By special request
Used to be known as Labour Law until lawyers cottoned on to the fact that Thatcher would veto the appointment of anyone using such a title. Then known as Industrial Law until lawyers cottoned on to the fact that Thatcher would veto the appointment of anyone claiming to support or be connected with Industry. Then should, truthfully, have been know as unemployment law but that seemed unduly negative, even for lawyers.
So this is about Trade Unions, the right to strike, the right to freely assemble, the right to a fair wage regardless of your sex, race, age, nationality or orientation. It is therefore, respectively irrelevant, unused, politically correct and earnest. If you are a left leaning lawyer and the Human Rights lot won’t have you, employment law is right up your street. As it is also about how to sack your workforce and pay any compensation in the form of future share options in a yet to be floated wholly-owned subsidiary registered in the Turks and Caicos Islands it is also right up the Strasse of the right leaning lawyer.
You must be earnest. An Employment Law silk who shall be nameless, once opposed me in the Employment Appeal Tribunal. There had been a lock-in at a pub for a wedding. To humour the village policeman who didn’t want this to be clear to all and sundry, at 2am the door into the little ginnel (snicket if you’re from the South) at the back was opened and out came the revellers. My client, the barman, kissed the bride, the groom and the barmaid. The Barmaid complained of sexual harrassment and discrimination – presumably the discrimination was because he didn’t kiss the dog. Losing in Leeds (now there’s a surprise) services of specialist counsel were retained for the appeal.
The case was outlined with much impassioned reference to personal dignity and human rights. The Judge said, ‘that’s all very well, but can you tell me, in a nutshell, your client’s complaint?’ Counsel said ‘Sir, in a nutshell, my client’s complaint is that she was kissed in the back passage.’ The Judge, not missing a beat, said ‘I can see why she might complain about that’.
Advantages. You will be on the side of right, whichever side you’re on. Client respect is a throwback to old-fashioned personal injury days. Lots of law, all based on what is reasonable. Superb chance to act for the Allied Mushroom Growers and other arcane organisations. If you have a sense of humour you will enjoy yourself (see above). Good range of advocacy work – from Tribunals to House of Lords via EAT. Good crossover potential with contract/economic torts/public law.
Disadvantages. Highest proportion of numpties (thank you Lawminx) in the business (see above). Equality of arms means sacked worker gets you, and Bastard Enterprises Plc get Silk from London who wrote the book and knows the Tribunal Chairperson by their maiden name. Tribunal Chairperson says this is ok. Silk smiles serenely. After using all the comparators available, taking into account hours worked, you will discover your plumber’s apprentice is laughing at you.