Michael Smyth, Barrister

Area of Practice: Employment Law
Company Name: Approachable Lawyer
Background: Michael Smyth is a London native who specialises in employment and sports law. He moved to New Zealand in 2001 to take up a position with prestigious law firm Buddle Findlay and is now an independent Barrister helping small-to-medium businesses deal with difficult employment law cases.

Sage advice from Dr. Steve

When dealing with an employment law case that has complex medical implications, Michael turns to Dr. Steve for advice. “I often ask him for general medical advice,” Michael says. “I just pick up the phone and he’s available to talk through an issue I might be having with my client at the time.”

When more formal advice is necessary, Dr. Steve provides Michael with his professional medical opinion. “Recently, I needed Dr. Steve to provide a medical opinion in relation to an employee of one of my clients,” he says. “We had to determine whether there were grounds to terminate her employment based on medical incapacity to perform her job. Dr. Steve treated the case thoroughly, leaving no stone unturned. The thoroughness of his research means that challenging his opinion later in court becomes very difficult. This thoroughness follows through to every case that Dr. Steve handles.”

The Process

When Michael requests a formal medical opinion on an employee of his client, Dr. Steve, first, with the patient’s consent writes to employee’s doctor in order to obtain that person’s medical records. “He then reviews the records and gives me an informal opinion over the phone so I get an idea where the case is heading,” Michael says.

Dr. Steve may then decide he needs to meet the person and do an examination, after which he will produce a written report based upon the examination and the medical records he has received. “I always brief him properly as to what I’m looking for in that report,” Michael says. “I ask a number of questions which I would like him to address, and he will then endeavour to answer those questions and give his medical opinion on the case.”

If the case becomes adversarial, Dr. Steve is called upon to give evidence. “When giving evidence Dr. Steve is a credible spokesperson, and delivers his medical opinion clearly and effectively in a courtroom situation,” says Michael. “Both the report and his verbal evidence always accord to the highest level of professionalism and make my job, representing my client effectively, a lot easier.”