Kerry Underwood

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In tune with this weekend’s festivities Lucy Mervik, an Opera singer sponsored by Underwoods Solicitors, hijacks my blog for a day.

Fresh from the convent, a young Dorset girl arrives in the Big Smoke, full of operatic hopes and dreams.  12 years on, after 8 years of formal music education, 2 years of floating between Australia, Germany and UK, another 2 years on a Young Artist Programme and one daughter later, I still feel like that young Dorset girl, with my hopes and dreams intact, but a little bit closer!

Being a young and ambitious opera singer I wouldn’t let anything knock me off my path, no matter how convoluted and winding the road!  I would flash my smile at potential employers, sponsors and audience members; I became a better actress than a singer, often fooling myself that finances would be fine, arriving on stage in a glitzy concert gown yet barely being able to rub two pennies together for the tube ride home.

Working several jobs whilst completing my degree and Masters, I never lost sight of my goal, and thanks to Underwoods Solicitors I had financial support for my tuition fees, and the knowledge that others believed in me.

On completing a Masters of Music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, I spent two seasons in Germany and then relocated to Perth with my fiancé.  One huge advantage to being a singer is that you can do your job anywhere, and moving to the most remote city in the world certainly seemed to put that theory to the test!  I auditioned for the state opera company, West Australian Opera and was delighted, and relieved, to be offered chorus work in all their operas and a small role in the first main stage production of the season.

18 months on and I was offered a position on their Young Artist Programme, despite being 4 months pregnant with our first child.  I continued on, singing in main stage productions until I was fit to burst, asking wardrobe staff for mens’ braces to lift the heavy material of the skirts off my ever burgeoning bump!

High heels were out, and comfy character shoes were in, costumes had to be let out left, right and centre!  I was competing on the concert platform too, with only 3 weeks until my due date – but I was reassured that a patron of the competition had, in his day, been a highly sought after obstetrician, and if anything were ‘to happen’ he would jump (or rather hobble) on stage to my aid!

I returned to work and studying for the Young Artist Programme just 2 weeks after giving birth to our beautiful daughter Ella Grace, rehearsals and classes seemed easy compared to the night feeds, constant nappies and juggling of babysitters, and I had to be super organised.  The hard work paid off, and despite having a baby of only 6 months of age, I was offered the prestigious Wesfarmers Arts Young Artist Scholarship 2012.

The year is flying by with lessons, coachings, language classes, roles to learn and operas and operatic concerts to perform in.  At the end of the year I will be auditioning and competing in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as Perth.

Perhaps we all have our fate written in the stars, and all our decisions made for us already, or maybe, just maybe, our fortune is changed by the good will of others.

Sponsorship and support comes in all shapes and sizes, and whilst financial support is often what artists need, moral support cannot be underestimated.

Having Kerry Underwood sitting in the audience in a theatre in Germany, having flown there to support me in my first post-masters production, meant I knew that one person in the audience already believed in me.  Now my job was to convince the other 99!

Visit Lucy’s website at

Lucy Mervik is sponsored by Underwoods Solicitors

Written by kerryunderwood

June 1, 2012 at 11:10 am

NHS Litigation Authority: Has it misled Parliament?

with 10 comments


“30% rise in negligence claims against NHS” screams the Daily Telegraph headline of 5 August 2011, typical of others.

No such increase ever occurred as I will demonstrate below, so where did this figure come from?

In its report to Parliament 2010-2011 the Chief Executive, Steve Walker, a Civil Servant, leaps straight in to the political arena:

“We are delighted that the Ministry of Justice is taking forward the recommendations made by Lord Justice Jackson regarding the costs of civil litigation.  We believe very strongly that a regime which allows success fees and the recoverability of After-the-Event (ATE) insurance premiums makes litigation so profitable that solicitors and so-called “claims farmers” are drawn into the market thereby fuelling the rise in claims volumes we have experienced.

After large increases in previous years we saw new claims volumes for newly reported clinical claims rise by around 30% in 2010-2011 and by around 6% for non-clinical”.

The truth is very different.

Conditional fee agreements were first allowed on 5 July 1995.  According to the NHSLA’s own figures the number of claims notified in 1997/1998, when conditional fee agreements were first becoming popular in clinical negligence claims, was 6,711.  By 2009/2010 the number had fallen to 6,652.

Recoverability of success fees and ATE insurance premia came in on 1 April 2000, apparently causing the explosion in claims.  Yet the 2007 NHSLA report said “the number of matters we receive has remained remarkably steady over recent years.  This year there was a small decrease in the number of clinical matters in 2006/2007 over 2005/2006″.

The 2008 report said: “The number of claims we receive has continued to remain remarkably steady over recent years.  This year, there was an increase of less than 1% in the number of clinical claims reported”.

Between 2008 and 2009 there was an increase in clinical claims of 11.30% from 5,470 to 6,088 and between 2009 and 2010 a further increase of 9.26% from 6,088 to 6,652.

The pattern of non-clinical claims very closely follows that of clinical claims, and the percentage rises in such claims between 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 was 10.74%, up from 3,380 to 3,743 and between 2008-2009 to 2009-2010 was 8.84% up from 3,743 to 4,074.  Previous years show a similar close correspondence.


Between 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 non-clinical claims rose from 4,074 to 4,346, an increase of 6.68%.

Another measure of activity is the figure of claims open at the year end.  A big surge in new claims will result in an even bigger rise in figures because it will be the older, lower, number of claims falling out whereas the new ones are all still in.  On this measure non-clinical claims showed a 7.52% rise between 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 and clinical claims showed a rise of 7.51%.

So for 2010-2011 on three measures we have rises of 6.67%, 7.52% and 7.51%.

Yet clinical claims jumped from 6,652 to 8,655, an astonishing increase of 30.1%.

Very obviously this rise has nothing to do with conditional fees or recoverability of success fees and ATE as conditional fees had been in for 15 years and recoverability for 10 years, and as we have seen claims sometimes fell during the years of recoverability.

So what DOES explain it?

Nothing, because there was no such increase.

On page 12 of the report, under “Claims Received” it says:

“Formal clinical claims received under CNST [Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts] saw an increase of 31.6% on 2009/2010 and non-clinical claims under LTPS [Liabilities to Third Parties Scheme] rose by 7.8%.  Part of the significant increase in claims under CNST may be explained to some extent by the requirement for claimants to now send us a copy of the Letter of Claim at the same time as it is sent to the defendant NHS body, at which point we now record the claim, but we are analysing patterns and trends to obtain a better understanding of the reasons behind the increase” (My emphasis).

Thus the headline-grabbing 30% increase is pure fiction and is obviously and readily explained by a change in reporting methods.

Why did Mr Walker not mention this?  Why make the politically charged, and wholly inaccurate, link between “large increases” and recoverability of success fees and After-the-Event insurance premia?

Of course next year, based on this year’s higher figure and using the same, new, recording procedure the percentage increase will revert to a true figure, so it is just this one year when the percentage increase is distorted upwards.

Am I being too cynical in thinking that it suited the NHSLA to present the report to Parliament in this way this year just as Parliament is considering the abolition of recoverability?

As Disraeli said “There are lies, damned lies and statistics”.

Hertfordshire Boy

with 12 comments

Bovingdon played local rivals Sarratt at cricket last Sunday.

Until 15 years ago the villages had not played each other since the 1940’s. Rationing was in place and a Sarratt player, a farmer, had been working all hours to bring in the harvest. With hay still in his hair he turned up at tea to be told by Bovingdon that he could not bat as he had not fielded.

Protestations that people would starve had he fielded were met with the response beloved of cricket teams and lawyers alike: Rules is Rules.

Sarratt walked off for 50 years. After being out for a duck on Sunday I nearly marched off; I had courgettes to pick and broad beans to freeze.

The Sarratt – Bovingdon cold war divided families. Between the wars the Bovingdon to Sarratt love-bus ran twice a year between the two villages to bring youngsters together and, apparently, to widen the gene pool. The jury is out on whether this was successful but most villagers over 70 have one of two birthdates.

Chipperfield play Bovingdon for the Chiltern Trophy, which Bovingdon always retains, not just because of our cricketing skills but because:

– I wrote the rules; and
– Chipperfield are unaware of the existence of the trophy.

Bovingdon has the loveliest of grounds so we rarely venture away on Sundays and we always get lost when we do, culminating in the Iver Heath incident when the four cars carrying the Bovingdon stars were each first in line at the four points of a country crossroads.

One time our convoy passed the other side’s convoy coming the other way. We turned up at their ground and they turned up at ours. As the team was Nazeing Common, 30 miles away, this was a problem. Mobile phones have prevented a recurrence.

Our Sunday team, like most others, is a mix of class, race, talent and age with representatives of every decade from our Justin Bieber lookalike teenager to our seventy-something Methuselah lookalike wicketkeeper.

25 miles from London and just outside Hemel Hempstead, the world’s best town, Bovingdon is a million miles from the chatterati of Hampstead.

Ours is a better England.

Written by kerryunderwood

August 18, 2011 at 11:08 am

Welcome to my first blog aged 55 and a quarter

with 7 comments

Shakespeare wrote:

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” (Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4).

As this play is as readable as a commercial lease or European Court of Justice judgment I am surprised anyone ever made it to Part 2.

Soon you may all find out if the Bored of Stratford was right as from 6 October the Government aims to kill the legal profession by allowing non-lawyers to practise law.

This has all-party support – it was the Labour Government that introduced the Legal Services Act 2007 and it is being implemented by a Conservative-Liberal coalition.

I suppose this will ease unemployment among the jobless phone-hackers and police bunga bungas but hey, maybe it is time for a bit MORE regulation of lawyers, police, politicians and the press, not less.

So, and you heard it here first, Law Abroad plc and Underwoods Solicitors are remaining just that – solicitors.  No Alternative Business Structure for us.  After all the legal profession, and its offspring the judiciary, are about the only parts of the British Constitution not subsumed in scandal.


This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper

(T S Eliot: The Hollow Men)

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