In this installment of Realm Talks To, Principal Consultant Joseph Shenton spoke to Jennifer Dougal, Head of Operations at Jefferies Solicitors. During their chat, Jennifer explained why she decided personal injury was the practice area for her, how Jefferies is different from other firms, and how playing tennis helps her to unwind away from the office.
Why did you decide to specialise in personal injury?
I have always wanted to help people and through various work experience schemes, I discovered that I found a natural fit with Personal Injury rather than any other area of law. In particular, I enjoy working with members of the public and the opportunity to work on a variety of cases that challenge me but also can be extremely rewarding. Throughout my career, I have been lucky to work with a number of wonderful clients and their families and have witnessed the profound difference that we can make in people’s everyday lives. That is the main reason I continue to work within the sector regardless of the challenges that might arise.
You joined Jefferies Solicitors in 2019 as their Head of Operations – what does your day-to-day role involve?
My main focus as the Head of Operations is to oversee the operational activities of the firm and ensure that firm is efficient and productive. What this means, in reality, is that I have an incredibly varied workload and work within every area of the business. I need to have a full and detailed knowledge of how each department operates and the people within them, ensuring that staff are aware of the best practices and that they have the right level of support to carry out their work efficiently. I work with people at all levels of the business from strategic planning with the management team, to overseeing customer service. This often involves working closely with the IT Team and a lot of my time is spent developing and implementing technological solutions or making enhancements to existing systems and processes whilst taking into account the compliance and regulatory framework.
What makes Jefferies different from other specialist personal injury firms?
Jefferies stands out to me as a firm as it strives to go above and beyond for its clients. I know that this may sound like a cliché but the culture in the firm genuinely thrives upon getting the best results for our clients, whether it be in our new claims team, fee earning or accounts team clients. As a result, the atmosphere within the office is supportive and collaborative and we have a strong focus on mentoring at all levels. We have recently developed career pathways for all levels of the business in an attempt to make it transparent as to how employees can progress within the firm. A number of our staff have been with us for 10+ years and some started as trainees, and we currently have 3 Trainee Solicitors and a Solicitor Apprentice, two of which started with the firm a number of years ago in different teams but have advanced into the Fee Earning team.
What do you look for in a lawyer when recruiting for your team?
When recruiting Solicitors, we look for those who we think will align with our core values which are Excellence, Loyalty, Integrity, Trust and Efficiency. We look for people who we think will put clients first, work hard to achieve those results and have the desire to continually improve. We also want people to have a good work-life balance and encourage interests outside of work and have the ability to deliver excellent client and customer service and who can build a good rapport with clients.
We consider very carefully before someone joins the firm which team they should be in and have overhauled our induction process in the past year to make sure that new staff feel comfortable enough to ask questions and ensure that training is accessible to everyone within the firm via our training hub. We also work closely with the Business Growth Hub to devise non-legal training to help staff enhance their non-legal skill set.
What’s been the proudest moment of your career so far?
There are a number of achievements that I am proud of and it is hard to point out a single one. On the fee-earning side I have supported and supervised a team of Solicitors to run a group litigation for asbestos clients and have helped a number of personal injury and industrial disease clients secure compensation. I still keep the feedback I have received from those clients which helps to keep me motivated. A stand-out moment for me has been being part of the CJC Working party and mediating an agreement for NIHL fixed fees and assisting to devise the process for these cases which is due to be implemented in October 2023. As a result of this experience, I have a detailed knowledge and a keen interest in the impending fixed fee regimes and see these as an opportunity and a challenge to improve our working processes further so that we can continue to help those in need of legal advice and support.
What’s the last book you read?
With 2 very small children, there is little time left for reading fiction but I did recently read ‘The secret thoughts of successful women’ by Valerie Young. I found it incredibly insightful and with a lot of relevant advice for women who may at times find themselves facing a crisis in confidence which I know certainly have when returning from maternity leave on both occasions.
What do you like to do away from the office?
Aside from spending time with my family, I like to play tennis when I can and keep fit. I also enjoy volunteering for our firm charities such as the Children Adventure Farm Trust.
About Jennifer Dougal
Jennifer Dougal is the Head of Operations at Jefferies Solicitors.
Jennifer qualified as a solicitor in 2009 and worked for most of her legal career running high-value personal injury and clinical negligence claims alongside industrial diseases cases. She has also been a member of Law Society steering committees and a member of the Civil Justice Committee working party which mediated the fixed fee costs for noise-induced hearing loss claims.