Please think carefully about who you seek advice from
I felt compelled to write this article after once again hearing from a fellow professional who ‘dabbles’ in employment advice.
I am absolutely astounded that in 2020 there are still Solicitors and legal professionals out there who will advise a business or individual about employment law when a) they don’t specialise in it and b) they actually specialise in something else!
For years I waged a silent war against everyone’s ‘mate from down the pub‘ who was always far more qualified than I to advise about employment rights (even my dad had one!), sadly this has been taken over by my fellow professionals.
In days gone by when we had the good old Industrial Tribunal it was simpler and more straightforward for individuals to make a claim and seek a resolution against their employer in the Industrial Tribunal.
This is one of the reasons that, unlike the Civil Court system, the winning party cannot recover their legal costs from the losing opponent. The system was set out to be accessible by all without the need to have legal advice, and not as ‘legalistic’ as the Court system
Over time however this has changed and with the introduction of complex legislation from Europe and increased rights for employees and responsibilities for employers, the Employment Tribunal is now just as ‘legal’ as the civil courts.
These ‘simpler times’ are perhaps why some Solicitors think they can just advise on employment law alongside their day job.
What is the problem Alison? Get off your high horse, you may be thinking?
The problem is that employment law is a complex area of law now with numerous elements, legislation and case authorities. Every week I receive at least 3-4 emails with updates on cases where the law has been interpreted or about consultations or changes that are taking place.
I breath, eat and sleep employment and HR and I find it hard to keep up with everything that is happening, so how a Solicitor who advises on commercial property transactions (for example) can stay up to date and advise correctly I do not know……but this is what is happening every single day.
In my opinion these ‘dabblers’ do not provide a good service for their customers as they cannot give them full and appropriate advice.
“I don’t really do employment law but I do advise on the odd settlement agreement”
When I hear this I want to scream! A settlement agreement is a document within which an individual will wave their legal rights and commit themselves to numerous other obligations, often including restrictions on what they can do in the future.
Despite this, time and time again I hear from Solicitors who will happily ‘advise’ someone on the content and sign off to say that they have.
There is no way you can give good quality service to customers if you are not up to date on what rights the individual may be signing away and you have not advised them in full on the ramifications.
Why do ‘non-employment’ Solicitors sign off Settlement Agreements? Because they think it is an easy £250/£300/£500 worth of fees.
Yes, Alison but surely this happens in other areas of law?
In my experience Solicitors are less likely these days to stray into other areas of law (other than employment of course (shrugs shoulders)) but one area where colleagues share my frustration is wills and probate. This time however it is not fellow professionals but random people who, for reasons unknown (there is a song there) believe that they are qualified to advise on drawing up your will or helping with probate!
So what can you do to ensure you get the best advice?
This is easy…….. find a Solicitor or Legal Executive who specialises in the area that you want advice on.
If you are unsure of their expertise, ask them. How many cases they have dealt with in the last 6 months? Do they have experiencing in advising about discrimination/unfair dismissal/etc claims?
You can also look on their website and if it says ‘Billy the Kid, works in our commercial property department and advises businesses on the purchase of businesses and leases‘ it is unlikely that he will be experienced enough to advise you on your employment matter.
Proud to be a specialist
I am very pleased to have specialised in employment law for approximately 15 years and in that time I have amassed a lot of hours in advising customers, reading cases, attending the Tribunal and staying on top of changes to the law and best practice.
Does this mean I know it all? Absolutely not, I don’t think there will ever come a time with employment law that I do ‘know it all’ and this is one of the reason I chose to specialise in employment law. I love that I am constantly learning and that it is always evolving. As working life, culture and technology continue to change so will the laws that govern our work and this makes me excited (I know easily pleased)!
My passion is to help employers and business owners to be the best employers they can and therefore if you want to be the best employer in your industry drop me an email to arrange a no obligation discussion and quote. Email: [email protected]
This article was written by Alison Colley, Solicitor and Founder of Real Employment Law Advice.
Don’t forget getting advice from a Solicitor does not have to be complicated or costly!
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