Following on with Lawyer Monthly’s new series dedicated to law school, recruitment and careers, Jayne Harrison, Partner and head of employment law at Cleggs Solicitors, gives her top three tips on how to specialise in employment law.
These days it is very unusual to be an all-round lawyer as there are so many changes in case law that practitioners cannot keep up with every area. Therefore, choosing a specialism is very important and will forge your future career path.
My top three tips that I always recommend to students and graduates are to ensure employment law is the right fit for you, get some training and don’t underestimate the value of experience.
- Is employment law for me?
Make sure when you’re thinking about specialising in employment law that you are actually interested in the area. It sounds like common sense but employment law is a fast-paced area of the law and cases are often very time sensitive and need to be sorted as fast as possible. If a client has an issue they usually don’t have time to waste. As a result, two of the key skills needed to practice employment law are keeping calm under pressure, as there are tight deadlines involved and good communication skills because dealing with stressed clients is a large part of the job. You will be speaking with a range of people from fellow employment lawyers who understand the legal vocabulary to business people who don’t have specialist knowledge and just want the job done. I personally chose employment because of the variety of work, the nature of the litigation and the opportunity to experience both contentious and non-contentious work. Employment is also a very relatable and a human part of the law that nearly everyone has some experience of.
- The importance of training seats
The time that you spend investing in training will fundamentally prepare you for qualification into employment law and as part of your employment training seat I would highly recommend finding as many opportunities as possible to learn. One of the most valuable experiences I had as part of my training seat was to shadow a tribunal judge. I visited countless hearings and asked lots of questions to gather inside knowledge from someone with years of experience – all of which were invaluable when thinking about qualifying into employment law. This experience definitely contributed to my interest in tribunal advocacy and influenced the direction of my career. Shadowing a judge obviously gives a fantastic insight into the mechanisms of tribunals and how cases are decided. Finding anyone with a wealth of experience in employment law to shadow for a few days is a fantastic way to gain inside knowledge and further cement the areas you enjoy most. Also some tribunal hearing centres offer a judiciary shadowing programme so that students can get experience of their local tribunal.
- Experience is key
The most valuable piece of advice I can offer is to get as much experience as you can. I would recommend sitting in as many tribunal hearings as possible as they are great exposure to employment law in action. The experience of sitting in the tribunal room understanding the process of a tribunal, what questions are regularly asked, what the panel looks like etc. will not only help confirm your interest in employment law but also provide invaluable knowledge when qualified. As most tribunal cases are public hearing then you just need to ring your local tribunal to see if there is a case in the list that you can go and observe.
You can’t teach experience and putting in the time to research all aspects of employment law, seeking out training opportunities and grabbing any learning experience with both hands will put you in a much stronger position when you qualify and become a fully-fledged employment lawyer.