Eversheds to fight employment tribunal bias ruling

first_imgNational firm Eversheds last week lodged an appeal against an Employment Tribunal ruling that it must pay £123,300 in compensation to a male associate who suffered sexual discrimination during the firm’s 2009 redundancy programme. The tribunal found that former real estate associate John de Belin was treated less favourably than another associate who was on maternity leave when he was selected for redundancy. Eversheds’ redundancy programme was based on a points system judged against certain criteria. One criterion, which carried a maximum of two points, judged potential redundancy candidates on how quickly they achieved payment for work during a certain timeframe. A woman colleague of de Belin was automatically awarded the maximum two points for this on the grounds that she was not available to be assessed. Eversheds considered that it would have been open to a discrimination claim from her had it not awarded maximum points. De Belin received only half a point for lock-up, giving him 27 points against the woman’s 27.5 when the final points were counted. He was selected for redundancy and took his case to the tribunal. An Eversheds spokesman said the firm would appeal the decision on the basis that the Sexual Discrimination Act excludes maternity from being taken into account when comparing the treatment of men and women.last_img read more

Bonanza for lawyers – it’s all in the angle

first_imgI came across an article on the Telegraph website the other day which is almost certain to outrage hardworking lawyers – but hey, I’ll force it upon you anyway because once we get over the annoyance, there’s a lot to be learnt from it.The article was about the latest employment tribunal statistics which show a large rise in the number of people making claims. How would you imagine such a story would be written? Well, a simple, factual approach might be something like: There has been an increase in the number of employment tribunal claims …. That’s the sort of dry approach taken by the Employment Tribunal Service itself in its press release. It’s a bit boring though. How could it be spiced up? Here’s how the Telegraph approached it: Rocketing employment tribunal numbers prove a windfall for lawyers but bad news for employers who feel compelled to settle out of court whatever the merits of the claim. Nick Kehoe is a former television and newspaper journalist. He is now managing director at law marketing firm Media Coverage Another line says: ‘Claimants are said to be opting for legal representation to improve their chances of winning bigger awards …’. The implication being that there’s something unfair about hiring a lawyer to protect your interests. The article continues in that vein of the poor oppressed employer, greedy worker and even greedier lawyers who are ‘benefiting from a big increase in business’. Now I’m sure that being presented as fat cat lawyers boosting their business through the misfortune of others will be quite irritating to most solicitors. If you have seen business diminish over the last few years, maybe seen colleagues lose their jobs or even seen law firms close down, then it’s going to be galling to be presented as if you’re raking it in from dodgy employment claims. But let’s leave the annoyance aside for a moment and see if there’s anything we can learn from this. It’s not for me to speculate about the Telegraph’s agenda but clearly they didn’t think the bare facts of the story were sufficient to grab the reader’s attention. Their response, as will always be the case with the media, was to find an angle that would appeal. In this case, they focused on bonanza time for lawyers. On another day or if another one of their staff had written the story, they might have concentrated more on the claimants themselves – along the lines of whether they are playing the system with bogus claims. They could find any one of a dozen different angles but they will all have one thing in common – they will try to inspire an emotional reaction. It could be anything from anger to aspiration but it will always be there because emotion engages people and makes them want to read on. Could you as lawyers do the same when writing blog posts or website articles to market your firm? Why shouldn’t you? Just as the devil shouldn’t have all the best tunes, neither should the media have all the best angles. Let me say straightaway that I am not advocating any distortion or twisting of the facts here. I’m just pointing out that in most major legal developments there are numerous themes to be explored. It makes sense that you should concentrate on the theme that matters most to you and reflects the legal services you offer. For example, if you are an employment lawyer who specialises in representing claimants then the tribunal statistics offer you a good marketing opportunity. Your angle might be along the lines of: ‘More and more people are seeking legal advice when threatened with redundancy or unfair treatment at work’. This puts the concept of seeking legal advice in people’s minds. It offers them the comfort of knowing that lots of others are consulting solicitors so why shouldn’t they? Your article could go on to quote the figures and then discuss the benefits of consulting a specialist solicitor when faced with a problem at work. A solicitor will increase their chances of getting a better settlement – and so on. The emotions being aroused include reassurance that approaching a solicitor is the right thing to do and the aspiration that getting legal advice means a better pay-out. Of course, if you specialise in representing employers then you will need to take a different angle and inspire different emotions. Fear, I suppose, is the obvious choice. You could try something like: ‘Employers need to protect themselves against the increasing threat of costly tribunal claims.’ This time, instead of the employee’s aspiration to win a big settlement, you evoke the employer’s dread of having to pay out money he can scarcely afford at a time when his business may already be struggling. You can explain how you can help him put employment policies in place to reduce the risk of costly claims. Whatever angle you take, the facts remain the same and they aren’t distorted in any way. They’re just approached from different points of view depending on the kind of client you are targeting. This approach can be applied to any article and make your writing much more effective when marketing your legal services. center_img Visit the Gazette’s blogs page for more In Business blogs Bonanza for lawyers in tribunal cases last_img read more

Family lawyers must brace themselves

first_imgLord Justice Wall shoots from the hip when it comes to problems in the family justice system. He even took the step of writing to LSC chief executive Carolyn Downs, warning her that family judges were alarmed by the effect of the tender outcome on ‘well-respected practitioners’. In a speech to Families Need Fathers last week, Wall gave further insight into the esteem in which he holds solicitors and other professionals working in family justice. He said: ‘The best thing about the system, in my view, is the people who work in it…they are not in it for the money, but do the work because they believe in it.’ Praise from the head of family justice is a fillip to all professionals working in the system. But sadly it will not be enough to protect it from further deep cuts. As Wall added: ‘The government is likely to invest heavily in the outcome of the Family Justice Review. Be under no illusions. The recommendations are likely to be radical. There are no sacred cows. ‘You do not need a crystal ball to see that legal aid for private law proceedings is likely to be further diminished if not abolished; that long and protracted contact and residence disputes will become things of the past; and that out-of-court mediation and conciliation will be encouraged.’ Family lawyers must brace themselves, we fear.last_img read more

Tighten rules to protect young witnesses, say charities

first_imgChildren’s charities have called for ground rules to be enforced in court to prevent the exploitation of young witnesses. A report released this week by the NSPCC and Nuffield Foundation found that inadequate procedures and a lack of training for legal professionals were having detrimental effects on both the youngsters and their evidence. The report, a progress update on the 2009 study Measuring Up, said that intermediaries must be deployed to help children understand questions, and specialist schemes set up to offer tailored victim support. It also recommended that judges, barristers and solicitor- advocates receive extra guidance on how best to question vulnerable youngsters. ‘Current cross-examination methods often contravene principles for obtaining complete and accurate reports from children and may actually exploit their developmental limitations,’ it said. ‘Judges are advised in Judicial College guidance to agree ground rules with the parties in advance on the way children are to be questioned, but this rarely happens unless a registered intermediary is involved. ‘Ground rules should be routine, even in non-intermediary cases.’ The number of children called as witnesses in criminal cases, often as victims and usually by the prosecution, has risen sharply in recent years, from around 30,000 in 2006/07 to 48,000 in 2008/09. In a 14-month period examined by the report, children aged five and under were assessed by a regional intermediary in 114 cases. The report said that while young witnesses must be enabled to give their best evidence for a fair trial, this has to be done in a way that recognises they are children and not adults.last_img read more

Apprenticeships make sense

first_img Michael Robinson, Emmersons Solicitors, Sunderland If the cost of being a law student is as high and burdensome as people say it is; and if sitting the LPC is an expensive ‘punt’ at a career, why not introduce a solicitor apprenticeship (‘student solicitor’) scheme? This might copy the FILEX programme, combining limited periods of academic study, practical study and qualification (becoming an accredited police station representative, and including home study and quality assured assessment and testing, for example). In this way bright young things could leave school, start a job with a solicitor and complete an apprenticeship which would be self-financing, as the student solicitor would be working and being paid. That would reduce the demand (and perhaps also the need) for expensive law degrees and conversion courses without dumbing down the quality of the entrants to the profession. So long as there was no differentiation in the nomenclature of the qualified person, the apprenticeship route would offer an equal and real opportunity to a more diverse group and perhaps make working in legal aid areas of law attractive to ‘student solicitors’ and affordable for employers. It would get rid of paralegal slavery. It would create achievable goals for students. It would take us back to where we were some years ago. last_img read more

Sentencing

first_imgImprisonment – Length of sentence R v Johnson: Court of Appeal, Criminal Division: 8 September 2011 In August 2005, the complainant went with a friend to a football match. They subsequently left the ground and went drinking. They left one public house in order to go to another and met a group, which included the defendant, whom they asked for directions. The group led the complainant and his friend into some back lanes. The complainant and his friend became uneasy and attempted to turn back. The complainant’s friend was asked for money and, whilst he argued with some of the group, others of the group approached the complainant. He was punched and kicked whilst on the ground and various items were stolen from him. The next thing the complainant recalled was being back at his hotel with, inter alia, a grazed knee and ripped jeans. The blood on his jeans was found to match that of the defendant. When interviewed, the defendant denied it. Forensic evidence established that the defendant had to have been the person standing over the complainant, as his blood was on the complainant’s jeans. The defendant had an extensive history of criminal convictions, most of which were for dishonesty of increasing gravity. The defendant later pleaded guilty to robbery. The pre-sentence report stated that the root cause of his criminality was his abuse of alcohol and drugs. In March 2006, the defendant was sentenced to imprisonment for public protection for a minimum term of 18 months. A drug treatment and testing order which had been imposed in July 2005 in respect of a burglary offence was revoked. The defendant appealed against the sentence. The issue was whether the judge had been right in principle to impose a sentence of imprisonment for public protection. The appeal would be allowed. The sentence imposed of imprisonment for public protection had not been just in the circumstances. The relevant law had required the recorder to start from the point of determining that the defendant posed a significant risk of causing serious harm to the public. He could decline to impose a sentence of imprisonment for public protection only if he was satisfied that that conclusion would be unreasonable. The recorder had clearly had the relevant statutory provisions in mind and had sought correctly to apply them. In any view it was a borderline case. The defendant was not the prime mover and the offence did not appear to have been premeditated for more than the shortest of periods. The harm caused, although unpleasant, was not the most serious harm. The recorder had been correct to have in mind the defendant’s background of alcohol and drug abuse and he had undoubtedly posed a risk to the public of at least some harm. In conclusion, the defendant had posed a risk to the public, but the recorder had not been correct to conclude that such risk was of serious harm, as was required by the relevant statute. The sentence of imprisonment for public protection for a minimum term of 18 months would be quashed and a determinate sentence of three years’ imprisonment would be imposed. A consecutive sentence of two years’ imprisonment for the burglary would be imposed and accordingly the total sentence would be five years’ imprisonment.center_img A Cohen (assigned by the Registrar of Criminal Appeals) for the defendant.last_img read more

Nipping trouble in the bud

first_imgStay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Subscribe now for unlimited access Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our communitylast_img read more

Don’t do it Tony’s way

first_imgSubscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe now for unlimited access Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletterslast_img read more

Knowing the form

first_imgSubscribe now for unlimited access Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletterslast_img read more

What you think of the RICS fee increase

first_imgGet your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe now for unlimited accesslast_img read more