What’s it all about?
Employment law is modern, fast-moving and challenging. Employment lawyers have experienced an enormous influx of work in the past 15 years due to changes in legislation, a large part of which is focused on family-friendly rights. Employment law changes rapidly due to developments in European and domestic legislation.
Employment law covers a range of areas including advising on restructuring and redundancy programmes, employee relations issues in the workplace involving unions and other employee representatives, managing individual employment relationships including advising on disciplinary and grievance matters, advice arising from the employment aspects of property sales and acquisitions and litigation of contractual and statutory rights in Employment Tribunals and the High Court.
Employment lawyers advise on contracts of employment, defending claims brought by employees in relation to their statutory rights, employee issues that arise in transactions, employee competition issues, seeking injunctive relief against employees who act in breach of contractual restrictive covenants and a broad range of everyday issues concerning the employment relationship. Employment lawyers advise global organisations, public and private sector clients, charities and individuals.
Junior lawyers are involved in all aspects of the work we do including preparation of litigation documents and witness statements, attending courts and tribunals, assisting with due diligence on transactional work, researching technical points and developments in the law, attending client meetings and training clients on recent developments and specific areas of the law.
The working culture
Associates tend to handle their own caseloads under partner supervision and play a key role in managing client relationships. This structure is adopted by associates who directly supervise trainees and are responsible for their workload and work balance.
What other practice areas do employment lawyers work most closely with?
Employment lawyers work with practitioners in departments across law firms including pensions lawyers, employee tax and benefits lawyers, commercial litigators on High Court work and injunction matters, and corporate and property lawyers on transactional work.
What phrase is an employment lawyer most likely to use and what does it mean?
‘The employer must act reasonably in the circumstances’ is a phrase practitioners get used to because many of the concepts we advise on such as unfair dismissal and discrimination are underpinned by the concept of reasonableness - did the employer act reasonably in reaching its decision to dismiss or in considering what adjustments a disabled person may need to carry out their role?
Sound technical ability and strong research skills as well as a genuine interest in the rapidly changing law in this area are prerequisites.
Employment law is evolving constantly so practitioners must keep up with case law and new legislation that arrives in April and October each year.
Practising a range of disciplines including contentious, advisory and non-contentious work brings a number of challenges. Strong organisational skills and the ability to work under pressure are paramount. A hands-on and flexible approach to client work is also required, as is the ability to understand a client’s specific concerns in a given situation, including commercial and cultural issues in play.
Employment law is often stressful for the client. Issues such as damage to a company’s reputation and publicity must be considered, particularly in Employment Tribunal litigation. Employment lawyers need to understand these concerns to get the right result for clients. Negotiating skills are often used in litigation as many tribunal claims settle or mediate.
Strong drafting and good communication skills are vital. Employment lawyers are regularly required to draft letters, agreements and litigation documents to meet individual circumstances. An ability to grasp the facts of a situation rapidly and an interest in employment tribunal advocacy are advantages.
A strong sales ethos and a talent for business development is also a plus as employment law is an extremely competitive area. Marketing recent developments to clients and the ability to stay ahead of the field is an important part of the strategy for winning new work.
Kim Roberts, Senior Associate, Nabarro