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Trainee talk: employment

21 March 2011

What does the team do?

The team provides employment advice to a range of public and private sector clients. The advice provided includes contentious and non-contentious matters.

Non-contentious matters include, terms of employment contracts, advising clients through changes to those terms and conditions and possible dismissals, grievance situations and the grievance and disciplinary procedures. We also advise on restructuring and redundancy.

Contentious matters include any matters where a claim has been submitted to the employment tribunal and these include, discrimination, wrongful, unfair and constructive dismissal. We mainly act for defendants but do some ad hoc claimant work too where there is no conflict.

What type of work does a trainee do?

The work is very varying, and as it is a very busy team there is the opportunity to really get stuck in. It includes everything from producing bundles for hearings, through to attending hearings, drafting ET3s, witness statements, letters of advice and giving telephone advice.

What level of responsibility/hands on experience (i.e. manage your own files etc) does a trainee receive?

There is limited opportunity to manage your own file, however you are very involved in many files that you need to keep on top of what is happening and effectively manage smaller chunks of other fee earner’s files, which is a great experience.

Responsibility increases over time and trainees have had the opportunity to advise HR Directors at NHS trusts on settlement negotiations and the tribunal process.

There is also have a lot of responsibility when attending tribunals in support of Counsel. If Counsel has a query or needs instructions it is you they turn to first and this can be in the heat of a tribunal hearing when you have to think on your feet.

How much client contact does a trainee get?

In comparison to other seats I would say that you get quite a high amount of client contact, whether it be giving advice directly, or merely asking for further information.

What has been the highlight for you in this seat?

There have been many highlights to my seat, predominantly stemming from the amount of tribunals I have attended (I think my total is at least 10)!

I think my main highlight would have to be one case in which I was heavily involved in from start to finish. The Claimant alleged unfair dismissal and race discrimination. I assisted the fee earner with interviewing the witnesses and drafted all the witness statements. I also compiled the bundle for the hearing.

As I knew this case inside out I was able to heavily assist Counsel during the tribunal. I was also able to provide the client with advice as to costs.

The Claimant’s allegations had little merit and the tribunal dismissed her claims in full. The most rewarding aspect was that our application for costs succeeded, which is highly unusual in an employment tribunal. The client was extremely happy with the result and the member of staff concerned personally rang up to thank me and the fee earner involved.