking distance to both Anfield (the home of Liverpool FC) and Goodison Park (Everton’s ground). It is possible (but unlikely!) that scouts from both teams were watching!

Proceeds from our entry fees contributed to the Hillsborough Family Support Group. As a lifelong Liverpool FC fan the organisation is close to my heart and one I am always keen to support.

Poetry in Motion

Donoghue Solicitors played as Ireland (in “home” green shirts) and beat five other teams on our way to the final, conceding only two goals during the run. In the final we beat Knowsley Council’s Spain team 7-0.

Like at work, this was a real team effort. Everyone chipped in with at least one goal in the final.

And although we didn’t get to play as England, hopefully our win will inspire Steven Gerrard and the rest of the England team to victory in Brazil this summer!

Picture of the 5-a-side "World Cup" winners' trophy at Donoghue Solicitors' offices.
The 5-a-side “World Cup” winners trophy proudly displayed at Donoghue Solicitors’ offices.

 

 

Why taking a pre-medical offer could be an expensive mistake

Accepting a pre-medical offer could be a costly financial mistake. Daniel Fitzsimmons of Donoghue Solicitors explains why.

Photo of Daniel Fitzsimmons, Trainee Legal Executive at Donoghue Solicitors.

I recently represented a client from Birmingham who had been injured in a road traffic accident. After medical examination and negotiations with the other driver’s insurers, I settled her claim for more than three times the original offer.  What makes this claim interesting is that it highlights the dangers of accepting a ‘pre-medical offer’.

Pre-Medical Offer Definition

What is a ‘pre-medical offer’ and why should you care?

Pre-medical offers are proposals to pay compensation before the injured person has been seen by a medical expert. They are made by insurance companies in personal injury accident claims.

The practice of making a pre-medical offer in personal injury claims is described in the Association of British Insurers’ (‘ABI’) voluntary Code of Conduct. (The ABI is the trade body of insurance companies in the UK. It represents 300 member companies who cover 90% of the insurance market.) Their Code of Practice when approaching accident victims direct (where pre-medical offers are often made) states:

Offers on low value injuries

Where the injury is low value, i.e. typically only a few days in duration, insurers may offer to settle a claim without medical evidence.

The purpose of a pre-medical offer is to encourage early settlement of the claim. The insurer gets the claim off their books for a set amount; the injured person gets compensation quickly without a medical examination.

Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?

It is.

As my client Mrs. B’s case shows, accepting a pre-medical offer could be a very expensive mistake.

Road Accident Compensation Claim

Mrs. B, a retired 68-year-old woman, was in her friend’s stationary car when another driver reversed into it. Although she was injured in the road accident, she got out of the car when she realised that the other driver was leaving. The responsible driver nearly ran Mrs. B over to make her escape. The police were called and details obtained.

Mrs. B received medical treatment for her injuries and contacted me a few days later to make an accident compensation claim.

I took full details and agreed to represent her on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.

After checking the information provided, including asking about her injuries as they were known at the time, I sent the claim to the responsible insurers and began preparing her case for court proceedings.

Just under two months after the accident I received a letter from the other driver’s insurers. They helpfully admitted liability, but also made a pre-medical offer to settle Mrs. B’s claim for £1,000 plus legal fees, based on the information I had provided some time earlier.

When I told Mrs. B about the pre-medical offer she said that she was still suffering as a result of the accident, so I recommended that we reject the offer and get an expert medical opinion. She agreed.

Following Mrs. B’s medical examination, the doctor noted that my client had many other health problems including cancer, osteoarthritis, and diabetes. He confirmed that she had suffered a cervical sprain to her neck, more commonly known as ‘whiplash’. In his expert opinion, the injuries she suffered in the road accident would take two years to recover.

As well as her personal injuries, I claimed compensation for extra care and help provided by family members, medication, travel to and from her doctors, and other things.

After negotiations, I settled Mrs. B’s passenger accident claims for £3,303, more than three times the pre-medical offer.

It took an extra four months to go through this process, but Mrs. B was very happy with the settlement and felt that the time was well spent.

If she had accepted the insurer’s pre-medical offer, she would have missed out on £2,303 compensation.

How to Beat a Pre-Medical Offer

Mrs. B’s case is not unique. I routinely come across similar cases where the insurers for the responsible person make a low pre-medical offer.

And these offers are not just in road accidents. Any personal injury claim can be dealt with this way, including accidents at work, or tripping/ slipping claims.

But is it right?

Again, referring to the ABI’s Code, it specifically says (emphasis added):

Offers and Settlements 

General Policy

All offers should be fair and reasonable and based on appropriate evidence.

This is impossible without medical evidence.

Where no medical evidence has been obtained, how would anyone, let alone an unqualified insurance company representative, know what a ‘fair and reasonable’ offer should be?

Also, Mrs. B’s case shows how the insurers can ignore their own Code of Conduct when it suits them.

In her case the responsible driver’s insurers ignored both the ‘general policy’, and the guidance on ‘offers on low value injuries’. They made a very low pre-medical offer which was not:

  • ‘fair and reasonable’;
  • ‘based on appropriate evidence’; or
  • for an injury of ‘only of a few days in duration’.

Unsurprisingly, insurers try to settle claims for less than they are worth. That’s their job, as they represent the interests of the responsible party and their shareholders.

Make no mistake: by making pre-medical offers they are looking after themselves, not the accident victim.

The only way to deal with a pre-medical offer and get the right amount of compensation for the injured person is to prove their personal injury claims to the standard required at court. This means:

  • obtaining medical evidence by a qualified doctor;
  • who is instructed by an independent firm of solicitors;
  • who represent the interests of the injured person, not the responsible party.

It may take longer, but as Mrs. B’s case shows, it’s worth it to avoid making a mistake that could cost thousands of pounds.

 

+Daniel Fitzsimmons is an accredited ‘Litigator’ practitioner member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact him for help with your accident claim on 0151 933 1474 or by completing the form on the Donoghue Solicitors website.

 

What the ‘Litigator’ award for Daniel Fitzsimmons of Donoghue Solicitors means for our clients

By Kevin Donoghue, Principal, Donoghue Solicitors

Photograph of Kevin Donoghue and Daniel Fitzsimmons on Donoghue Solicitors
Kevin Donoghue (right) and Daniel Fitzsimmons of Donoghue Solicitors

I am delighted to say that my colleague, Daniel Fitzsimmons (pictured with me here), has today been confirmed as a ‘Litigator’ with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (‘APIL’).

You can see Daniel’s details on the APIL website by clicking here.

APIL is a campaigning organisation with over 4,700 lawyer members which represents its members at the highest levels, fighting with them for victims’ rights.

Its members have to promise to provide the very best service to accident victims who seek full and just compensation. APIL grades members based on experience and ability, using a panel of fellow solicitor members to assess each application individually.

Becoming a ‘Litigator’ is a significant milestone for any APIL member. It proves that you are experienced enough to pursue personal injury cases yourself; select cases and assess risk; work well within in a team (essential for law firms these days); and that you have good client care skills.

It also shows that Daniel is well respected among his peers who also practice personal injury law.

All this is good news for Daniel’s (and the firm’s) accident claims clients, who will continue to receive excellent service from him as an experienced and knowledgeable professional.

Although Daniel is a worthy ‘Litigator’ who deserves great credit for this award, I am sure he will not rest on his laurels as he pursues even more successful compensation claims on behalf of his personal injury clients.

If you want an experienced professional to deal with your accident claim, call Daniel Fitzsimmons on 08000 124 246 or complete the online form on this page to get in touch.