I am pleased to say I completed 6 months at YESS Law at the end of January 2019!
Joining YESS has strengthened my belief in the effectiveness of the “no litigation” model. Here are the top things I have learned so far:
Early resolution gives clients the opportunity to try and settle even when they have made a decision that they will not litigate. Early resolution improves clients’ mental health, reduces confrontation, avoids the stress of litigation and minimises costs. Employers are often happy to settle early on to save time and costs. It’s a win-win in most situations; you just have to find a way of selling it as such.
We coach clients who have issues in the workplace. This is important because it empowers them at a time that they feel utterly powerless. Keeping the lawyers out of the picture for longer can preserve the relationship and often enables someone to remain in work if that’s what they want.
Pick up the phone
At YESS we usually try and have a telephone conversation with the other side before writing to them. Although this can be nerve wracking at first, I have found it to be extremely helpful as it can break down barriers with your opponent and also clears up some of the misunderstandings that can be created by letters couched in caveats, legal assertions and veiled threats. It also saves costs for clients and in my experience usually results in quicker and better outcomes. If you are fully prepared, the chances are that the call will go well.
Think outside the box – ask for things that are valuable to the client but not necessarily costly for the employer
I have learned that it is important to go through in detail with clients all the benefits they receive under their contract of employment as well as those that aren’t clearly listed. Continuing insurance policies can be valuable to clients, particularly those receiving medical treatment and which may cost the employer peanuts. Whilst agreeing a reference or an exit statement is entirely free.
It is never too late
Employment cases can settle any time up to when judgment is delivered. Although we do a lot of early resolution, we also assist clients alongside any tribunal process. We do not get involved in the preparation and representation of a tribunal claim but we can help with settlement discussions in parallel to that.
I recently assisted a client who had a complex discrimination case listed and they approached me a few weeks before the hearing. I successfully secured a settlement for them by speaking to the employer’s legal representative.
We’re negotiating with the threat of litigation as our ever-present shadow.
As with all things in life, settlement negotiations do not always work. Sometimes the other side just does not engage and this leaves the client no choice but to move on or start the early conciliation process. In those situations we can refer on to litigating lawyers and the other side is aware of that possibility – which is often what brings them to the table. But litigation is sometimes necessary and although I firmly believe in our motto ‘Life’s too short to litigate’ we are aware that without that potential stick many cases wouldn’t settle.