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Day in the life of an employment lawyer

An overview of an average day for an employment lawyer in a national firm

Sally is a career changer, having qualified as a lawyer following a successful career in another industry.

She studied for a part-time law degree and subsequently for her professional exams. Sally qualified 5 years ago and is now an associate with a national firm of commercial solicitors, specialising in employment law.

Sally advises on a wide range of contentious employment matters and she primarily represents employers defending employee claims. Most claims are heard by the Employment Tribunal and include sex discrimination, unfair dismissal, race discrimination, and disability discrimination.

On the non-contentious side of her work, Sally regularly advises clients on employment procedures, redundancy consultation and upon issues arising from employee performance concerns and grievance procedures.

A typical day may involve the following:

  • Arrive 8.30 am. Check post and emails and dictate replies
  • 10 am – meeting with a human resources manager from a client company to discuss and advise upon a number of issues including planned changes to their standard employee contract of employment and a compromise agreement in relation to an employee who is leaving the company
  • Drafting compromise agreement, dictating covering letter of advice and attendance note recording advice, instructions and time spent on the client matter
  • 1 pm - attending a networking lunch organised by the local chamber of commerce.
  • 2.30pm – returning phone calls, dictating correspondence and thereafter preparing for a hearing listed before the Employment Tribunal in a month’s time in relation to an unfair dismissal claim. Phoning the solicitor acting for the employee to discuss potential terms of settlement and considering a counter proposal. Writing an email to the client company with advice on the counter proposal for settlement.
  • 4pm – attending the employment department meeting to discuss current case loads, new client matters, training issues and financial targets.
  • 5.30pm – returning client calls, responding to emails and preparing for the next days work.
  • 6pm – leave the office to travel home!

Sally’s day will vary depending on hearing commitments. On other days she may attend a hearing before the Employment Tribunal. Hearing lengths will generally vary from a few hours to a few days. She may also attend a meeting with a barrister (commonly called a conference with counsel) accompanied by a representative of her client company. Marketing and networking are regular features of her day, with regular attendance at networking lunches, dinners and seminars. On occasions she may also present a talk at an in-house seminar for clients or write an article for the local or national press.

Other employment lawyers may act for a mixture of employees and employers, others may specialise in non-contentious or contentious work. The types of work will depend on a number of factors including the size of the firm the employment lawyer works for, the amount of employment work undertaken by the firm and the types of clients the firm acts for generally. What will be the same however in any firm is that each day is likely to be different and interesting.

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