An outstanding legal career
Ann began her career in the late 1970s as a general practitioner at a Manchester-based firm of solicitors. In 1981, by then a partner in a Merseyside law firm, Ann was instructed in the case that was to reshape her legal career and change the face of medico-legal practice for good.
The case was one of medical negligence in which a young mother-to-be was awake and in pain throughout most of a Caesarean section operation, but was paralysed and unable to communicate her distress. When the case came to court in 1985, it transpired that it was one of five cases from the same hospital and the story hit the headlines. The extensive media coverage resulted in a deluge of medical negligence work. In response to this, Ann set up a small team to concentrate on this area. At the same time, she started to have significant contact with the media and took part in several TV and radio documentaries. With every appearance, the new work came rolling in.
Ann’s new specialisation and interest in medico-legal work drove her to establish Alexander Harris in 1989. The firm, initially based in Sale, Cheshire, dealt exclusively in health care litigation at a time when niche practices were rare; Alexander Harris was the first specialist law firm in its field. In the course of 17 years, the firm was transformed from two partners and a secretary working in a terraced house to a nationally-recognised, £multi-million business with offices in the North West, Midlands and central London.
Many of Ann’s healthcare litigation cases were extremely high-profile, attracting worldwide media attention. She dealt with hundreds of cases across the whole spectrum of medical negligence, recovered millions of pounds in compensation for her clients and, through her work, helped to make improvements in patient safety.
Her cases included:
Arachnoiditis sufferers (1989-1995)
Ann represented hundreds of people who contracted the debilitating condition arachnoiditis from the oil based contrast medium Myodil, which was formerly used in myelograms.
Families of children murdered by Beverley Allitt (1991-1994)
Throughout the nurse Beverley Allitt’s arrest, trial and the subsequent private inquiry, Ann represented the families of most of the children who were attacked and murdered.
Families of patients killed by GP Harold Shipman (2000 – 2006)
Ann represented over 200 families of the patients who were murdered by Hyde GP Harold Shipman. She successfully overturned the decision of the then Secretary of State for Health to hold the ensuing Inquiry in private and a Public Inquiry took place chaired by Dame Janet Smith D.B.E. To date, Ann still looks after the families’ interests with the Home Office, Department of Health and Ministry of Justice.
The ‘Elephant Man’ drug trials (2006)
Ann represented the most seriously injured men in the Te Genero ‘Elephant Man’ drug trials at Northwick Park hospital and contributed to the subsequent Inquiry.
During her 17 years at Alexander Harris, Ann’s career achievements were legion and spanned the fields of NHS practice, media management, training and communications as well as the law. She lectured throughout the UK and occasionally in the USA to both medical and legal audiences. Her relationship with the media grew as she increasingly took part in radio and TV news programmes and documentaries. Ann became a leading authority and commentator on a wide range of medical and legal issues and was described as the ‘fourth most quoted solicitor’ in a 2005 Sweet and Maxwell survey.
As well as practising the law Ann also sat on a number of legal committees, including:
- The Legal Aid Board Funding Review panel
- The Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel
- The American Trial Lawyers’ Association Birth Trauma Litigation Group
- The Richard Grand Society, now the Forum for Complex Injury Solicitors.
Beyond the law
In 2006, Ann decided to pursue her career in other directions. As well as moving into business consultancy and training, Ann wished to further expand on her broadcasting experience.
After the merger of Alexander Harris with Irwin Mitchell, Ann acted as consultant to the new firm, giving them the benefit of her expertise in brand, media awareness and website development. She also advised strategically on medico-legal cases. The merger was a huge success.