Employment law serves to protect the rights of individuals and to protect businesses in dealing with their staff and other HR issues. At Swinburne Maddison, we deal with all aspects of employment law, working variously for both employees and employers.
We speak with Sharney Randhawa, solicitor in our Employment Law team, here she discusses some of the interesting cases she has been involved in, her specialism of Professional Discipline and how working in the North East compares to London.
How did you begin your career?
Following my LPC, I began working in a firm in Birmingham before moving to progress my career in London. I was keen to experience London life and so was really happy when I secured a paralegal role at my old firm, Bindmans LLP. I worked for a year in the Employment Department as a paralegal before starting my training contract with the firm.
Describe one of the most interesting or challenging cases you have worked on?
One of the great things about employment law is that there is so much to it and so your cases can vary widely. Not one matter is going to be the same – all are based on their unique facts. I have had a number of cases on restrictive covenants in the last few months, which are always quite technical and often very urgent and so this can sometimes be quite a challenge.
I am currently acting for a client who worked in Scotland and so the claim needs to follow the Scottish Employment Tribunal rules of procedure, which are quite different from the English tribunals – so that has been interesting for me recently.
I think the most interesting and challenging case I have worked on to date was a multi-party case against a multinational construction services company. The case involved 51 employees, originally from Goa bringing claims of race and religious discrimination, trade union detriment, and unlawful deduction of wages. Dealing with 51 claimants, all with completely different claims and facts spanning over a two year period, some of whom didn’t speak English, was quite difficult at times! The clients were also based in Swindon and the hearing was in Bristol so I spent many weeks in hotels with my colleagues. It was a really great case to have had the opportunity to work on, the clients were fantastic, some of the kindest people I have probably ever met and I felt I learnt so much working on the case, both in terms of the law but also how to deal with a case and clients practically. Although, I do still sometimes have nightmares about the 3000+ page bundle I was responsible for!
Does your demeanour change depending on whether you are acting for an individual or an organisation?
I think it really depends on the client you are acting for as opposed to whether your client is an individual or organisation. Client care is so important in this industry and so I think it is right to tailor your advice and style to ensure your client is able to appreciate the advice you are giving so they can make clear and reasoned decisions about their cases. Some clients will know a fair bit about the law before they come to me, so really just want reassurances about where they stand. Others however might have no idea about duties or rights whatsoever and so I may need to explain things in lay terms and in a lot more detail on these occasions.
You have been recognised by The Legal 500 as a recommended lawyer in Professional Discipline. How does that feel?
I started working on professional discipline and regulatory cases a few years ago after assisting in a number of financial regulatory matters before the Financial Conduct Authority, including the LIBOR investigations. Realising how professionals can often be facing regulatory issues at the same time as employment problems meant I became quite interested in expanding my practice into this area of law.
The professional discipline side of matters can be even more stressful and difficult for clients to go through, given that the consequences in some cases can potentially be career-ending. I have acted for a number of clients before a range of regulatory bodies including the General Medical Council, Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, General Teaching Council and the Financial Conduct Authority. It is therefore great to have been recognised in this field as I hope to build and develop the department here at Swinburne Maddison in the future.
How does working in a North East law firm compare to working in London?
A year on, I can safely say it’s just as great. I was quite nervous about leaving London, as I loved my job, the city and the life I had made there. I am originally from Birmingham and so been around busy cities all my life. I was unsure about how the North East would compare as I just assumed that because it was smaller, the quality and types of work might not be the same. However, in this last year, my caseload actually became more varied and has been really interesting. I have had five cases in the tribunal on behalf of both claimants and respondents, some which have involved quite technical, nuanced areas of the law which has also helped to develop my knowledge.
I have done a lot of crossover work with the corporate team, advising companies on business transactions with TUPE and redundancies. I am therefore more than happy to hold my hand up and admit I was wrong about what working in the North East would be like!
Don’t get me wrong though, there are other things which can’t compare...the weather is pretty difficult to adjust to, my first week up here was during the Beast from the East, oh and the ratio of Pret to Greggs here is crazy – I am still adjusting to the pastie life.
What advice would you give to a young law student?
I think researching where and what type of law you want to do is key. The legal world is vast, there are many, many firms out there with varied practices and not all of them are going to be right for you. I knew after I did a few vac schemes and open days, what type of firm I felt more comfortable in. Firms will have different training programmes, expectations and opportunities and so it’s wise to take time and consider each and every option, as those two years of training contract are going to be really important and are likely to shape your future career path.