Clinical Negligence Researcher

Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
£30,000 - £50,000
15 May 2019
15 Jun 2019

This is a rare and exciting opportunity for a clinical negligence / personal injury solicitor with 3+ years PQE to research legal issues relevant to medical diagnosis with the University of Cambridge.

The successful candidate will ideally have experience running their own case files, research and interviews skills, and evidence of scholarly abilities from University.

You will be part of a dynamic, interdisciplinary team based at the Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences, Faculty of Law, and linked with The Health Improvement Studies Institute.

The legal standards that apply to the accuracy of medical diagnoses have been the focus of significant academic study, but little attention has been paid to the standards that apply to the process by which diagnoses are developed and communicated.    To address this gap in the literature, the Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences (in the Faculty of Law) and The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute (in the School of Clinical Medicine) are launching a two-year collaborative research project.  The post-holder will pursue the core research questions under their guidance.

This research will focus on the law of negligence and its application to the clinical stage of diagnosis known as “differential diagnosis.”  This is the stage at which the physician identifies the potential causes of a patient’s symptoms, evaluates their probabilities and risks, and arrives at a working diagnosis.   There is inherent uncertainty in this process, and the project will investigate the scope of a physician’s legal duties to record and communicate this uncertainty. 

The aim of the project is not only to clarify how the law shapes the development and communication of differential diagnoses, but also to assess whether and how the law should be reformed.  Thus, there are five broad sets of questions to be explored:

  • First, do courts treat differential diagnosis as a clinical decision governed by the Bolam/Bolitho standard for negligence?  If so, is this justified, or should matters of pure diagnosis be governed by the ordinary standard for negligence, as recently suggested by the High Court in Muller v King’s College Hospital [2017] EWHC 128 (QB)?
  • Second, does Montgomery impose a duty to disclose possible alternative diagnoses if the clinician identifies or should have identified them as a possibility and they satisfy the criteria for materiality?  Might Montgomery be interpreted as imposing a duty to disclose an alternative diagnosis that the clinician reasonably did not identify as a possibility, but that satisfies the criteria for materiality? 
  • Third, in what ways do legal rules on causation and compensable damage affect the implications of the Bolam and Montgomery principles for differential diagnosis?
  • Fourth, how is the communication of diagnostic uncertainty treated in legal countries that adopted Montgomery-style principles many years ago (e.g. the US, Canada, Australia, Germany and France)?
  • Fifth, which legal reforms (if any) would improve the development, recording, and communication of medical diagnoses?

The post-holder will be expected not only to investigate these questions, but also to identify and explore new lines of enquiry within the broad scope of the project.  

While many of the project’s questions can be answered using traditional legal research methods (e.g., research that draws on case law and legal scholarship), the post-holder will be expected to supplement this research with other methods to fill in gaps caused by out-of-court settlements and developments in practice.   For example, the post-holder will be expected to: 

  • obtain access to and analyse relevant information held by professional organisations (such as the Medical Defence Union, Medical Protection Society, NHS Litigation Authority, and the General Medical Council);
  • organize, conduct and analyse interviews with legal counsel and clinicians.

The post-holder will receive support in developing the methodology for the empirical research.

Further, this legal research will be integrated with a larger, 5-year, interdisciplinary research project of Dr. Zoë Fritz (THIS Institute) on the process of communicating and recording differential diagnosis in the acute setting.  Dr Fritz’s research has empirical, ethical, and philosophical strands, and the post-holder will be encouraged to engage with these strands of the project.

In terms of written outputs, the post-holder will be expected to lead the production of co-authored pieces, including (at a minimum):

  • a brief summary of the issues to send to medical professional bodies to obtain feedback during the course of the research;
  • short pieces of scholarship summarizing key legal and interdisciplinary issues;
  • a substantial piece of scholarship analysing the contours of the legal landscape and the potential ways in which the law might be reformed;
  • a final report explaining the legal landscape and policy-relevant findings for an audience of medical professions.

In addition to producing written outputs, the post-holder will be expected to:

  • present ongoing and completed research at relevant workshops and conferences in the UK and abroad;
  • organise project-related activities in Cambridge, including a full-day interdisciplinary colloquium;
  • develop internal and external contacts with relevant knowledge and the potential to collaborate on aspects of the project;
  • contribute to the academic life of the Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences and THIS Institute.

The post-holder will work under the supervision of Dr. Kathy Liddell (Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences) and Dr. Zoë Fritz (THIS Institute).  This position will be based in the Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences.  The post-holder will generally spend one day per week at THIS Institute.

Key Responsibilities

Research and scholarship (70% of time)

For Research Associate:

  • Conduct individual and collaborative research.
  • Develop and refine the research objectives in light of research findings.
  • Interpret, evaluate, and systematize research findings.
  • Write up research findings for dissemination in presentations and publications.
  • Keep track of advances in the law and relevant areas of legal scholarship.
  • Translate knowledge of advances into research activity.
  • Build trusted relationships with collaborators.
  • Comply with open access data and publication requirements.
  • Plan and manage evolving dimensions of research activity.
  • Plan and manage use of research resources to ensure effective use.
  • Identify sources of funding and contribute to process of securing funds.
  • Liaise with colleagues within the University and beyond to develop and maintain interdisciplinary initiatives.
  • Build internal and external contacts in order to exchange information and develop relationships for future collaborations.

For Senior Research Associate, additionally:

  • Full operational responsibility for evolution of research activity.
  • Full operational responsibility for management of resources.

Dissemination activities (20% of time)

For Research Associate:

  • Present ongoing and completed research at relevant workshops and conferences in the UK and abroad.
  • Substantial contribution to the organisation of project-related activities in Cambridge, including a full-day interdisciplinary colloquium.
  • Explain complex legal information to non-specialist audiences.

For Senior Research Associate, additionally:

  • Full operational responsibility for workshops and dissemination activities.



General contributions to LML and THIS Institute (10% of time)

  • Contribute to the organisation of events by LML and THIS Institute.
  • Participate in seminars, workshops, conferences, and other activities organized by LML and THIS Institute.

Person Profile

This section details the knowledge, skills and experience we require for the role.

Education & experience

For Research Associate:

  • a degree in law with excellent marks
  • a doctoral degree awarded by the starting date, or equivalent experience

For Senior Research Associate, additionally:

  • at least three years' experience as a postdoctoral researcher in academia, or the equivalent in legal practice.
  • the demonstration of a high level of competence and independent standing in academic research, or the equivalent in legal practice

Specialist knowledge & skills

  • expertise in tort law (required)
  • expertise in public policy (desirable)
  • practical experience in medical negligence litigation (desirable)

Interpersonal & communication skills

  • excellent writing and verbal communication skills
  • the ability to work independently, collaboratively, and across disciplinary boundaries
  • a resourceful and entrepreneurial attitude

Terms and Conditions


Faculty of Law, 10 West Road, Cambridge, UK, CB3 9DZ (Central Cambridge)

Working pattern

Monday to Friday

Hours of work

The appointment is full time.

Length of appointment

Two-year fixed term contract.

Probation Period

6 months

Annual leave

Full time employees are entitled to annual paid leave of 6.6 weeks (or 33 days), plus public holidays.

Pension eligibility

Pension scheme details, including information about the legal requirement for the University to automatically enrol its eligible jobholders into a qualifying workplace pension scheme from 1 March 2013, is available at:

Retirement age

The University does not operate a retirement age for research staff.

Screening Check Requirements

We have a legal responsibility to ensure that you have the right to work in the UK before you can start working for us. If you do not have the right to work in the UK already, any offer of employment we make to you will be conditional upon you gaining it. If you need further information, you may find the Right to Work page within the ‘Applying for a job’ section of the University’s Job Opportunities pages helpful (please see

Application Process

To submit an application for this vacancy, please click on the link in the ‘Apply online’ section of the advert published on the University’s Job Opportunities pages. This will route you to the University’s Web Recruitment System, where you will need to register an account (if you have not already) and log in before completing the online application form.

Please ensure you upload the following:

  • Cover Letter: This should describe: the reasons that you are interested in this project and position; how this position may fit into your longer-term career plans; the connections between your past/ongoing work and the themes of this project; and anything else that makes you well-suited to this position.
  • Writing Sample: This should be a piece of work that best illustrates your research and scholarly writing ability. It can be a published or unpublished. If the work has multiple authors, please include a declaration identifying your contribution. 
  • Curriculum Vitae: This should include, at a minimum, details of your education, work history, and any publications or academic presentations.
  • References: Please provide the names and contact details of two referees who are familiar with your work, at least one of whom is a legal academic.  
  • Academic transcripts

If you upload any additional documents which have not been requested, we will not be able to consider these as part of your application.

The closing date for applications is 14 June 2019.

Interviews for short-listed candidates will be held on 28 June 2019.  Short-listed candidates will be invited to interview in person or by video-conference.

The ideal start date would be 1 September 2019, but there is some flexibility in this.

If you have any questions about this position or the application process, please contact Dr Kathy Liddell by email at

The position offers a strongly competitive academic salary appropriate to experience and responsibilities.

If you would like to discuss this role in more detail, please contact Matt Jordan (Faculty of Law) at or Sarah Fraser-Butlin (Cloisters Chambers) at

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