f you find employment law interesting and intellectually stimulating, you may wish to consider practising it as a career. This article outlines the typical duties carried out by an employment lawyer, the qualifications needed to practise employment law and the personal qualities required, in order to succeed in this profession.
It can be a rewarding job, but it demands a great deal of commitment and hard work. Seeking out work experience, prior to embarking on any formal qualifications, is a good idea. Approach local firms, and ask them whether they offer shadowing or work experience placements. Although your experience will not be representative of every kind of law firm, it will give you an insight into a solicitor’s everyday duties.
Employment Lawyers Duties
Employment lawyers advise employers and workers on how to resolve disputes arising within the workplace. This includes issues surrounding pay, contracts of employment and disputes regarding unfair dismissal.
They spend some of their time working on behalf of their clients, preparing for tribunals and court cases. This involves liaising with clients, to ensure that they have all the information needed for the case, researching the legislation relevant to the issues at hand and referring back to previous cases, in order to realistically assess the most likely outcome, given their client’s situation. They advise their client as to the technicalities of the litigation process and, if necessary, prepare them, in advance of a court appearance.
As well as resolving disputes on behalf of clients who need immediate assistance, employment lawyers also work in an advisory capacity, to prevent problems arising in the first place. For example, they may be employed by a firm who want to ensure that a new recruitment policy is lawful, or they may advise a company making large-scale redundancies as to how they can do so, whilst acting in a lawful manner. This may save a company a significant amount of time and money in the long run.
Employment lawyers may qualify as barristers or solicitors – usually the latter – and work in a range of settings, including corporate organisations, charities and the public sector.
In order to qualify as a solicitor in the UK, you can follow one of three routes. Apprenticeships, such as the Trailblazer scheme, are available, which allow those without degrees to train and earn ‘on the job’, qualifying as a solicitor within six years.
The conventional academic route consists of qualifying with a law degree, followed by the Legal Practice Course (LPC). It is also possible to ‘convert’ a degree in any other subject, by completing a one-year conversion course and then embarking on the LPC.
At the same time, you will need to undertake recognised training at a firm of solicitors, together with a Professional Skills Course. Finally, the Solicitors Regulation Authority will provide the last stage of your training, together with a background check. It takes three years for a law graduate to qualify and four years for graduates of another subject.
Becoming a Barrister
The requirements are slightly different for those looking to become a barrister. Gaining a law degree or a degree in another subject, followed by the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)/Common Professional Examination (CPE) is the first step.
Next, you need to pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT), prior to commencing a Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). The final stage is to complete training with a working barrister. This is referred to as a ‘pupillage’.
The average salary for a solicitor working in employment law varies depending on the sector but is approximately £33,000. The highest-paying sectors are banking, finance and insurance.
In addition, a solicitor’s salary will depend on the location of their practice, with higher salaries available in London, compared with other areas of the country. As is the case with most professions, solicitors have the opportunity to earn more, as they accumulate experience and expertise that allows them to bring value to a firm.
Along with an interest in employment law, it is important to possess certain personal attributes. These include an ability to effectively communicate with clients and to explain legal terms and practices in everyday language.
Employment lawyers must be able to work quickly and accurately, when preparing case material for trial and analysing how best to apply legislation to a particular case. As a lawyer’s workload can be heavy, the ability to prioritise tasks and work under pressure is also essential.
They often deal with confidential information, and some cases may entail sensitive issues, such as redundancy or compensation for disabled individuals, so discretion and tact are key.
Employment law frequently changes, so those working in this sector need to make sure that they keep themselves up to date, in order to best advise their clients and bring about satisfactory results, by the end of the litigation process. Therefore, a proactive approach is essential for success.