Emma Lyons specialises in high-value and complex claims involving catastrophic injury. She has a keen interest in brain and spinal cord injury work and has been involved with various multimillion pound settlements..
I qualified as a solicitor in September 2013. Unlike many, I never had a burning desire to qualify into law. At school, I loved poetry and English literature, but I had no vision for my future career beyond devouring as many books as possible.
First steps towards the law
My mum suggested I consider studying law because it would “open lots of doors” for me. So, I went with it. I was prepared for laborious lectures and reading about EU legislation and constitutional and contract law. While I experienced my fair share of that, I was surprised at how diverse and interesting (some of) the law was.
I studied at Durham University and then completed my LPC at York College of Law in 2010. The UK was still feeling the raw effects of the global recession at that time, and as a result, my training contract was deferred for a year. I unexpectedly found myself back at home in Northern Ireland for a year with no idea how I would survive living at home, being accountable for my whereabouts again, and being responsible for making my own money and paying my way (with no student loan – gasp).
I started working in the small shoe shop in my hometown where I had had a part-time job at weekends and during school holidays since I was 13. Soon after, I secured a job in the “big city” (Belfast), working in a contact centre for Microsoft, resetting passwords for people who had locked themselves out of their email accounts. Yes, there are real people on the other end of those password reset emails!
After a short stint in the Microsoft team, I managed to secure a job as a recruitment and marketing assistant in the same company, which opened up some amazing opportunities. My job was to advertise recruitment jobs in the company and travel around Europe, attending job fairs and marketing events to attract talented people to work in a variety of roles in Belfast. I travelled to many countries and cities, including Amsterdam, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Germany and Hungary. I led a large recruitment drive for the company’s small office in Debrecen, the second-largest city in Hungary.
I have many fond memories of my multiple trips to Budapest and Debrecen and was so grateful for the opportunity to travel with great colleagues and make lots of new friends. It was a rather unconventional gap year. My poor mum, who was looking forward to having me fill up her home and spending time with her, barely saw me.
Life and work as a trainee
In September 2011, I began my training contract with a wonderful high street firm of solicitors in Carlisle. I felt so at home in Carlisle and made every effort to take up every opportunity offered to me. I ran a legal advice clinic, chaired the Junior Lawyers Division, was part of the Law Society and local Headway committee, and much more. I was so fortunate to have such a hands-on and interesting experience while I was training.
Inadvertently, I spent the vast majority of my training contract in the personal injury team. I hadn’t studied personal injury and never considered it as a career option. Like so many trainees, as soon as I began working in the area, I could see the importance and real reward in the work. I loved building relationships with people, offering support and in some small way helping families who found their worlds turned upside down after injury.
I will never forget one of the first catastrophically injured clients I met during my training, a tetraplegic painter and decorator who had fallen from the first floor of a house when a bannister he was leaning on collapsed. My first introduction to the world of life-changing injury was sobering but seeing the difference that could be made with the right support and care in place was a game-changer for me.
I was retained as a newly qualified solicitor by the firm, but within a year, I decided to move with my partner to Sheffield. He had secured a job as an employment solicitor in a large firm, and I had a job in the personal injury team in a fantastic national firm in Nottingham. It took a few years, but in 2016 I secured a solicitor role at Stewarts, a firm I had followed and admired for years.
I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when I joined Stewarts, but I am delighted to say my expectations were surpassed tenfold. Not only was the work challenging and important, but the team was so wonderfully warm and welcoming. The ethos of the firm is personified in the exceptionally talented, down-to-earth, and friendly staff. I couldn’t believe my luck and constantly remind myself how fortunate I am to be part of such a fantastic team and contribute to the exceptionally high standard of work we carry out for our remarkable clients.
Since joining the team in 2016, I have developed my interests and expertise, particularly in spinal cord and brain injury cases. I have watched the team grow from strength to strength and have been so lucky to progress from solicitor to associate to senior associate.
During lockdown, I launched a series of bite-size webinars called “Stewarts Soundbites”. The aim was to provide a concise, 15-minutes snapshot into various topics of interest arising from life after catastrophic injury. The episodes are intended to be relaxed and interesting and to act as a springboard for bigger conversations. I did not expect that Soundbites would be an ongoing project one year on, but I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn from our wonderful speakers. All previous episodes are available here.
The best thing about Stewarts is…
In reflecting upon the firm’s best asset, it is easy to come to the swift conclusion that without question, it is the staff. The last year and a half throughout the coronavirus pandemic have been challenging for everyone. Stewarts has remained focused on inclusion and well-being for its staff throughout. As a mother of a one-year-old at the beginning of the pandemic, I was worried about how I would juggle work and full-time care for my son, but the firm was nothing but supportive and completely flexible.
Inclusion and well-being are embedded in the firm’s culture and reflected in the many initiatives centred on creating a workplace that embraces diversity and encourages innovation. I am proud to be part of a number of initiatives aimed at enhancing and securing inclusion, including the LGBT+ focus group. The team has organised some wonderful events raising awareness and highlighting the importance of acknowledging and reflecting upon the journey of the LGBT+ community.
I found it fascinating and disturbing to learn that LGBT+ people experience a number of health and social inequalities. As a result, some sections of LGBT+ communities may be at a higher risk of being more severely affected by the pandemic.
Stewarts Pride is taking place this September to coincide with this year’s Pride march in London, so watch this space for some great articles and events.
To view Emma’s profile, please click here.
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