Find out more about employment law as a legal practice area.
What kinds of clients will I be dealing with?
The large majority of clients in this area of law are employers, although firms also advise employees, not only giving advice from one perspective. Clients come from a wide variety of sectors and industries, such as retailers, manufacturers, professional-services firms, education establishments, as well as membership bodies and charities.
What kind of work will I do at different levels?
Employment law focuses on everything to do with the world of work, including the hiring of resources, advertising of job openings, the recruitment process, new joining formalities, remuneration, the promotion and movement of employees, the benefits and perks that are provided, organisation restructuring, voluntary exits and litigation.
Non-contentious work will focus on providing advice, drafting, transactional tasks and dispute resolution through arbitration and negotiations. Contentious work will cover dismissals, breach of contracts, harassment, redundancy/lay-off and discrimination on the grounds of age, sex, religion and disability.
Trainees in this area of law support a team. A trainee working in employee relations, for example, will help to ensure timely, commercial and effective employee-relations support is provided. They could be assessing cases, taking ownership of low-risk issues and referring higher-risk issues to senior team members.
An associate in this area of law could be working on day-to-day employment queries—such as disciplinary and grievance matters, maternity/family-leave issues and working-time questions—as well as tackling more strategic projects such as compliance with new legal requirements. They could be working on senior-executive issues, including negotiating appointments and exits, and on collective matters such as restructuring, redundancies, integration and TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment)—a key aspect of employment law that usually applies during business mergers and acquisitions, or whenever a business changes hands.
They could also be working on industrial relations and trade-union matters; employment tribunal, civil court and appeal litigation; and corporate, commercial and real-estate transactions, business transfers and outsourcings.
A partner in this area of law could be providing advice to clients, or colleagues in other specialisms (e.g. Corporate) on employment-law matters. One of the main differences with the partner role is that it doesn’t usually involve delivering employment-law advice, rather to managing the wellbeing and performance of the partners’ team, and maintaining and developing the relationships the firm has with their clients, as well as working on attracting new clients.
How should I tailor my commercial awareness?
Those working in employment law should ensure their knowledge of equality and diversity legislation is kept up to date, as well as what political and legal developments (for example, during Brexit) mean for employment law. They could also read the business section of broadsheet newspapers, as well as listening to podcasts such as The Hearing, hosted by employment-law partner Kevin Poulter.
Another podcast worth checking out is that from Thomas Ogg looking at the Employment Law Conference 2018—or they could even attend events like this in person to stay abreast of developments in their chosen area of law.
What does a typical day in this department look like?
A typical day in employment law could see specialists advising HR directors or in-house counsel on issues such as discrimination and dismissal procedures. They are also likely to be working on several pieces of high-value litigation, which may require them to draft applications or witness statements. They could also be advising clients on the employment aspects of mergers and acquisitions, and outsourcing.
Legal Practice Areas