My role is to ensure our team delivers top-quality service to its existing clients and wins new work to grow the business. We deal with whatever our clients need help with from harassment complaints, through detailed working time queries and large-scale re-structurings and other change programmes.
Tel: +44 (0)870 733 0624
Best brains in ...
Resolving or, if necessary, fighting discrimination disputes. Advising on carrying out large-scale re-structurings while maintaining positive employee relations. Helping clients navigate their way through our overly complex statutory dispute resolution regulations.
Highlight of your career so far?
I helped a major car manufacturer defend a number of related and complex race and disability discrimination claims over a period of about two years. Even by discrimination standards, these were very sensitive cases for the client concerned, with the outcome being closely watched by a particular section of its workforce. It became apparent early on that settlement on terms acceptable to the client was not an option so we had to fight the cases through to the end. We either faced or had to make pretty much every conceivable application available under the Tribunal rules. This included a trip to the Employment Appeals Tribunal on one failed application and lodging a strike out application using a newly introduced rule on the very day that rule came into force. In the end, we won on every count and the client saw a significant reduction in this type of complaint. It was hugely satisfying to have been so closely involved with achieving that result and working as a highly effective team with our barrister and the client to do so.
Most challenging job you've ever done?
The most challenging job is actually one I'm currently involved in - assisting a local authority in resolving mass equal pay grievances and claims. Equal pay is a huge issue in the public sector at the moment, particularly in local authorities and the health service. The Equal Pay Act is currently being tested to its limits and, for this particular local authority, we are running a new point on the correct interpretation of one piece of the statutory wording. We've now been acting on this for a year and have just had the first hearing dealing with only a few of the very many issues in the case. Managing the data is a huge logistical exercise, given the number of claimants and men they are seeking to compare themselves to. But you have to combine meticulous attention to this sort of detail with an overview of how it will impact on the wider strategy we have agreed to try to achieve the client's objectives. So far it is going according to plan but, with new case law coming out seemingly every week, we are constantly having to assess whether the strategy remains the right or best one for the client.
What about outside the UK?
A lot of our international work involves liaising with our best friend law firms to get and co-ordinate advice on projects for UK or US clients. My most interesting example of international work was a job where we were providing the English law advice on a multi-jurisdictional restrictive covenant dispute co-ordinated out of the US. It involved the departure of a very senior executive and, as ever, with restrictive covenant issues, needed to be looked at very urgently. We had to liaise with German, Italian and US lawyers in helping the client decide the best way to deal with the situation.
What's your definition of going the extra mile... And when have you done it?
Going the extra mile is about understanding a client's needs and objectives and, where necessary, putting those before your own personal needs. I acted on a High Court dispute between founder owners of an IT business. After an unsuccessful attempt at mediation and an unsuccessful application to postpone the trial due to a very late application to amend the claim by the other side, we were faced with a very tight timetable to prepare for the trial. The clients still wanted to settle but we had to prepare in case this wasn't possible. I felt it was too late in the day to hand this over to someone else and so I had to drop out of a New Year holiday visiting friends in Canada. In the end the case settled after a day of negotiations on what would have been the second day of the holiday!
Best example of a creative legal solution?
I acted for a client on a sensitive race case involving a current employee which he and his union were pursuing as a point of principle. He didn't want any money to settle and, according to his union, wanted his proverbial day (or in this case, five days) in court. But the way he was behaving around the workplace didn't feel consistent with that. With a week to go before the hearing, I suggested that we offer, in return for his withdrawing the claim, to give him a letter from the HR manager acknowledging the strength of his feeling about the issues concerned and explaining how he might get involved in diversity initiatives within the company. It was not a letter of apology or regret but was designed to allow him to save face in dropping the claim. The client and our barrister were sceptical as to whether it was worth offering the letter but we did and he accepted immediately.
How do you get under the skin of a client's business?
In our area of the law, one of the best ways to get under the skin of a business is to get as close as possible to being treated as one of its employees. Many HR teams require HR people to do a day or a week on, for example, the production line or in store so they have a better understanding of what it's like to do a front-line job in that organisation. If we can persuade clients to let our lawyers do the same that is ideal. As a next best, we do tours of the client's operations and go on the circulation list for their in-house magazines. I've even done a new starter induction course at one client alongside a bunch of genuine new employees - that gave an interesting insight into the real concerns and priorities for that client.
What's your single greatest contribution to Wragge & Co's corporate responsibility?
I'm too much of a coward to do the more dramatic sponsored events like firewalking or bungee-jumping. But if it involves walking, I'm up for it. I do my best to take the stairs not the lifts in the office and I've done walks for charity - the longest being a 25-mile walk in the Black Mountains for St Basil's. I could barely walk at all the next day and lost a toenail in the process but it was definitely worth it.
What's been written or said about you that you're most proud of?
A client saying, after a detailed explanation from me, 'I understood that. Are you sure you're a lawyer?'