Scottish Lawyer hits out at ‘untrained’ jobs tribunal advisers

A SCOTTISH lawyer has launched a stinging attack on “untrained” and low-cost advisers operating in the consultancy industry.

Dawn Robertson, of Edinburgh-based Murray Beith Murray, said these firms were “seducing” companies into being represented at employment tribunals by people who were not legally qualified.

This meant they were cheaper and were able to undercut established law firms because they employed few, if any, actual lawyers, she said. Positive changes to employment law in the past decade were being compromised by “the creeping presence of the employment law consultancy industry,” she added.

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The main seducing factor, Robertson said, was money. “Firms who offer these services use people who have not had any conventional legal training, unlike a solicitor who undergoes a study period of seven years.

“Any training experienced has been limited in scope; neither are they versed in the art of advocacy. This, of course, means they are much cheaper to employ than a lawyer.

“It is strange that employment regulations – like no other field of law – should have become so wide-open to involvement by unqualified practitioners.

“Perhaps employers take the view that an employment tribunal is ‘not like a real court’.”

But she said that while there were differences in structure, there was nothing lacking in the authority of a tribunal in respect of the potential consequences of its decisions.

Robertson’s outspoken comments were said by one source to be unusual in a normally conservative profession.

Alan Price, a senior director at Peninsula – one of the largest employment consultancy firms – said that tribunals were always meant to offer a cheaper alternative for employees to seek redress without the need to involve lawyers. While they may not be practising solicitors or barristers, advisers in the consultancy industry usually held relevant qualifications in human relations or law, he added.