Q&As

Neil Morrissey on The Role of Pleadings and How to Use Them to Your Client's Advantage

Monday January 22, 2018

Neil Morrissey is a barrister at Albert Wolff Chambers. He was admitted as a practitioner of the Supreme Court of Western Australia in 2010 and joined the independent bar in February 2014. Neil’s practice is predominantly in the area of civil litigation with a focus on personal injuries cases.  Prior to joining the bar he was a solicitor at Bradford & Co. In December 2013 Neil completed a Master of Laws (with distinction) at the University of Western Australia with his primary research area being negligence liability. He has appeared on behalf of clients at WorkCover WA, the State Administrative Tribunal, the Fair Work Commission, the Western Australian Industrial Relations Tribunal, the Australian Administrative Tribunal, the District and Magistrates Courts, the Supreme Court of Western Australia, the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the High Court of Australia. Recently, Neil was junior to Andrew Morrison QC in New South Wales v DC [2017] HCA 22. Neil is a member of the RSPCA’s pro bono legal panel. Outside of work Neil is a fixed wing pilot and has ambition of mustering from the air. Neil Morrissey

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Neil recently to discuss key challenges and opportunities facing the industry today.

You can find the full Q&A below.

What are some of the key trends and developments facing personal injury practitioners that are having an impact right now?

One notable trend is that interstate and international firms are opening offices in Perth which will have a ripple effect on personal injury practice in WA. In addition, technology continues to shape legal practice, for example with practitioners often communicating with clients via Skype and other digital platforms, thus changing the lawyer-client dynamic in subtle but potentially significant ways.

What areas of personal injury law are hot right now? What areas might become increasingly relevant in the year to come?

With the final report and recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, institutional abuse is a growing area that will continue to have a significant impact on personal injury practice, particularly with recent developments in the area in WA.

What’s one mistake you see personal injury practitioners make related to pleadings?

One mistake that occurs far too often is failing to properly plead the basis for a duty of care being owed. Too often the basis is overlooked or poorly considered and drafted, which can be fatal to a matter.

What’s one tip you can offer practitioners when they’re drafting personal injury pleadings?

Practitioners would do well to resist the urge to embellish or obfuscate the facts. They will better serve their clients by simply telling the story accurately.

What role should interrogatories play in pleadings and how can they be used to your client’s advantage?

Interrogatories play a critical role in assisting parties in ascertaining what the opposing party’s answers will be to key aspects of the case. Some of the main benefits include: (1) Knowing what the evidence will be in advance so that you can effectively and efficiently prepare and advise your client accordingly; and (2) Making the opposing party commit to a position on a factual issue before the trial.

What advice can you give to practitioners related to legal writing in general?

High quality written expression is a fundamental skill for every legal practitioner. Small things such as the correct use of grammar, spelling and formatting are important. Your client is entitled to expect a high degree of professionalism.

What’s one way lawyers and barristers can more effectively work together to find success in a personal injury matter?

Try and identify the core issues in the case and the evidentiary strengths and deficiencies at an early stage. This will enable you to properly prepare and to provide the most accurate advice to your client well in advance of either a settlement conference or other key stages in the litigation.

You can hear more from Neil at the CPD Core Competency Areas for Personal Injury Lawyers seminar, being held on Thursday 08 March at the Parmelia Hilton Perth, Perth.

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