Fitchett & Co wins Best Employment Law Firm in the South East: we celebrate with an interview from Leigh Fitchett, the Firm’s Principal.
Did you always want to be a solicitor?
Yes, that was always my plan from a young age. In fact, I never imagined being anything else. I didn’t actually do a law degree though because a lot of people advised me that if you were going to spend a career in one subject, it’s good to read something else at the undergraduate level. So I chose to read History at Cambridge and then did the conversion course after graduation, as many lawyers do.
Once I qualified I immediately specialised in Employment Law and worked for some years in the City before moving out and starting my own firm, Fitchett & Co.
What made you specialise in Employment Law?
The boring answer is that it interests me. Employment law is all about the dynamics of relationships and, without wishing to sound clichéd, I am very much a people person. Also, employment rights are something that I care about passionately. Having certain rights and protections at work is something people have come to take for granted but those rights and protections are constantly under threat. There are economic pressures on companies to recruit and retain the right employees, pressure from changing trends in the labour market (such as the rise of the gig economy), pressure placed on families as the rights of working parents change and evolve to meet the needs of career/ life balance better. A lot of rights and protections workers now enjoy have been imported into UK law from EU Directives and there is, therefore, a real possibility of these being eroded post-Brexit. So political pressures are also an influence. Having said that, we also do a lot of work for employers and many of these rights are “used” and wrongly abused by workforces.
As an Employment Law Specialist, my field covers a very diverse topic and the challenges my clients face really do reflect the complex reality of finding a work-life balance. If you have a read through some of the articles on our website you’ll get a flavour of that and of the work we do.
I’ve now had over 30 years’ experience in Employment Law and you’d think after all that time I would have encountered every possible employment-related issue and problem, and to some extent that is true. But every new case I take on has a slightly different twist and just when I think I’ve seen it all, it turns out I never have so it keeps me challenged.
You have an excellent success rate. Have you ever lost a case?
Ah, a gentleman never tells! No seriously, I do have an excellent success rate and yes, of course, I have lost a case (just one). The nature of litigation is so unpredictable that it would be almost impossible to go through a career without ever losing, even when you know you have given the best advice to your client and done the best you could presenting their case, you just never know. That is why we always at least consider settlement when acting for employers or employees alike.
Do you do “no win no fee” or offer a free initial consultation?
Short answer, no.
There are a lot of firms out there who don’t specialise in Employment Law and who will take on cases on a no win no fee basis or who advertise free initial consultations or free initial advice but it’s often misleading. All that happens in these meetings is that the prospective client comes in, tells someone about their situation and is told “yes, you have a case” or “no, you don’t”. But when the client asks for advice beyond that they get told, I’m sorry you’ll have to pay for us to advise you. I’m a lot more straightforward than that, I ask clients to pay for all of the time I spend on their case from the beginning. No tricks or gimmicks, but then I really do believe that as Employment Law Specialists we offer the highest level of expertise and service to our clients and that comes at a premium.
Furthermore, the point that people miss, is that the initial discussion, consideration of any evidence, and initial advice is the most critical part of the whole process! To use a medical analogy, the worst that can happen to anybody is to be misdiagnosed at the outset. I have seen too many misdiagnoses, as a result of preliminary advice being given in a quick free initial half-hour meeting or the like.
What does winning the Best Employment Law Firm in South East award mean to you?
Well, clearly I’m delighted and very flattered. The award comes from small and medium-sized businesses, and whilst I do work for some very large organisations as well, it is recognition from a sector which forms part of my client base so that makes me particularly proud of the award.