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A MIDWIFE has been made an "associate" at niche Manchester medical negligence firm Alexander Harris & Co, in what is thought to be the first appointment of its kind.
Midwife Debbie Murphy's promotion means a "rise in status" at the firm where she has worked for five years and the inclusion of her name on the firm's notepaper, although her responsibilities in heading a team of four nurses will not change.
Senior partner Ann Alexander said about six firms employed nurses in-house to advise on medical negligence cases, although a greater number employed nurses on a contractual basis.
Alexander described Murphy's presence at the firm as "critical" and the nursing team's role as "tremendously valuable". She said a recent advert for another nurse attracted 95 responses.
John Kitchingman, partner in charge of medical negligence at rival Manchester firm Pannone & Partners, said his firm employed a team of three nurses, including two midwives.
He added that the trend over the past 10 years for firms to employ nurses had now "peaked" because firms were reconsidering their medical negligence work in the light of recent changes to the legal aid system.
Last June Birmingham firm Shakespeares appointed two paralegals as associates, and managing partner Andrew Argyle called for a change in Law Society regulations to allow paralegals to become partners.
The Alexander Harris nursing team receives a year's "intensive" training in legal matters and assists the firm by interviewing clients, examining medical records, helping solicitors with the medical aspect of cases and by carrying out paralegal work.