Katie Edwards is a graduate-entry Scots Law LLB student and member of Strathclyde Law Clinic. She took on her first case this year which involved supporting a client through the process of making a successful unfair dismissal claim against his employer. She talks about the experience of her first case and how the advisors on the case worked well together as a team.
During the summer of this year, I joined my two co-advisers, Cara Hope and Laura Nicol, on an unfair dismissal case with an upcoming employment tribunal. I was thrilled to have my first case but slightly apprehensive about what it might entail. Although the clinic provides thorough training on handling cases and all activity is supervised by a qualified solicitor, the feeling of responsibility for the client’s situation combined with the desire to ensure the best possible outcome meant that some of the tasks felt a bit daunting at first.
Fortunately, myself and my co-advisors had differing levels of experience and could learn from each other. Cara has led various cases and manages the Initial Advice Clinic (IAC) sessions, whilst Laura had completed some online cases and was advising on a number of other cases at the time. By contrast, my legal experience consisted of shadowing some IACs and watching Suits on a regular basis. Despite this disparity, we worked seamlessly as a team as we recognised that each of us had a unique skillset and naturally found a routine throughout the duration of the case. Due to the nature of my job outside of the clinic, I was comfortable obtaining witness statements and writing formal letters whilst Cara led the client meetings, took instructions, delegated the workload and later represented the client at tribunal with the administrative support of Laura and myself. Laura was the first to respond to client queries, arrange meetings, remind us of imminent deadlines or enthusiastically take on any less glamorous tasks such as spending an afternoon with me working through payslips, P60s and calculations for a counter Schedule of Loss. With the reassurance of my co-advisors and our supervisor, I was guided through the completion of general casework and quickly became confident writing letters to various parties, creating document bundles and negotiating a settlement prior to the tribunal.
Throughout the summer we all had commitments outside of the clinic, which meant that we had to regularly communicate regarding handovers, deadlines and next steps. Due to this, there were opportunities for Laura and I to gradually take on more responsibility, culminating in Laura briefing the client pre-tribunal and myself leading the post-tribunal client meeting. Without delving into the specifics of the case, our client was reliable and understanding throughout the process but the respondent was more challenging. Teamwork became fundamental in managing relations with the respondent and responding to last minute changes in representation, offers of settlement and rescheduled hearings.
In summary, taking on a case at the clinic provides an invaluable insight into life as a practicing solicitor. Tight deadlines, challenging respondents and unexpected changes will never disappear, so quickly building rapport and communicating effectively with your co-advisors is a must.
Takeaways / Tips
- Be honest about the time you can commit to a project and your level of experience so that you and your team can work out a routine that works best for everyone.
- Push yourself outside your comfort zone. Your team will be there to support you, and the benefit of working with others who have more experience than you is that you can ask questions and learn from them.
- Know your teammates. Everyone has a valuable plethora of skills and qualities. Find out what motivates your group members, what their strengths are and what they want to gain experience in. If you take the time to do this, then you’ll find that you can share ideas and feedback to each other more effectively.
Katie Edwards, Student Advisor
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