Manchester-based Mark Nolan talks about his career in employment law, including how he came to work in this field and what initially attracted him to it.
How I found employment law
Some law students already have an idea of the area they want to specialise in once they’ve graduated. Others, like me, start out in one field and discover something else along the way that suits their style perfectly, and for me this was employment law.
After graduating in 1993 with a Bachelor of Laws degree I went on to become one of the first students to take the Legal Practice Course, which had just switched from an exam-based format to a much more vocational way of doing things.
Daunting as this was, it stood me in good stead when I qualified into the criminal department of a medium sized practice. It was an exciting time, as I was sent out to give advice at police stations and make daily appearances at the Magistrates Court.
I did this for around five years, and while I found it interesting it was also very much a procedural process, whereas I was looking for something that required me to think on my feet a little more. It was at this point that I decided to explore a career in employment law.
Why employment law?
I was drawn to employment law as it is one of the most complex, diverse and constantly changing areas available in the legal profession. I also like the fact that the hours are usually more office based than criminal law, although this isn’t always the case.
I enjoyed employment law then for the same reasons I do today. It is a field which reacts to social and economic change, as well as to government legislation, so you always need to be on top of your game to keep up.
My average working day consists of a combination of advising clients and representing them in employment tribunal claims, or employment related claims at the County or High Court. Typically my clients include solicitors, accountants, banking staff and medics, including clinicians and non-clinical NHS management.
I advise them on a range of employment matters, such as exit strategies, compromise agreements, reorganisation and restructure of businesses. I have a packed schedule every day, so it’s certainly never dull.
Also, while discrimination in the workplace is a problem that will probably always be an issue, it’s good to be able to assist businesses in ensuring they are aware of their obligations. Discrimination in the workplace cannot be tolerated, and despite great social strides in the last 20 to 30 years, there is still much to be done, and this is something that drives me on.
Having worked in London for seven years, I now work for Orbis Solicitors as one of their employment law solicitors.
How to make a success of your law career
Whatever area you choose to specialise in, there are ways in which you can help maximise your potential, particularly early on in your career.
For example, before I started at university I took a year out and wrote to a lot of law firms in my area. Many of them weren’t even advertising, but by taking a chance I was able to get my foot in the door and this experience stood me in good stead when I went looking for work after graduating.
You should really focus on developing your analytical abilities, as it’s vital to be able to consider both sides of an argument and spot the risks involved in each course of action, so that the client is always aware of what’s going on. This also helps to protect your integrity, which is worth a lot more than the piece of paper you practising certificate is written on.
Finally, of course, you need to love the job. There may be times when you feel the law has let you down, but if you can pick yourself up and enjoy doing what you do, despite the long hours involved, you are sure to be to be a success.