Miss Howard, 27, of Branksome, Poole, Dorset, has been paralysed since the morning after an operation on her lower jaw at Poole General Hospital in November 1982.
Daniel Brennan QC, for Miss Howard, said that despite her 'catastrophe', she had obtained a law degree, qualified as a solicitor and joined a practice.
Earlier this year, she won a Businesswoman of the Year award in Swindon, Wiltshire, where she is employed by the law firm Townsends.
Mr Brennan said that before the operation she was a fit and healthy 16-year-old, except that her lower jaw was not properly aligned with her upper jaw, making eating difficult.
When she became paralysed, a consultant neurosurgeon diagnosed a spinal cord trauma, which was was not a recognised complication or even a known event following such an operation. The health authority, which denies negligence, claims the spinal problem was caused by another condition which occurred coincidentally after the operation.
The case, which is to decide the issue of liability only, continues today.