Finding the Best Employment Solicitors

employment solicitors

IN THIS ARTICLE

Employment solicitors provide legal advice and representation to employers and employees on both contentious and non-contentious employment-related issues. In a broader sense, they work to ensure fair and legal treatment in the workplace, promoting a balanced relationship between employers and employees.

Choosing the right employment solicitor can significantly affect the outcome of a workplace dispute. Employment law is a specialised area that requires a solicitor with expertise and experience specific to the issue. Since every case in employment law is unique, you’ll want to find a solicitor who can understand your specific needs and develop a tailored strategy to effectively resolve the issues.

Beyond technical expertise, an effective solicitor can bring further value through their supportive guidance. Employment issues can significantly impact your professional and personal life, and a trustworthy solicitor can support you through what can be a difficult and stressful process.

In this guide for employees seeking legal advice, we provide an overview of the market for UK employment solicitors, with practical tips and advice on how to research and select the best solicitor for your employment law needs.

 

Section A: The Role of Employment Solicitors

 

Employment solicitors are legal professionals who specialise in employment law, offering expert advice and representation to employees and employers. Their primary role is to guide clients through workplace disputes and legal matters, such as discrimination, unfair dismissal, redundancy, and contractual disagreements.

They offer knowledge, experience and insights into the laws and procedures governing employment rights and responsibilities, ensuring clients receive guidance tailored to their unique circumstances.

They can operate across various settings, from niche employment law firms to large corporate practices and legal aid organisations.

 

1. Key Responsibilities of an Employment Solicitor

 

Employment solicitors focus on the legal relationship between employers and employees. Their primary functions include:

 

a. Advisory Services: Offering strategic advice on employment contracts, policies, and procedures and guiding clients through the complexities of employment law to prevent disputes.

b. Litigation and Dispute Resolution: Representing clients in employment tribunals and civil courts, and negotiating settlements and mediating disputes between employers and employees.

c. Document Drafting and Review: Drafting and reviewing employment contracts, settlement agreements, and HR policies, as well as preparing legal documents for tribunal claims and responses.

d. Compliance and Regulatory Guidance: Helping businesses comply with employment regulations and prevent potential breaches and advising on regulatory frameworks like the Equality Act 2010 and the Employment Rights Act 1996.

 

2. Key Employment Issues Handled by Solicitors

 

Employment solicitors typically manage a range of legal issues within the field of employment law, including but not limited to:

 

a. Discrimination: Handling claims of workplace discrimination based on race, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, and other protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 and assisting in reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.

b. Unfair Dismissal: Advising employees on claims of unfair dismissal or wrongful termination, and representing employers in defending against such claims and advising on fair dismissal procedures.

c. Redundancy: Guiding businesses through lawful redundancy processes, and assisting employees with redundancy rights and redundancy payment disputes.

d. Contractual Disputes: Managing cases involving breaches of employment contracts, restrictive covenants, and confidentiality agreements, and advising on changes to terms and conditions of employment.

e. Workplace Harassment and Bullying: Representing victims of workplace harassment or bullying, and assisting businesses in implementing anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies.

f. TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment): Advising on employee rights and obligations during business transfers and mergers, and ensuring compliance with TUPE regulations for affected employees.

 

Section B: Qualifications and Expertise

 

Employment solicitors are required to undergo specific training and to attain relevant qualifications before they are allowed to practise. These qualifications, combined with practical experience and professional affiliations, equip them to deliver competent legal advice and to handle employment law cases effectively.

 

1. Qualifications

 

To become an employment solicitor in the UK, you need to have completed an undergraduate degree in any subject. This could be a law degree (LLB), or if the degree is in a different subject, you’ll need to complete the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). This one-year full-time or two-year part-time course equips you with the necessary core knowledge of legal principles.

After these foundational studies, you will need to complete the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), which is the main professional assessment. The SQE was introduced in 2021, replacing the previous Legal Practice Course (LPC) and assessments. The SQE consists of two parts: SQE1 assesses legal knowledge and skills across various areas of law; SQE2 focuses on the practical legal skills needed as a solicitor, including legal writing, case analysis, and client interviewing.

Following the SQE, you would need to complete a minimum of two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) with a qualified solicitor or law firm to develop practical legal skills under supervision.

As an alternative route, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) offers a vocational route to become a Chartered Legal Executive specialising in employment law. This involves completing specific CILEX qualifications and work experience.

 

2. Accreditations and Memberships

 

Beyond the necessary educational and training requirements, professional memberships and accreditations are helpful indicators of credibility and expertise.

To practise law as a solicitor in England and Wales, you must be registered on the roll of solicitors with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Most solicitors will then join the Law Society, which upholds standards and supports legal professionals. Additionally, accreditation from specialised organisations like the Employment Lawyers Association (ELA) can provide solicitors with resources specific to employment law.

For buyers of legal services, these are all indicators of a solicitor’s professional competence and credibility.

 

3. Specialism in Employment Law

 

Because employment law is such a dynamic and evolving area, engaging a solicitor with a specialism in this field is generally advisable.

Solicitors specialising in employment law have typically developed a nuanced understanding of common employment issues and emerging trends through consistent practice in the field. They will also be able to offer strategic and practical advice based on specific knowledge of employment regulations and tribunal procedures and will be fully up to date with changes in legislation, significant case law, and regulatory updates.

 

Section C: UK Employment Solicitors Market Overview

 

The market for UK employment solicitors has seen significant growth in recent years, due to evolving employment laws, high-profile court cases, and increasing employee awareness of their rights, resulting in an increased demand for specialised employment solicitors.

While London remains a hub for UK employment law services, regional centres also offer strong capabilities and high-quality services to both local and national clients.

 

1. Market Analysis

 

In 2023, the overall UK legal market experienced strong growth, reaching a value of £47.5 billion, marking an 8.3% increase at current prices (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/united-kingdom-legal-services-market-155400760.html). Employment law has consistently been a significant driver of this growth, particularly litigation involving discrimination and unfair dismissal cases, according to a report by PwC (https://www.pwc.co.uk/industries/legal-professional-business-support-services/strategy-and-uk-legal-services-market-report-2022.html).

Employment law remains a highly competitive area of the legal market, with an abundance of legal services providers and advisers. But demand continues to be consistently high and is expected to grow further in light of new employment legislation and greater public awareness of employment rights. The challenge for buyers of employment law services is finding the best adviser for their needs out of this thriving and dynamic market.

 

2. Major Players and Types of Law Firms

 

The market for employment solicitors encompasses a broad range of providers, from small specialist boutiques to large, full-service international practices, each catering to different client needs.

 

a. Top-Tier Full-Service Firms

Law firms such as Eversheds Sutherland, Baker McKenzie, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer dominate the market, often representing large corporations and multinational clients. They offer comprehensive legal services across multiple jurisdictions, frequently advising on complex and high-value employment matters.

 

b. Specialist Employment Law Firms

Boutique firms such as Lewis Silkin, Brahams Dutt Badrick French (BDBF), and GQ Littler specialise exclusively in employment law. They provide tailored advice and representation, often focusing on niche areas like senior executive disputes, whistleblowing, and discrimination.

 

c. Regional Firms

Firms like TLT, Weightmans, and Gateley have strong regional presences, serving clients across various industries while offering competitive pricing compared to London-based practices.

 

d. Legal Aid and Trade Union Practices

Firms such as Thompsons Solicitors and Morrish Solicitors represent employees and trade unions, often on a no-win, no-fee basis. They handle collective bargaining, industrial disputes, and individual claims for union members.

 

3. Regional Distribution

 

London remains the hub of the UK’s legal industry, and is home to many of the leading full-service and boutique employment law firms. The city attracts both domestic and international clients due to its concentration of top-tier firms and barristers.

Outside of London, however, Manchester and Liverpool have strong legal markets, with firms like Brabners, Eversheds Sutherland, and DWF offering extensive employment law services.

Birmingham offers several well-established employment law practices, such as Shoosmiths, Mills & Reeve, and Gateley. Nottingham and Leicester also have thriving legal sectors, with firms like Freeths and Nelsons serving the region.

Cardiff’s employment law market is growing, with firms like Hugh James, Capital Law, and Acuity Law offering comprehensive legal services. Belfast has a specialised legal market, with firms like Carson McDowell and Tughans leading in employment law.

Scottish employment law is distinct from English law, and firms like Brodies, Shepherd and Wedderburn, and Burness Paull lead the market in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

 

4. Local vs. National Firms

 

When considering employment legal representation, the choice between local and national firms can often impact the type of service on offer.

Local firms often specialise in the regional industries of their areas, providing employment advice that is tailored to the specific economic and regulatory conditions encountered locally. These firms are known for their personalised service and competitive pricing, making them appealing to those who value a close, supportive legal relationship and insight into local market dynamics.

On the other hand, national firms can bring more extensive resources and a wider breadth of expertise, enabling them to represent clients across multiple regions effectively. With capabilities to handle complex, high-value cases, national firms are usually well-suited for situations that require multidisciplinary teams or coordination across international boundaries. This makes them particularly valuable for cases that are complex in nature or involve a larger geographical scope.

 

Section D: How to Choose the Right Employment Solicitor

 

The best employment solicitor for your needs will be both technically experienced and knowledgeable but also supportive and communicative throughout the process.

 

1. Tips to Choose the Right Employment Solicitor

 

It can initially seem daunting to find a solicitor to help with an employment law issue. The following tips will help you make an informed decisio and approach the process with confidence.

 

a. Define Your Specific Needs

The first step in choosing the right employment solicitor is identifying the nature of your legal issue. Employment law encompasses a wide range of matters, so it’s important to define your specific needs. Whether you’re dealing with unfair dismissal, discrimination, redundancy, or contractual disputes, understanding your problem will help you find a solicitor with the right expertise.

 

b. Establish Your Budget for Legal Fees

Be clear early on what your budget for legal fees is. On this basis, when researching solicitors, you will need to ask about how much their services cost. Legal fees can vary significantly based on the solicitor’s experience, the complexity of your case, and the fee structure.

Most solicitors will charge either on a fixed fee, hourly rate or no-win, no-fee basis.

Fixed fees tend to be used for straightforward cases like employment contract reviews or drafting settlement agreements. Hourly rates are likely to apply for more complex matters, often involving litigation. This fee structure may also require you to make initial, upfront payments to keep ‘on file’.

No-Win-No-Fee (Conditional Fee Agreement) is offered by some solicitors in limited circumstances, where you only pay if your case is successful.

In any event, make sure you have a clear understanding of the fee structure and how you will be charged for any work before hiring a solicitor.

 

c. Research Process

Personal referrals are a good place to start – seek recommendations from friends, family, or colleagues who have dealt with employment solicitors.

Google and Review Sites will provide a wealth of options for potential solicitors. Read the reviews and ratings to gauge client satisfaction. Also make use of online directories such as Chambers and Partners & Legal 500, which provide rankings of leading employment law firms and individual solicitors. The Law Society’s ‘Find a Solicitor’ Tool is a searchable database of solicitors accredited by The Law Society.

When shortlisting possible advisers, ensure they are accredited by the Law Society. If hiring a barrister directly, check their certification through the Bar Standards Board. You may also want to check for membership of the Employment Lawyers Association (ELA).

 

2. Checklist of Factors to Evaluate

 

Use the following checklist to evaluate the potential of an employment solicitor to meet your needs:

 

a. Experience: Aim for solicitors with several years of practice in employment law. Review their experience with cases similar to yours, especially in tribunal representation or discrimination claims.

b. Specialism: Employment law is a specialised field. Choose a solicitor who focuses primarily on employment law, rather than a generalist.

c. Types of Cases Handled: Ensure they have experience in your specific issue, whether it’s redundancy, discrimination, or whistleblowing.

d. Industry Experience: Some solicitors specialise in specific sectors like healthcare, finance, or education.

e. Client Testimonials: Look for positive client testimonials on their website or review platforms.

f. Peer Reviews: Check for recognition from peers, such as rankings in legal directories or awards in employment law.

g. Transparent Billing: Understand their billing process, whether it’s fixed fees, hourly rates, or no-win-no-fee arrangements.

h. Retainers and Deposits: Clarify any upfront payments required and the solicitor’s policy on refunds.

i. Local vs. Remote Services: Decide whether you prefer a local solicitor for in-person consultations or a national firm offering remote services.

j. Availability: Ensure they can dedicate time to your case and respond promptly to queries.

 

3. Initial Consultation with Potential Solicitors

 

Many solicitors offer an initial consultation, which you can use to clarify certain questions before deciding to formally engage them. Follow these tips to make the most of the consultation discussion.

 

a. Prepare Well 

Before the consultation, gather all relevant documents, such as employment contracts, correspondence, and any evidence.

If you’ve experienced discrimination, bullying, or unfair dismissal, maintain a detailed diary of incidents noting dates, times, locations, and possible witnesses. Also, secure copies of any formal complaints, performance reviews, or disciplinary actions taken against you.

Be able to clearly state the facts of the matter, and what you want to achieve from taking legal action, whether it’s reinstatement, compensation, or workplace policy changes. Communicating these goals with your solicitor is essential to ensure they can devise a strategy tailored to your objectives.

 

b. Questions to Ask During the Consultation 

Questions to ask during the consultation could include:

a. What is your experience with cases like mine?

b. What will be your approach and strategy for my case?

c. What will your fee structure look like, and how will you bill me?

d. Are there any other costs aside from your legal fees that I will need to pay for?

e. Who will handle my case, and who will be my main point of contact?

f. How often will you provide updates?

 

c. Clarify Strategy 

The consultation should help you to understand the solicitor’s strategy for resolving your issue, whether through negotiation, mediation, or tribunal representation. Discuss their planned approach and request an explanation of the steps involved, along with expected timelines.

 

d. Clarify Fees 

Ensure you fully understand the fee structure—whether it involves fixed fees, hourly rates, or contingency fees (no-win-no-fee arrangements).

Ask about any additional costs that may arise, such as tribunal fees, expenses for expert witnesses, or administrative charges.

Request a written agreement that clearly outlines all costs and billing schedules to avoid any surprises or misunderstandings.

 

e. Communication Style 

You can also use the discussion to gauge how comfortable and confident you feel with them as an adviser. Consider how well the solicitor listens to your concerns and answers your questions. Do they understand your specific needs? Do they give straightforward advice and realistic expectations? Do you feel reassured in their ability to handle your case?

 

2. Avoiding Common Pitfalls

 

Delaying seeking advice in employment disputes can be detrimental to your prospects of pursuing successful legal action.

Many employment claims, such as those for unfair dismissal or discrimination, involve strict time limits, typically requiring action within three months from the date of the incident.

Beyond matters being time-barred, when action is delayed, there is a risk that crucial evidence may be lost, and witnesses may forget important details, both of which can weaken a case substantially.

Seeking legal advice early often facilitates quicker resolutions, such as negotiated settlements, which can prevent the need for more costly and prolonged tribunal proceedings.

Ignoring the potential for alternative dispute resolutions can also complicate or extend conflict. Methods such as mediation involve a neutral mediator who assists the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable settlement, often more amicably and with less financial burden than formal proceedings.

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) provides free conciliation services aimed at resolving disputes before they escalate to the tribunal level, offering an essential resource for early dispute resolution.

Arbitration is another alternative to tribunals, where an arbitrator makes a legally binding decision that can finalise the dispute without the formalities of a tribunal process.

Alternative dispute resolution methods can offer parties more efficient, less adversarial routes to resolve their conflicts, underscoring the importance of prompt and informed legal action.

 

Section E: Common Misconceptions

 

Myth 1: Employment Solicitors Are Only for Big Cases
Employment solicitors assist with a wide range of issues, from drafting employment contracts and reviewing workplace policies to handling discrimination claims and tribunal cases. They can help with both small disputes and more complex legal matters.

 

Myth 2: Hiring an Employment Solicitor Is Too Expensive
Many solicitors offer flexible fee structures, such as fixed fees, hourly rates, or no-win-no-fee arrangements. Initial consultations are often free or offered at a reduced rate, allowing you to gauge the solicitor’s suitability and affordability.

 

Myth 3: Solicitors Only Represent Employees
Employment solicitors represent both employees and employers. They can help employers with compliance, drafting policies, and defending against tribunal claims, while assisting employees with issues like unfair dismissal or discrimination.

 

Myth 4: Employment Law Is Straightforward, So I Don’t Need a Solicitor
Employment law is complex and ever-changing. Legal processes can be challenging to navigate without expert guidance. A solicitor can help you understand your rights, build a strong case, and achieve the best possible outcome.

 

Myth 5: I Can’t Change Solicitors Once I’ve Hired One
You can switch solicitors at any time if you’re dissatisfied with their service. Ensure you settle any outstanding fees, and make sure your new solicitor is fully briefed on your case.

 

Myth 6: All Solicitors Are the Same
Solicitors vary in expertise, specialism, and approach. Some focus exclusively on employment law, while others handle a mix of legal areas. Choosing a solicitor with the right specialism and experience can make a significant difference to the outcome of your case.

 

Myth 7: Solicitors Can Guarantee a Winning Outcome
No solicitor can guarantee a win, as outcomes depend on the facts of each case, the available evidence, and tribunal decisions. A good solicitor will, however, provide realistic expectations and work diligently to achieve the best result.

 

Myth 8: I Don’t Need a Solicitor If I’m Going to ACAS Early Conciliation
Although ACAS Early Conciliation is designed to help parties resolve disputes without a tribunal, having a solicitor can be beneficial. They can negotiate on your behalf, advise on settlement offers, and ensure your interests are protected.

 

Myth 9: Only People in Serious Trouble Need Employment Solicitors
Employment solicitors can prevent issues from escalating by offering proactive advice on employment contracts, workplace policies, and grievance procedures. Early legal guidance can save time, money, and stress in the long run.

 

Myth 10: Employment Solicitors Will Drag My Case to Court
Most employment solicitors aim to resolve disputes through negotiation or mediation, avoiding the cost and stress of going to tribunal. They will only recommend court if it’s in your best interest.

 

Section F: Summary

 

Because employment issues can affect your professional and personal life, you’ll want to choose a legal adviser with a proven track record of successfully handling cases similar to yours.

Researching potential solicitors involves examining their qualifications, experience, and client reviews, and considering whether their fee structure aligns with your budget. Consultations can also provide insight into their communication style and commitment to your case, which are essential for establishing an effective working relationship.

Ultimately, choosing the right employment solicitor can impact the outcome of your workplace legal dispute, as well as your experience through the process, so it pays to research well to find the best fit for your needs.

 

Section G: FAQs

 

When should I consult an employment solicitor?
If you’re facing workplace issues like discrimination, unfair dismissal, redundancy, or contractual disputes, it’s best to consult an employment solicitor as soon as possible. Many employment claims have strict time limits, so early advice can help protect your rights.

 

How much does an employment solicitor typically cost?
Costs vary depending on the solicitor’s experience and the complexity of your case. They may charge fixed fees, hourly rates, or work on a no-win-no-fee basis. Always clarify fee structures and request a written fee agreement before proceeding.

 

What is the difference between unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal?
Unfair dismissal refers to being dismissed without a fair reason or without following the correct procedure. Wrongful dismissal involves a breach of the employment contract, such as not giving required notice.

 

Can I represent myself at an employment tribunal?
Yes, you can represent yourself, but it’s often challenging due to the complexity of employment law. An experienced solicitor can improve your chances of success and negotiate better settlements.

 

What evidence do I need for a discrimination claim?
For discrimination claims, gather a diary of incidents, including dates, times, and witnesses; copies of offensive emails, texts, or comments; formal complaints or grievances lodged with your employer.

 

How long does an employment tribunal case usually take?
The timeframe varies based on the case’s complexity and tribunal availability. It can range from a few months to over a year. Your solicitor can provide a more accurate estimate based on your case.

 

What is ACAS Early Conciliation, and do I need to use it?
ACAS Early Conciliation is a free service that helps resolve employment disputes before they reach the tribunal. In most cases, it’s a mandatory step before filing a tribunal claim, giving both parties a chance to settle the matter amicably.

 

Can I change my solicitor if I’m not satisfied with their service?
Yes, you can change your solicitor at any time if you’re not happy with their service. Ensure that any outstanding fees are settled and that the new solicitor is aware of any existing agreements.

 

What should I bring to my first meeting with an employment solicitor? Bring relevant documents like employment contract and job description, payslips and correspondence with your employer, and evidence supporting your claim, such as emails, performance reviews, or a diary of incidents.

 

What are the chances of winning my employment tribunal case?
The likelihood of success depends on various factors, including the strength of your evidence and the nature of your claim. An experienced solicitor can assess your case and provide realistic expectations based on similar past cases.

 

Section H: Glossary

 

ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service): A UK government body offering free, impartial advice on workplace rights, conciliation services, and resolving employment disputes.

Arbitration: A form of alternative dispute resolution where an impartial arbitrator makes a legally binding decision to resolve a dispute.

Constructive Dismissal: When an employee resigns due to their employer’s behaviour, which has made their working environment intolerable.

Discrimination: Unfair treatment based on characteristics like age, disability, race, sex, sexual orientation, or religion, prohibited under the Equality Act 2010.

Employment Contract: A legally binding agreement between an employer and employee outlining terms like job role, salary, and working hours.

Employment Tribunal: An independent judicial body that resolves disputes between employers and employees over employment rights.

Fixed Fee: A predetermined, flat fee charged by a solicitor for specific legal services, regardless of the time spent on the case.

Grievance: A formal complaint raised by an employee regarding workplace issues like harassment, discrimination, or unfair treatment.

Hourly Rate: A fee structure where a solicitor charges for each hour spent working on a case.

Mediation: A form of alternative dispute resolution where a neutral mediator helps both parties reach a mutually acceptable settlement.

No-Win-No-Fee (Conditional Fee Agreement): An arrangement where a solicitor only charges fees if the client wins the case or receives a settlement.

Redundancy: A form of dismissal due to an employer needing to reduce the workforce, often because a job role is no longer required.

Settlement Agreement: A legally binding contract between an employer and employee where the employee agrees to settle their employment dispute in exchange for compensation.

Specialisation: A solicitor’s focus on a particular area of law, such as employment law, which often leads to greater expertise in that field.

TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)): Regulations that protect employees’ rights when their employment is transferred to a new employer.

Unfair Dismissal: When an employee is dismissed without a fair reason or without following proper procedures.

Wrongful Dismissal: Dismissal in breach of an employment contract, such as not giving proper notice.

 

Author

Finding the Best Employment Solicitors 1

Gill Laing is a qualified Legal Researcher & Analyst with niche specialisms in Law, Tax, Human Resources, Immigration & Employment Law.

Gill is a Multiple Business Owner and the Managing Director of Prof Services - a Marketing Agency for the Professional Services Sector.

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