Hilary Meredith is the founder and CEO of the award winning Hilary Meredith Solicitors Limited, with offices in Wilmslow and London. Hilary Meredith Solicitors specialises in major trauma accident cases with particular emphasis on the armed forces worldwide.
VIVA. Hi Hilary, did you always want to be a lawyer?
Hilary. Well no, I was really into sport especially skiing, extreme skiing in fact and I wanted to be a PE teacher but a bad accident put paid to that. I took a gap year which turned into 3 and ended up working as a holiday rep for a family company in the Balearics. It was a good grounding in dealing with people and problems, managing clients’ expectations and even dealing with deaths overseas. I think this was the beginning of my career in helping others in times of need.
VIVA. What was your first job?
Hilary. I worked in a cake shop with my sister on a Saturday for £5. This was a fortune to us at the time and we got to eat the cakes that didn’t sell, yummy.
VIVA. Describe a normal day in the office
Hilary. I don’t think I have a normal day which is probably why I enjoy my work so much, I’m writing this on the train to London, as I am meeting an MP at Westminster today to try and change the law regarding a Coroner’s powers when investigating fatal accidents. My view is the Coroners should be given more powers to prevent similar accidents from happening; it’s very important. Although we act for anyone who has suffered serious injury – whether it’s in a car, at work or in a sporting activity – my main area of expertise is in helping the armed forces worldwide. I have investigated accidents for the military since 1987 and brought the first ever case against the Ministry of Defence. I have helped those who suffered injury from events in Northern Ireland in the 1990s, Bosnia, the first Gulf War, Iraq and now Afghanistan. I spend time in the military’s rehabilitation unit at Headley Court and have seen the numbers of men and women with double and triple amputations who have been blown up by roadside bombs in Afghanistan. It’s a very humbling experience; they deserve the best.
VIVA. What do you consider your greatest achievement to be?
Hilary. The aim of my company is to restore quality of life after a serious accident. We fight hard to win cases for our clients and many go on to achieve amazing things. We obtain adapted housing, aids and equipment to assist mobility, careers, case managers anything a client needs to live as independently as possible. I think seeing my clients leading fulfilling lives, no matter what their injury, is my greatest achievement as we helped in that process
VIVA. Some of the cases you deal with are very traumatic does this affect you?
Hilary. Yes definitely. The most traumatic cases are obviously the fatalities especially on the battlefield. I recently represented the families of those murdered in a remote forward operating base in Afghanistan known as checkpoint 25. The incident is called a green on blue, as it was an Afghan National policeman who opened fire and shot dead 5 British service personnel and wounded many more. The number of families affected by this one occurence was overwhelming. In addition, there was massive press interest which we had to try and control. That case affected myself and my staff. I think your life is changed forever when you are honoured to be allowed an insight into what our armed forces do.
VIVA. How do you relax?
Hilary. That’s a good question and I wonder if I ever truly do. I like to spend time with my family and, when we can, escape to Mallorca, where I paint. At home I have a greenhouse which is my space and I like to grow my own fruit and veg although my family are fed up of my courgettes. There are only so many ways to eat courgettes before you are really fed up of them!
VIVA. How is the London office going?
Hilary. It’s great. It’s on Chancery Lane which is the legal address to have and we have doubled in size already. Sinead, my Partner, runs the office and I have recently managed to persuade a friend of mine, Mark Fielding, to leave his law firm and join me. He is an ex-Colonel in the Territorial Army so he brings a wealth of experience to the Firm.
VIVA. There have been new changes in the law how have they affected you?
Hilary. There have indeed and the way we present legal services has been changed forever. Now non-lawyers can run law firms under new structures called Alternative Business Structures, ABS. There are only around 100 in the country and I am pleased that I was one of the 100 to be awarded an ABS licence. It means I can bring in expertise from outside the legal industry as Board members. It’s very exciting and will improve customer service throughout the industry.
VIVA. What has been your toughest case?
Hilary. It’s difficult to decide because many of my cases are unique and involve Human Rights on the battlefield. I think maybe the toughest is a case I brought against the US government on behalf of the British army, because military law is different in the US. I had to prove that my clients were not on duty when the incident occurred but the US army driver was on duty when, having put on the cruise control, he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed, killing one British officer and seriously injuring 11 more.
We won the case in a court in Atlanta but the US Government decided to Appeal to their 11th Circuit where we also won on appeal. They threatened to appeal the decision again to their highest court which is Washington but dropped the appeal at the last minute. I am therefore the only person to win against the US Government on behalf of the British Army. I was also given special permission by the trail judge to be co-counsel in the US proceedings despite not having a licence to practise in the US.
VIVA. If you hadn’t become a lawyer what would you have been?
Hilary. I love history and archaeology and have a romantic idea of going on archaeological digs and finding ancient relics. The reality, of course, is digging in mud in a wet field somewhere!