The team at Mooneerams Personal Injury claim solicitors in Cardiff are a cheery bunch, as anyone who has had any dealings with them either on the phone or in the flesh will testify. No one typifies this more than senior personal injury solicitor Andrew Last, a man who always seems to have a smile on his face. We caught up with Andrew for a chat over coffee in the breakout room at Mooneerams. We wanted to find out more about Andrew – his career to date, his role at Mooneerams, why he thinks Mooneerams are so highly rated and what it is that seems to keep him so happy, all of the time!
Andrew thanks for agreeing to have a chat with us over a coffee.
AL: My pleasure. Nice to have a break for a few minutes!
First things first: where are you from originally?
AL: Somerset born and Somerset bred (Yeovil to be precise!)
Where did you study to become a solicitor?
AL: I did my law degree in Kingston-upon-Thames and then moved to Cardiff to do the bar course, so I originally trained as a barrister.
How did you first come to work at Mooneerams?
AL: I was working in another firm in Cardiff at the time. Although I had my eye on a career at the bar (legal bar that is!) at the time, the job I was in was soulless and dead-end. I tried legal agencies to find another job but they didn’t come up with much, so I got a list of every firm in Cardiff and just worked through calling everyone to see if there were any jobs. It was a spot of luck that Mooneerams just so happened to be looking for someone at the time. I almost didn’t get the job because one of the partners thought I had parked in their space when I had come for the interview. He only found out later that I didn’t own a car at the time!
You did your training at Mooneerams, is that right?
AL: That’s right, I became a non-practising barrister in 2008 and then started at Mooneerams on a temporary basis on the understanding that I would be continuing to apply for pupillage (which is like a barrister’s apprenticeship). It was the Directors’ idea that I could train with Mooneerams as a solicitor in the meantime.
So, when did you qualify as a solicitor?
AL: I completed my training and cross-qualified as a solicitor in 2010.
You’ve been with Mooneerams ever since?
AL: That’s right, I started on a 6-month contract, and am still here over 10 years later!
And what is your role within the firm?
AL: I run or supervise most of the non-road traffic accidents that come into the firm
Do you specialise in any particular area of Personal Injury Law?
AL: I essentially deal with all types of accident not involving motor vehicles. So, slips and trips, accident at work, defective product cases, accidents involving animals, planes, trains, ships. You name it! It makes things interesting; every case is different.
What are the qualities that you feel you bring to your work?
AL: I am very determined (my wife calls it stubbornness!) and whilst there are times in litigation to take a more cordial approach, clients want a fighter in their corner and so I am always pushing things as hard as I can with the other side.
Other than that, I would say it’s my poker face. Litigation is often likened to a game, and where Personal Injury is involved, it’s a game of poker. There is often a lot of bluff involved with the other side. It’s a mixture of psychology and being able to calculate risk and chance. It’s strange, but in my normal life, I’m no good at negotiating. But when I’m dealing with other people’s lives and money, I approach it with a cold detachment, always keeping my Poker face. I never let the other side know what I’m really thinking and that can be really important when negotiating.
Is there a case that you have worked on that has given you the most satisfaction – one that you are particularly proud of?
AL: I had a case fairly recently involving a lady who injured her wrist badly in work as a result of her employer’s negligence. She then had a further accident because they failed to adapt her work to take into account the fact that she couldn’t use her injured wrist properly!
She ended up having to change job roles due to her injuries which affected her pay, career prospects and pension; effectively the injury was going to cost her hundreds of thousands. The employer disputed liability and we had a 3-and-a-half-year battle, but we kept up the fight after which they finally made an offer to settle the case. I then negotiated that figure up to well over the original offer, so the case concluded about 6 weeks before it was due to go to a Trial. The client was already going through a stressful period in her life due to her home circumstances, so I was really pleased to get her the result.
What do you find is the most rewarding part about the work that you do?
AL: It’s most definitely the clients. Some of our clients have very serious, life-changing injuries and they just don’t know where to turn. It’s really rewarding when we can help them. I’m not just talking about getting them compensation, but in the course of the case we are involved in arranging treatment, and often care, for the client, and that can have a huge impact on their life and outlook.
We are also dealing with people who are at a stressful time in their lives. Not only have they been injured, but sometimes they can’t work, or look after others. We are an outlet for those people and often act almost as counsellors, listening to their difficulties. I’ve had to comfort clients on many an occasion, and whilst I wouldn’t wish anyone to be upset, it’s good to know we can help them out, even if it does just mean having a chat over a cup of coffee. We are on first name terms with our clients and some cases go on for years, so we get to know them very well. One even bought a teddy-bear for my little girl when she was born!
Is there anything that you find frustrating about working in the legal profession?
AL: Definitely. It is, the view most people have about what we do and I think the media are to blame for that. What they don’t report is that when you see cases in the papers of people “winning” millions of pounds of compensation, almost all of that money will be to replace lost earnings or to fund care for the rest of that person’s life. It frustrates us all that people call this a “win”; I’ve yet to come across a client who wouldn’t give all the money back to have not had the injuries in the first place!
The McDonald’s coffee case in the U.S.A. is one you hear a lot about, involving a lady who (allegedly) was awarded millions for burning herself on hot coffee. It sounds ridiculous when you say it like that, and that’s how the media report these things, but if you actually read into and find out what happened, I think most people would come to a very different view.
‘I’ve been called an ‘ambulance-chaser’ more times than I can count!’
I think that comes from a misunderstanding that Solicitors are the same as those claims management companies that used to call and text people asking if they had been in an accident. Thankfully, newer laws have made this more difficult and so we hope people won’t get badgered like that going forward. We’ve never touted for work, and we would never want people to be pressurised into making a claim.
People also think if you have an accident or injury you can make a claim. This simply isn’t true. The client has to prove the wrongful party has been negligent and that is the same whether it’s a car crash or a doctor amputating the wrong leg. The client still has to prove their case.
A lot of clients express embarrassment about making a claim, and I think that is because the media (supported by the insurance industry) have hammered it into society that making claims is some sort of seedy thing to do. It’s not. It’s a right that stretches back thousands of years to the very first civilisations. Accidents happen – yes, but when they happen because other people have been negligent, then the victim shouldn’t be losing out in that situation.
What is it about working at Mooneerams that has kept you here all your career to date?
AL: I really enjoy working in Personal Injury and Mooneerams are the best personal injury solicitors around! Every case and every client is different and whilst that brings its own challenges it means that no two days are the same. The atmosphere is very laid-back in the office and the lawyers are afforded a lot of latitude in how we work. I’m not saying it’s stress-free but none of the stress comes from above. We are allowed to work flexibly exactly because everyone takes the work itself seriously and takes a lot of pride in it. There is also a lot of support; we’re not tied to targets so there are no egos involved. If someone needs help with a case meaning a colleague takes an hour out of their day to help, that’s exactly what we do.
Why do you think Mooneerams have got such a good reputation?
AL: Without a doubt, the most important factor is our client care. Mooneerams has always had the attitude that if we do a good job for clients, they will help us get our name out to others and that effect has just snowballed since I’ve been here. We have never paid for work and have always got most of our cases in through word-of-mouth.
Every week we have people transferring their cases to us because they aren’t happy with the service provided elsewhere. Sometimes this is the quality of the work itself, but often it’s just a basic lack of ability to communicate with whoever is dealing with your case. We are in 2019 and it’s just incredible that this still happens. How many times do we hear “We are sorry to keep you waiting, your call is important to us…”. Well, if that’s true, why are you on hold for 20 minutes? When someone says they will give you a call back the same day, why does that invariably not happen?
I’m not pretending that our clients are able to contact their Solicitor at any moment of the day, but it’s just basic courtesy to keep the promises you make to people, so when you are told your Solicitor is in Court all day, but a colleague will call you back, we always make sure that happens. It’s not rocket science, but it just takes the right attitude. If we know someone is waiting to hear back from us, we all take that as a priority.
Is Mooneerams ‘Pizza Friday’ a myth or is it true?
AL: Shhh, it’s like the ‘Scottish Play’: we don’t talk about it!
When you are not working, what do you like to do in your free time?
AL: I have a two year old, so over the last few years I don’t feel like I’ve had much of that! I try to keep healthy, so I do a lot of running and up until recently I was playing squash. I also started boxing last year with a friend of mine, but I have to be careful not to come into work with a black eye. Other than that I go to as many new places as possible with my daughter – there is sometimes a pub involved if I’m lucky!
Finally – is it true that you smile all the time and if so, what is it that makes you so happy?
AL: Well, not ALL the time. It’s normally because I’m thinking about lunch!
Thank you very much for your time, Andrew. It’s been nice getting to know more about you
AL: I’ve enjoyed it. Thank you.
Andrew Last is a senior personal injury solicitor who works out of Mooneerams office in Cardiff. Andrew can be contacted on 029 2048 3615 or by email [email protected].