‘Make a hit list of your achievements’: Top tips from award-winning solicitor
A 30 Under 30 winner has urged junior lawyers to never downplay their triumphs or hesitate to nominate themselves for awards.
Shine Lawyers medical negligence senior solicitor and 2021 Health and Medical Lawyer of the Year Chloe Heterick is passionate about medical law and negligence and lifting standards in the health system to prevent similar injuries from being inflicted on other patients.
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The 30 Under 30 Awards 2022 is being held on Friday, 3 June 2022, at The Star in Sydney. Candidates have until 24 March to nominate and lodge their submissions, with finalists announced in April.
The Health, Medical and Personal Injury award recognises a lawyer who has advised on legal matters concerning Australia’s healthcare system, including medical, pharmaceutical, research and healthcare matters.
In her awards submission last year, Ms Heterick listed one client outcome as one of her proudest achievements.
She served a client who had suffered a delay in a cancer diagnosis after he was not informed about an incidental finding on a scan.
“It was in the scan and the radiologist made some comments that it needs to be investigated and said he needs a follow-up,” she told Lawyers Weekly.
“Nobody told him about it, and two and a half years later he developed advanced cancer. He was not given a very long prognosis.”
Ms Heterick and her team had to obtain expert evidence and negotiate that settlement quickly due to her client’s reduced life expectancy.
“These claims tend to run for more than three years and when you’ve got someone with a reduced life expectancy and they pass before their claim settles, there’s a large portion of their claim that they’re no longer entitled to,” she said.
“You want to achieve the maximum outcome but you’re kind of running against this unknown timeframe.”
Ms Heterick stressed that money was not the object for her client. Rather, he wanted an apology from the hospital involved in this case.
“They’re hard to come by and are not very frequent in this area but we were able to negotiate an apology on behalf of the hospital involved,” she explained.
“The client received a written apology which was quite sincere and genuine, and our client was really happy with that. His claim settled and he passed away two weeks later. It was almost like he was just holding on until he got that. That was really special for me to be able to just give him an apology. He felt like he was heard.”
These are the kinds of achievements that lawyers should note down when they question their contribution to their law firm or whether they are making a difference, Ms Heterick said.
“When you are compiling your submission for an award, you might think you haven’t done anything special other than show up and do your job,” she said.
“This is especially the case for juniors who might think it’s not them achieving these outcomes but the senior members of their team.”
To combat this, Ms Heterick suggested that lawyers collect their achievements, recognition, positive feedback and praise from their network, including senior members of their firm, clients, or paralegals, and save it in a folder in their inbox.
“When you look back in a year’s time, you will be surprised at how many items you’ve dragged into that inbox. You can see what you’ve been able to achieve,” she said.
Ms Heterick encouraged lawyers to nominate themselves for awards such as 30 Under 30 and “make a hit list of your biggest achievements”.
“Ask your colleagues as well because sometimes you can be your own worst critic,” she suggested.
“Sometimes, it takes a colleague to point out that you were able to settle claims in three months that usually take three years, for example.”
Acknowledging the mentors who propelled her career, Ms Heterick said that since winning the award last year, she had taken an active mentoring role in her firm where she guides her support staff around the applications of the law.
She has also become a trusted source of advice and guidance for those interested in a career in health law.