Meet employment solicitor and head of Beswicks HR Laura Franklin. Laura’s been a practicing solicitor for eight years and advises on the application of TUPE, disciplinary and grievance issues, redundancy, unfair dismissal, settlement agreements and tribunal hearings.
When did you decide to go into law?
I decided in high school that I wanted to be a solicitor. I used to watch crime shows and liked the idea of working for the CPS and sending criminals to prison. This was after I’d flirted with the idea of being a graphic designer.
Before I got married my initials were L.A.W, so that sealed it for me.
I was born and bred in Stoke-on-Trent and went to Chesterton High School before doing A-Level’s, including law A-Level at college, then I studied law at Staffordshire University, so I’ve been studying law since I was 16.
Why did you choose to qualify into employment law?
I’m a people person, so I think employment law suits my personality.
Employment was my last seat when I was training and it just sort of clicked. Most people have an idea of what they don’t want to do when they begin their training but are unsure what they do want to do. Then during the training contract they find the thing that suits them best. That’s pretty much how it happened for me.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I was at a local government weekend school when I worked for Staffordshire County Council and the barrister speaking there said, ’Never ask a question to which you do not know the answer’. It stuck with me, not just in tribunals but generally.
You support and advise a lot of different employers in a wide variety of situations. What tips would you give to employers?
If an employee makes a complaint, employers can take that very personally and things can become very emotional. Dealing with people is emotional.
But wherever possible my tip would be to try to put those feelings to one side and deal with situations in terms of the facts. Doing this helps you to make clear, fair decisions.
I would also advise employers to keep records of what is going on and to consider their language, tone and actions through the prism of ‘Would I be comfortable with a judge knowing, seeing or reading this?’
The important thing for employers is to make sure all the processes have been followed properly but they are not necessarily quick processes unfortunately.
What are the best and worst things about your job?
The best thing is helping a client through a really complicated and emotive situation. An obvious example would be helping a client to win a tribunal or reach resolution.
I like being there to support clients and let them know that they are not alone. It’s great to be the fresh pair of eyes to reassure people that they are not wrong, even when they are left questioning their own judgment.
The worst part is not having a crystal ball! I don’t know what a judge will say, so I can’t guarantee an outcome. It can be frustrating.
What’s the most satisfying case you’ve dealt with?
When I was training I supported on an unfair dismissal case. The employer had done everything possible but the employee raised grievance after grievance and had been quite difficult to engage with. At the tribunal we presented everything methodically and won the case.
It probably cemented that employment was the area of law for me.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
When I was 16 I had a Sunday job in a store café. There was a supervisor and a manager who spent every shift in the smoking room letting the rest of us do all the work. They seemed to take no pride in their work and certainly didn’t lead by example. The lesson to me was how not to manage staff!
I had lots of part-time jobs during college and university and I do think they’re a great learning curve. They bring you into contact with people, which is the ultimate learning experience.
Looking back, is there anything you’d do differently?
I wish I’d gone to a university further away to stand on my own two feet a bit sooner and have a different experience. Sometimes getting away enables you to spread your wings and make new friends and contacts. Having said that, I did absolutely love Staffordshire University and in fact one of my lecturers was Karen Elder, who is now Beswicks’ head of dispute resolution.
Overall I wish I’d had a bit more faith in myself. At times I didn’t think I could do it, despite my parents telling me I could.
Studying law is not easy and it’s not how it’s portrayed on the TV but I don’t regret a thing and my mum, dad and nan are very proud of me!