Sooty and Sweep. Jelly Tots. The longest unventilated road tunnel in the whole of Europe. What magical land could produce all of these momentous contributions to human endeavour? Why it could only be the historic city of Leeds. However arriving at the train station on a dreary and drizzly Thursday afternoon you’d be forgiven for thinking that anything as wondrous as Jelly Tots could’ve been invented here. Once I’d begun on my amble to the Royal Armouries Museum (ignoring the part where I walked the wrong way down the river ending up in an industrial estate on the edge of town; on that note thank you Harley Davidson Man for pointing me in the right direction) the sun was peeping out of the clouds and Leeds was glowing. My final destination was the AvMA Clinical Negligence Conference that was being held in the aforementioned museum. Taking place annually the event brings together clinical negligence solicitors and barristers from all over the country for a weekend of lectures from experts at the forefront of medicine. This all feeds into AvMA’s core aim of continually improving patient safety and bringing justice to those that need it. The evenings offered a smorgasbord of drinks meet-ups for the all-important and oft dreaded ‘networking’.

This was my first venture into the world of clinical negligence conferencing. I had my preconceptions about the whole event, almost all of which would be proved wrong. Although I certainly expected everyone to be just as competitive as they were when faced with our Batak reaction game. Who would’ve thought that a bunch of solicitors would fight tooth and nail for a gin hamper? As the weekend wore on, the competitiveness ramped up inch by inch as people jostled for top place on the leader board. People saw their dreams of getting their hands on the gin crumble in one wrong smack of a button. The Batak reveals a whole plethora of human emotions in those that play it; hope, anguish, disappointment, hubris. All of life’s highs and lows laid bare by an array of flashing lights.

But it wasn’t all fun and games, in the evenings there was also plenty of drinking and schmoozing. AvMA had even been kind enough to put on a casino, complete with complementary fun money, giving everyone the chance to live the dream and be a real life James Bond. Unfortunately my dreams were shattered by the untimely clattering of the roulette ball onto black 18. Putting it all on a red, it turned out, was a poor idea. Black 18, you will forever haunt my dreams. It was no surprise after that night there was a certain trepidation about using our game, with its requirement of fast reactions and general alertness. Most people who attempted it had already been given a hefty caffeine injection. For some though even this wasn’t enough. After a truly superhuman effort from Janine Collier of Tees Law we ended the weekend in a dead heat with her and Sunny Sandhu from Switalskis. This was great for them but for us it meant buying another hamper!

Packing up once everyone had left for the final set of seminars, I thought about how the picture in my head of the event had differed so much with reality. For one thing I was surprised how readily affable most people were then realised the stereotype in my head of lawyers all being very serious and brooding couldn’t have been further from the truth. Meeting a whole host of great people whilst also putting a few names to faces of those that had previously just been names on an email signature was what made the whole weekend so enjoyable. I’ll just have to brush up on my small talk before next year.

Written By George Gordon