An interview with Employment Solicitor and Law Society Committee Member
How did you get into law?
I got into law by following something of a 'scenic' route. I can remember at the age of around 13 that I wanted to be a lawyer, and criminal law was what I wanted to practice. I got some reasonably decent GCSE grades and launched on to my A levels with a fair amount of optimism. I missed out on a place at King's College and accepted a place at the University of Westminster instead.
A gap year wasn’t an option so I proceeded straight on to post-graduate study. I also began working as a paralegal in a firm, which although small, was incredibly busy and not entirely focused on providing training and support. After six months I had reached my limit and I quit the firm and my course. I thought that was the end of my legal aspirations and was convinced that I was not good enough to be a lawyer.
I then worked at LexisNexis Butterworths and Sweet & Maxwell before returning to law to complete the LPC part-time. This was enough to give me the ‘bug’ again and I secured my training contract with Russell Jones & Walker (as they then were) in 2011.
What led to you specialising in Employment Law?
I have always been drawn to the technical/black letter legal subjects such as contract law, and I am more fascinated by people than I am by business. I pushed for a criminal law seat during my training contract and I also did a seat in employment law. To me, employment offered a similar amount of technical detail to crime without the drawback of the unsociable hours. Plus, there is a significant overlap between employment and crime with certain professions, such as the police, due to the misconduct regime they are subject to.
You’re a Social Mobility Ambassador for the Law Society; what does this involve?
I was fortunate to be selected as one of the first cohort of Social Mobility Ambassadors in 2015. The project aims to provide inspiration to those seeking to join the profession by demonstrating that it is possible to overcome social and economic barriers to pursue a career in law.
The Ambassadors go out and visit school and university career events to speak to students about the legal profession, and there is a dedicated email address which people can use to contact us if they want to know more or simply share their own experience.
What key skills would you say you need to be a successful Solicitor?
You need to be able to digest large amounts of information quickly and pick out all of the relevant issues that can both help and harm your client’s case, whilst combining this with sound and up to date legal knowledge to give effective and useful advice. That’s almost a given. In order to be successful in today’s competitive market you need to understand your client’s pain points and be able to offer common sense solutions that at times, will require practical rather than legal solutions.
What has been your most interesting case to work on, and why?
I had an employment case where the employee (my client) was treated as though he was brand new to the company when he changed roles within the same business. He was placed on a probationary period, told that he had failed it and was (we say) unfairly dismissed. He also had a chronic illness which meant that he had a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act.
This client was able to enforce his right not to be discriminated against in the employment tribunal with the help of professional legal representation. Sadly these types of client are becoming increasingly rare. Legal Expenses Insurance can help to a degree, but due to the low amounts awarded for most unfair dismissal cases, they often refuse to fund the claim because to do so would not be proportionate.
What advice would you give someone starting out in their career?
Do not underestimate the importance of participating in extra-curricular activities and attending networking events. It’s incredibly difficult to find the time if you have to work throughout your degree and LPC like I did, but it can really stand to benefit you in terms of your personal development and of course, making contacts.