The Last Week- by Asha the intern

Thanks Gordon

keep it short and sweet…

Hi there!

So today is Asha’s last day after 8 weeks interning at Gordon Turner Employment Lawyers! It’s been pretty cool to say the least – I’ve been all over London visiting clients regarding settlement agreements, attended a barrister conference and a tribunal…and watched Gordon deal with clients everyday. 

 

I think the most important thing I learned overall is…don’t take on cases  which will only cause you stress! Not every caller is what you’re looking for. One person called about an incident that happened 20 years ago…the time limit for employment law cases is just 3 months!

 

A lot of people who phoned us did not seem to have facts or concrete evidence to support any case at all. I heard Gordon constantly asking: “what are the facts to support your case?”  If they couldn’t answer that, he did not take them on as clients.

 

I also learned the mantra: “Care, fair & aware”…

 

Be fair to yourself and the client; have realistic goals…check what they want to achieve. Keeping people aware of what is going on makes for better relations and makes them less stressed. 

 

It’s important to take care of yourself too. It can be stressful handling upset people with all the heavy requirements of legal regulations to factor in, so taking exercise and finishing on time matters.

 

 

Thanks Alix

say it with chocolate….

 

It’s been a fun summer and as much as I’m sad to end my internship, I’m excited for the next chapter which is reading Law at the University of Birmingham.

 

As always, thank you for reading, please keep reading.. and enjoy life! 

 

 

 

 

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The good, the bad and the barrister…

clever clogs

Everything went wrong! exactly as I said it would.

Hi there!

So for those who don’t know, one day I would like to become a barrister. I wasn’t really sure how solicitors and barristers work together, but this week I went to a conference with counsel in Chancery Lane.

I can see that barristers have to work at the last minute on a case before representing the client whereas the solicitor has dealt with it for many months beforehand. I learned a lot this week about how Gordon cooperates with barristers.

The barrister was really polite and friendly; not your stereotyped villain.

He made the barrister’s job less stressful by carefully briefing him. The facts were really complicated…about how to fly a jet! We had to apply the law to the physics of flight. Even though I am just 18 felt I understood the factual issues to which the Law was to be applied.

I noticed how Gordon and the barrister focused on the weaker areas and not just the strengths. I can see there is no point in ‘hoping for the best’ if a witness is going to be cross-examined in open court.

I also saw how Gordon and the barrister essentially cross-examined their own client.

Even though I have enjoyed interacting with clients, addressing a judge in court like a barrister would be very exciting…not to mention, it would be cool to wear a gown too…although I could do without the wig (from a fashion perspective).

Asha the Intern

Week 6: My trip to Chancery Lane (aka “Law City”)

That’s it for this week. Thank you for reading, please keep reading and remember.. enjoy life!

 

The cost of careless talk at work

careless talk costs

A Joke to Far?

Making tribunals out of molehills

I was asked to comment today in an article about a sex discrimination case (Marion Konczak) where a tribunal ordered her former employer, BAE to pay compensation of over £300,000 following discriminatory comments by a senior employee. As well as commenting on the facts of the case, I offer some practical advice to employers on how to deal with discriminatory banter at work.

Here’s a Link

The case followed a very familiar pattern: a discriminatory remark followed by a closing of ranks ranks which led to the end of the job and significant lost earnings, injury to feelings and personal injury.

There are two very simple ways to minimise the risks: training managers and staff on discrimination can offer a complete defence: “reasonable steps” and also responding promptly and in an open-minded and fair way.

Training at your workplace

I offer workplace training on a ‘fixed fee’ basis anywhere in England- £750 for half a day £1200 for a full day (no travel costs or other ‘ad ons). Having worked with employers and employees for over 25 years, I can provide down to earth explanations and guidance on how to avoid discrimination altogether and, where it does take place, how to handle it effectively and quickly.

These training sessions can be used in evidence in support of the reasonable steps defence I have mentioned.

Employer clients of mine who train staff and managers don’t end up in Employment Tribunals…now fees have been abolished this is something worth thinking about!

Law- what is good for?

fat-lawyers

Reasons to be cheerful…

The link between tribunal fees, Donald Trump and baked beans

Trump

Knee jerk solutions….

Unless you have been in a pothole…

You will know that the Supreme Court has backed Unison’s assertion that Employment Tribunal fees were introduced unlawfully.

The link with Mr Trump (and other recent ‘knee jerk’ events such as Brexit) is that fees  fall into the category of genuine concerns, ignored to the point they blow up under the pressure of common consensus.

We seem to be facing a deluge of  simplistic solutions, propelled by popular appeal.

baked beans

Every bean is sacred, every bean is great!? If a bean gets wasted….

Every baked bean isn’t sacred

Thinking about baked beans keeps me sane.

I have to remind myself that I can only contemplate them as a topic  (or tin) rather than on an item by item basis. This approach made Mr Heinz very, very rich, so do please bear with me.

The ‘baked bean’ issue with Tribunal Claims is that a number of undeserving cases were allowed to stay in the system and force unjustified settlements out of employers. I say this with some personal experience, Mr Berry, whose antics I explored and exposed brought over 100 unjustified age discrimination claims.

Getting anyone in charge (at Tribunal or political level) to take notice or deal with that was virtually impossible. So when the Conservatives brought in fees, it was on the back of popular opinion; the need to stop this ‘have a go’ culture.

Pause for thought

As I get older, and so infinitely wiser(?)..I have realised that boring solutions are much better than exciting ones.

So here is a boring idea that would have the effect of stopping the likes of Mr Berry without depriving deserving Claimants of justice. If there was a more general right to ‘stay’ (or stall) proceedings available to tribunal judges, pending clarification of preliminary issues, or to require good behaviour from litigants, this would stop the steam train of legal activity which quickly drives up unjustified employer costs.

 

stay just a little bit

Instead of debarring claims with cruel fees we might stay them (just a little bit longer).

 

 

 

Week 4: Asha the Intern!

Asha the Intern

New to Law

Hello! Asha calling from Gordon Turner Employment Lawyers…

 

This week was the first time I actually met a number of clients myself regarding settlement agreements and it has been a massive confidence booster! I didn’t want to present myself as a shy character because I’m not. But in a professional environment it’s perhaps harder to remain calm and well spoken. 

 

I learned about the importance of planning, arranging a time and place to meet and keeping the client’s aware.

 

Although my tasks were simple I was still conscious about arriving early (especially because I had never used the tube before and their occasional delays) and that I didn’t say anything that may be misleading to the client because I don’t have the legal knowledge of a qualified employment solicitor. 

 

The more I met clients, the more natural I felt and some even remembered me from previous visits which was nice to know! 

 

Being confident when speaking is an asset. Sometimes I wasn’t certain on the precise answer to give to the clients questions (so I rang Gordon for help), this week has definitely been a learning curve; knowing how to interact with clients and to keep them happy is just as important as the legal advice lawyers provide. 

 

As always, thank you for reading, please keep reading and remember… enjoy life! 

Good Will Hunting!

Asha the Intern

Watch out, there’s an Asha about!

 

Hi there! For those following my blog will know that I am now an intern at Gordon Turner’s firm.

 

Amongst the many things I have already learned is how to treat clients. So I am dedicating my weekly blog to ‘goodwill’ -which I can see is essential to a legal business.

 

Coming from Preston I have found trecking across this massive City to be really exciting. I met several clients in person and hand delivered their documents. We could have just posted them but I noticed how surprised these clients were…that I personally visited them. 

 

You came all the way to my work just to give this to me” ….one client said.

 

I have heard of lawyers being stereotyped as stern and I realised this week how important it is to ensure the client feels like they are taken care of. It makes them confident in you and more relaxed. I can see it is important to build a personal working relationship with the client. 

 

The very simple yet obvious step (hand delivering documents) saved my boss, the client and also their employer a lot of time and chasing up.

 

I have learned about goodwill and saw with my own eyes (and experienced with my own footwork!) that one Settlement Agreement dealt with this way generated several more.

 

Last week my blog was focused on marketing but this week I have learned the power of good old fashioned manners. Being helpful doesn’t cost a thing and seems to be more powerful than brochures and websites!

 

Thank you for reading, please keep reading and remember.. enjoy life! 

 

Asha Patel

Less words more justice

Andrex

Master of the Rolls…..

Words and employment law

I am reading an Employment Tribunal Decision. It is several pages long and relates to a bundle which of 300 pages. Being an employment lawyer involves wading through lots of words.

Parties to an employment dispute have much more interraction than in other types of claims. Sometimes one sentence in an email can be crucial. But as we know, there are lots of emails these days and email chains can go on and on and on…missing a key point can ruin a legal strategy or even cause injustice.

Also, some lawyers tend to think that prose is superior to particulars. Dentists don’t suffer from this notion/affliction and yet teeth are looked after.

william shakespeare

There’s only one William Shakespeare

…Methinks.

simple list

More matter less art!

If there is a dispute at work and you are an HR manager (or similar), you can save literally trillions of pounds, entire rain forests and years of your life (probably) by reducing the issues to a LIST right at the start: event, date and evidence in support (all in a neat bundle with no copies).

 

Lawyers and HR managers + Boxing

WARNING! IF YOU LIKE EXPENSIVE POINTLESS ARGUMENTS DO NOT READ THIS BLOG.

As an employment lawyer I get to see people having really expensive arguments. Most of 90% of them settle near the door of the Employment Tribunal when people suddenly go all sensible (funny that).

 

 

boxed in

 

Don’t box me in…

 

One of the simplest errors lawyers and HR managers can make is to speak in absolutes, particularly when speaking to a potential opponent (an employee or another lawyer). This is a uniquely (ha ha) awful habit.

I was in a conference yesterday with a barrister, discussing a sizeable redundancy claim. The simple issue for the High Court will be: were the offers or alternative employment ‘reasonable’? (If so, then my client’s refusal of them would make him author of his own loss… but if not then he would be genuinely redundant and entitled to his enhanced payment reflecting many years’ service).

The HR manager wrote an email to him saying that the proposed roles were ‘identical’ to the one which was being withdrawn (a highly specialised one by any account). I felt a warm glow as we explored all the major (and minute) differences…isn’t there a song: ‘Oh a hunting we shall go!’ Or how about some Sesame Street: ‘One of these jobs is not like the other!’

Lawyers do this too. Here are some words which box clients in to horrible corners, adding to needless conflict and misunderstanding:

Robust/entirely/nonsense/arrant/we have no doubt whatsoever that…/watertight

The problem with all of these is if there is one little flaw in an overblown starting premise, it is impossible to climb down. We can end up looking an absolute fool.

My English teacher

There was a very charming, if slightly eccentric, English teacher at my school (Mr Elliston) who once warned us: he who generalises, generally lies. Now many years later I realise that he was totally, unquestionably, undoubtedly, manifestly correct.  

Better to set things out as an honest question, particularly in Employment Law land where the word ‘reasonable’ tends to chop away at the human ego!

 

 

Gender’s the agenda!

Last week I was in the employment tribunal on yet another case involving discrimination against a father who asked for flexible working.

Perhaps there is something in this. The case involved large amounts of evidence and when this happens I find it is helpful to have a theme to hang my case (and my client’s hopes) on.

Which brings me on to my new intern, Asha (pictured).

Asha the Intern

The future’s bright….

Stereotypes and discrimination

Asha is another young woman who has essentially recruited herself, through polite persistence and sheer enthusiasm. Each year I would get a call: ‘hi it’s me Asha’ and with great initiative she has now found accommodation for the Summer even though she comes from my home town, Preston.

This makes me worry about young men (and boys) because only one has ever contacted me uninvited. Without having been to a tribunal before, Asha, to my great pleasure, served up the perfect peg: ‘…to me, it’s all about stereotypes.’

And so it was! We don’t have a decision yet but my client’s treatment compared to female workers with children did seem very different. His request for paternity rights was followed by unjustified disciplinary activity and his male managers seemed to really struggle with his request on a regular basis. Contrast this with a female worker who seemed to just have say the word ‘parent’ to be protected (rightly so).

I’ve noticed this before: sometimes the worst discriminators against women are other women. Here, I felt that the array of male witnesses were being driven by their own agenda against a working Dad. Managers often project their own experiences on to others (or to use Asha’s point, they rely on stereotypes).

I asked Asha to write about her experiences and so I am now handing over to her (I love this, by the way).

Signed, Sealed & Delivered (By Asha Patel)

Hi there! So today is my first official blog about my journey to become a top solicitor/barrister! 

…..This week I was very lucky to shadow Gordon at the Tribunal on a discrimination claim. It was the most educational, eventful and insightful experience! 

I think my views might echo the thoughts of many others watching a case. 

Three interesting points I learnt were: 

  1. Work and cooperate with the other party’s solicitor, perhaps even refer to them as ‘my friend’ – it will make them underestimate you, whilst presenting yourself as pleasant and reasonable.
  2. When addressing the tribunal follow a: Point – Evidence – Explain structure. Each point should have relevance and a hidden agenda to strengthen your argument. 
  3. Don’t ramble on – Saying too much can lose the Panel’s attention. Keep it short, sweet and simple. 

Well that’s it for this week, but trust me there is much much much more to come! Especially once I’ve started my summer internship. Overall, it’s been ‘real’ this week. Nice to know what my daily life will consist of perhaps one day! 

Thank you again for reading, please keep reading & remember to enjoy life! 

(Note to self- Asha can do my blogs this Summer…)

 

LIARS AND THE LAW

Lying

I swear by Almighty….

Economical with the truth…and nothing but the…

As an employment lawyer I get to meet people who really don’t care about telling lies. I can never understand this; getting away with lying in an age when every sneeze is recorded in an email or on Facebook is always going to be difficult!

Added to that it is a mortal sin (lying, not sneezing).

Lying at the Employment Tribunal 

Once a lawyer establishes a serious lie, each time the witness opens their mouth, they ask, ideally in a helpful and patronising tone: just checking, you’re not lying again, are you?

Tell a lie once

….game over?

Costs Orders and lying

But oddly, not all lying attracts the sanction of costs and recovering costs against an unemployed, unsuccessful party may be a fool’s errand.

Misrepresentation

breaking up is (n’t) hard to do….

So lies, what to make of them?

Lies are best used with Kung Fu in mind. The principles of Kung Fu are well-known (using the force of your opponent to defeat him).

Of course, using actual martial arts in a tribunal is still impermissible (will this be reviewed after Brexit?)…But the principle of Kung Fu is ideal for defeating a difficult opponent.

If you think a person is a prolific liar, just Google them or check out their CV. If a lie induced you to employ them you might be able to set aside the whole contract of employment under good old fashioned misrepresentation law, thus knocking out other more difficult issues (eg: 60 grievances) without even addressing them.

HR managers and lawyers struggle to impress managers with the cheap and quick solutions they demand of us: Strike Out? Forget it!- Deposit Orders- never seen one, don’t know what one would like (even if it wore a 1980s t-shirt with FRANKIE SAYS STRIKE IT OUT)!

In a case last year of this kind, a tribunal ordered an employee to pay my client £20,000 for incurring unreasonable legal costs. The misrepresentation was so clear and so relevant to the decision to offer the job (and importantly the Claimant’s refusal to answer simple questions about it so absurd) that not to award costs would have made a mockery of the procedure.

 

 

 

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