Muiris Lyons is a partner and the Head of the Clinical Negligence team at Stewarts. Muiris is ranked as one of the leading claimant clinical negligence lawyers in the country. He leads a team described by The Legal 500 as “simply excellent”.
My family background is a little unusual. My parents are Irish hence the uncommon first name which is Gaelic for Maurice, my grandfather’s name.
My father is from Tipperary and was the second son born on a small family farm where the eldest inherited and worked the farm. At 14, my father joined the St John of God Brothers, where he served as a Brother for 20 years. My mother, who was from Dublin, was appointed as his secretary and they fell in love. He was given a papal dispensation to leave the Brotherhood, but while this was going through, my mother became pregnant with me. In relatively melodramatic terms for the time, they left Ireland to marry and start a new life in England. We lived in various council flats and houses initially, and I went to a Catholic comprehensive school in Southampton.
I wanted to study history at university, but my A level grades let me down. I started to re-sit the year but after a week couldn’t face that and through clearing got a place to study Law at the Polytechnic of Wales. In the first week, you had to sign up and pay a £20 deposit to secure your place at Law College. I drifted through three years of law, finding it surprisingly interesting and enjoyable. I ended up at Guildford College of Law by default, where I surprised myself by passing at the first attempt.
I was passionate about the law and social justice. I was fortunate that at this time there were more places for trainees than candidates, and I had about five offers of articles; a real contrast to today’s challenges for training contracts. I spent two years at a high street Legal Aid practice in Southampton and qualified into a mix of civil, family and criminal litigation with daily advocacy in the county and magistrates courts. I began to specialise in personal injury and clinical negligence, and after a stint at Coles Miller in Poole, I joined Stewarts shortly after the firm was founded. I was based in the then Taunton office and fortunate enough to work with both Doug Stewart and John Cahill when John actually worked on cases…
I had a crash course in running catastrophic injury cases. During this time, I also obtained my LL.M in Advanced Litigation from Nottingham Trent University. I relocated to Devon, where I worked at Bond Pearce for several years and then became a partner at Withy King in Bath. I was headhunted to join Alexander Harris, then one of the premier firms in the personal injury and clinical negligence fields to head up their new London office. After a couple of years, they were taken over by Irwin Mitchell, and I ended up as a partner in their London office. I had kept in touch with John and we would see each other on the train to London occasionally. There is an old saying: “Never burn your bridges.” I had always tried to keep on good terms with former colleagues. It paid dividends when John asked me one morning on the train whether I would be interested in the role of head of Clinical Negligence at Stewarts. I rejoined in 2008 and have not looked back. The firm has grown significantly, and the clinical negligence department now has a turnover bigger than the firm had when I rejoined. We have taken annual clinical negligence fees from under £1m to nearly £10m.
My career has taken various twists and turns. I have run some extremely high-profile healthcare cases, including several challenging “right to life” baby cases. I ran the Natallie Evans v HFEA “frozen embryo” case, which went through the High Court, Court of Appeal and House of Lords and then on to a 17-judge hearing in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. For several years, I had a high media profile through my work as President of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). For 10 years, I was the general editor of the Journal of Personal Injury Law (JPIL) and a contributing editor to Kemp and Kemp. I even played myself in a drama-documentary, Born with Two Mothers, with Oscar-winning actor Sophie Okonedo and Lesley Sharp.
Outside of work, I have always tried to keep fit and have done the Ironman race and represented GB in my age-group at the Long Distance Triathlon World Championships in France. Taking part in the London to Paris bike ride in honour of our former partner Danny Turnbull two years ago was a particular highlight.
I have been very fortunate to have the career that I have so far. I love working at Stewarts. It is an incredible place to work and be a part of. To be surrounded by such talented and committed people inspires me. John and my fellow partners ensure the firm never stands still. There is always the next challenge. Life will always have its ups and downs, but there are always opportunities. We just have to take the time to see them for what they are and act on them.
To view Muiris’ profile, please click here.
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