The value of employment law solicitors
Regardless of whether you are an employee, or are an employer, it is highly likely that you will need to consult with an employment solicitor at some point during the course of your life. This may be because you are unsure how a particularly complex piece of employment legislation or a recently decided court case will affect you or your work force and you therefore need to take counsel from a solicitor who is particularly learned in this field. Alternatively, the time for consultation and words of caution may have long since passed, and employer and employee may be embroiled in a bitter legal dispute which can only be resolved through court or tribunal proceedings, making the services of a solicitor a specialist necessity.
Even if you have the enviable position of being the owner-manager of your own business, it is highly likely that at some point your plans for the future of your business will grind to a halt in the face of employment legislation and you will need to consult a solicitor to help you navigate the best route forward. Collective dismissal, redundancy, the transfer of a business and its workforce to a rival firm, renegotiation of contracts and dealings with trade unions are all employment issues with which the entrepreneur will have to contend, and to do so without the benefit of advice from a qualified solicitor who specialises in employment law is pure folly.
Many people are often tempted to treat their legal problems in the same way that they would their medical issues. They see the high street solicitor as the approximation of a General Practitioner, and in many cases will go to him first for advice. However, this is rarely the best course of action – whilst a GP faced with a complicated health problem may well refer the patient to a specialist, the high street solicitor is a jack of all trades who will more likely than not try his hand at fixing the legal issue himself. Often what results is poor quality work for a premium price. Employment law is one of several parts of our legal system which deviates substantially from the norm. Usual rules of law, practices and procedures do not apply in this sphere of legal endeavour and so it is always best to consult with a specialist. An employment law solicitor will be aware of the complex rules which govern employment tribunals and the subtle ways in which these differ from the mainstream civil courts.
Litigation and advocacy in the employment tribunal are not regulated in the same way as traditional court litigation and in theory can be undertaken by anyone, regardless of their lack of legal qualifications. This creates a danger for the consumer looking for legal advice and representation, because there is a great deal of competition from HR consultants and so-called employment law specialists who have no formal training or qualifications.
As well as the extensive academic and vocational training, which must be undertaken by a person hoping to qualify as a solicitor, there is also the regulatory framework to consider. Solicitors are required to abide by a code of conduct which is rigorously enforced by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority. Solicitors are monitored and scrutinised for compliance with the code and with their other legal obligations and swift action is taken to stop rogue solicitors from practising. All solicitors are required by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority to carry a certain minimum level of professional indemnity insurance. This means that even if something goes horribly wrong and your solicitor makes a disastrous mistake, you will be protected from any losses or costs which result, and this is something that few employment law consultants who are not also solicitors can boast.
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