The world of legal services is a competitive one and businesses have a lot of choice when it comes to legal advice. In many areas, the choice is between different firms of solicitors. When it comes to employment law, however, the choice is broader and the comparisons harder to make. In this article, I try to offer you some help with the choice.
There are 3 mains types of employment law adviser:
1. Commercial law firms such as Paris Smith
We provide legal advice in what could be described as a traditional manner (albeit in a modern way). We have a team of 6 qualified solicitors who will all advise on employment law and who all will appear in the employment tribunal as advocates. Our solicitors have a broad range of qualification and experience and this allows us to ensure that the right person is chosen for the job and the cost is managed. A partner should not carry out fairly straightforward work. However, sometimes the complexity and value of a piece of work makes it more appropriate for a partner.
Often, there is a crossover between employment law and another area of law. For example, in the employment team here, we work closely with:
We pride ourselves on our reputation and this is recognised by both the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, the two main legal directories.
We are flexible in terms of our charging and we allow our clients to choose from a variety of fee options including retainer packages which offer free advice.
2. Niche employment law firms
The field of employment law has a high proportion of small, niche, firms specialising only in employment law. It is an area of law which is often seen as being relatively self-contained and individuals in larger practices sometimes prefer to break away and offer their services as a niche offering. There are some very capable lawyers out there running their own law firms.
There are pros and cons and niche firms will often be able to offer lower charging rates due to having lower overheads. However, the niche firm will not have the same breadth of lawyers under their roof and will not be able to offer the same service levels when it comes to issues such as intellectual property, High Court litigation and corporate work. A business using a niche employment law firm will need other lawyers for other services.
3. Call centre service
An alternative method of obtaining advice is via the call centre approach. There are a number of businesses which offer this kind of support and it will often be packaged as a complete solution with a contract review service, day to day advice and insurance backing if there is a claim. In addition, there will be a number of extra services offered which will often not be offered by a traditional law firm (such as HR and health & safety). An advantage over options 1 and 2 may include a lower (or fixed) cost but it is a different kind of service.
So what’s right and what’s wrong? This is for you to decide. If you want to develop a long term relationship with a specialist solicitor, or team of solicitors, then options 1 or 2 are likely to suit you better. If a broad package offered via a helpline open 24 hours a day for a fixed price is most important to you, then option 3 may be your choice. Ultimately, you pay your money and take your choice.
My view is that the best service to a more sophisticated client comes from option 1, whether it’s from Paris Smith or another high quality firm of commercial solicitors. If I was running a commercial business I would want to engage a specialist firm which is highly rated, within a reasonable commute and which could offer complimentary legal services to ensure a joined up approach. However, this is just my view and you might say that I would say this in view of where I work. Some organisations with no HR support might prefer the complete package.
Whichever option you decide on, I suggest you do your homework and check out your lawyer in the legal directories. Where does the firm sit in the directories? Does the employment team have any ranked individual lawyers? Paris Smith, by the way, has two solicitors in Band 1 in Chambers & Partners, something we are very proud of.
You might also consider the terms being offered to you. Are you being asked to commit for a long period of time? Do you have the ability to end the contract if you are unhappy?
As I said at the start of this piece, it’s a competitive world out there and clients should choose their legal advice carefully. The breadth of options is not a bad thing and it’s not something we are concerned about. We know what we’re good at and we back up what we say with our actions and through our reputation.