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Employment Law Top Five: Getting the best out of your Employment Lawyer


One of the most commonly asked questions is how do you get the best out of your employment lawyer? There are a few simple steps you can take that can really help your employment lawyer to help you.

Getting to know the business

The starting point is providing as much information about your business as possible.  Understanding your business inside out, the structure, ethos and culture will allow your lawyer to give the best advice, tailored to your company.

Our approach is always matched to our client’s specific needs because what works for one business may be completely inappropriate and inconsistent with the ethos of another.  Advice that is consistent with your business and its values is always our priority.  By taking the time to get to know and understand your company and its values, your lawyer is best placed to advise in accordance with those values.

Early advice is best advice

By seeking advice early on, an assessment can be carried out on any issues that have been raised and a plan of action can be put in place to manage and reduce any risk.

Unfortunately, avoiding the problem or trying to deal with it without the proper advice is likely to make the issue worse and cause bigger problems down the line.

Getting your employment lawyer up to speed with what has happened, as early as possible, means you have the ability to manage any issues properly and put yourself in the best position for the future.  Ignoring the proper procedure and acting unreasonably cannot be undone and could come back to haunt you if the claim reaches Tribunal.

During an Employment Tribunal, time is spent looking at the way in which employers have followed due process and how they have handled employee issues.  The policies and procedures which are implemented in any employment claim are key. Early advice can point you in the right direction to avoid future criticism that you have not correctly followed due process or any policies in place.

Preparation and documentation

Before meeting with your employment solicitor, make sure you have all the relevant documents in order i.e. the Contract of Employment and any relevant policies and procedures etc.  Presenting these in a logical chronological sequence can help to tell a story of what has happened and provide details of the history of the matter in a clear, relevant and straightforward way. Doing this can save on time and cost in the information gathering stage.

If documents are not presented in the right order or perhaps key documents are missing, a lot of time then has to be spent trying to piece the information together in order to establish what has happened which can slow the process down and end up costing the client more.

For more, take a look at our recent article: Employment Law Top Five: Employment documents that every employer should have

Similarly, ensuring that as much of the process is documented from the outset and that all those documents are provided at the start, will be key. When documents appear further down the line and have perhaps not been previously disclosed, this can change the advice that your lawyer would offer and could affect your chances of success with a claim.

Full disclosure from the outset is key to promote both efficiency and cost effective representation.

Peter advises that a client should never pay a lawyer to do something that they can do themselves and the preparation and collation of documents into a chronological file is very much an administrative task and a lawyer represents a very expensive admin helper.

The good, the bad and the ugly of full disclosure

Employment lawyers have seen and heard it all before and need to know as much information at the outset, in order to best help and advise you.

You have an obligation to disclose the documents that not only assist your case but those that do not and the obligation to disclose all documents is both onerous and serious.

Allowing your lawyer to see everything at the start allows them to assess prospects of success and advise accordingly.  It allows yours lawyer to plan with you a strategy to defend, manage or settle any issue or claim.

Quite often, a case that may initially look strong can be undermined by documents that have not been seen at the outset which is both damaging to the case and its prospects of success but almost ultimately adversely impacts on the credibility and reputation of the business.

If there is a problem in the case, it’s best to see it on day one and work out how best to deal with it.

A problem on day one can become a much bigger problem down the line if it is not addressed upfront or worse still concealed until it belatedly is disclosed or discovered.

There are very serious legal and substantial disclosure obligations in Employment Tribunal claims and very serious implications and consequences for any party who fails to make the requisite disclosure or seeks to hide key documents.

It is absolutely essential to make sure that all the relevant documents and records are fully preserved and are available for disclosure.  If an issue arises, immediate instructions need to be given within the organisation to preserve all the documentation and any historic documentation. Any ongoing destruction of paper files or cleansing of electronic files must cease as soon as an issue is identified and all documents and records preserved.  Specific and key advice needs to be taken at the outset on which documents need to be preserved and disclosed as it is not always obvious and is of fundamental importance to the whole case.

Adopt a risk-and-reward mentality

Almost every business decision made carries some element of risk.  Commercial reality means we cannot make decisions that are always risk free and what is ultimately best for the business is a balance between risk and reward.

The law is never a magic wand to create a risk free environment or outcome.

Identifying, discussing and managing risk in employment issues is key and when combined with an analysis of the cost and benefit of a particular decision we can help achieve not only a sound legal outcome but more importantly a commercially sensible outcome that is in the best interests of your business.

The employment relationship is a personal relationship between the business and the employee and emotions can run high when issues arise.

Your employment lawyer can help by looking, objectively and commercially, at the risks, options and the potential outcomes to help you to get the best result.

Finally, and perhaps the most important way that you can get the best out of your employment lawyer, is to communicate with them regularly so that they know the progress in any issue.  You know the facts and background of the issue but until you tell the, your lawyer will not.  Keeping them informed as matters develop and asking for advice before decisions are made help them to help you find the best outcome.

Your employment lawyer will want to work with you as a seamless team. They want the same best outcome for you that you want for yourself.  Tell and show them everything and they can help you at the earliest time and influence the decision making and the outcome.

While there are almost no risk free options in business life, we can, by working together, reduce and manage risk and get to the best legal and commercial outcome for your business.

This article should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional legal advice. If you are an employer seeking legal advice on a particular matter or employment dispute, please contact Peter Rolph by emailing [email protected] or by completing the form below. 

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