Or rather this particular firm of lawyers I’ve recently had the very great displeasure of dealing with do.
I’m sure some firms are very good.
I have a friend who got in touch with me about a difficult situation she found herself in.
An employee (and a good one, at that) went absent without leave. My friend, being entirely fair, open and honest and knowing that her employee had some problems at home with her mum, tried to get in touch with her first by ‘phone, then by letter.
The essence of her message was, I know you have some issues but I want to help. Get in touch, we can work things out and you can come back to work.
In response she got nothing. Not a bean.
That’s when she contacted me and we put in place a formal process to either get the employee back or dismiss her.
As always we stuck to the letter of the law with a series of letters explaining what we wanted, next steps and consequences, all sent recorded delivery (and all signed for, by the way) gradually moving towards dismissal. Eventually we got there and, with a heavy heart, my friends signed the final letter that dismissed the poor girl.
Throughout the process we got nothing from the lady in question.
Until the day after she received the letter which told her she’d lost her job. On this day we got a letter from a no win, no fee lawyer who sent (also by recorded delivery) one of the most vitriolic letters I’ve ever read from someone in his profession. It accused my friend of unfair dismissal, bullying, hectoring, unreasonableness and a number of other things, all calling into question her basic human kindness.
He went on to say that it was a tribunal for her unless she stomped up £7,500 and then he could make it all go away.
I wasn’t having this, so I rang the guy. Quite reasonably I asked him if he had the full picture – all correspondence, for example. Oh, yes, was the reply. I’ve got the 2 letters you sent saying you’d fire her in 7 days and the one that told her she was dismissed.
Ah… just 2 letters? (I knew we’d sent at least 7 bits of correspondence).
Politely I asked him where he’d the £7,500 figure from. It turned out that’s how much he thought we’d be forced to pay by an industrial tribunal (plus a little bit for his time).
At this point I asked him if he thought it might be a good idea to ask his client whether there were any further letters from us, at which point he became very cagey and defensive.
We didn’t hear from him again.
Follow the HR system and you won’t go far wrong. Follow the HR system because you want to fair and reasonable and you won’t go wrong at all.