Our spotlight on our solicitors series gives us the chance to showcase the talent of our legal professionals. With these interviews, we get to uncover the people behind the expert legal advice. This time, we caught up with mum of two and senior employment solicitor, Lorna Rigby, who joined the Harper James team in March 2023.
How did you begin your career? What/who inspired your legal career?
‘Nobody in my family is a lawyer, so I didn’t have any legal connections, but I had an interest in law and, during my A levels, I did a placement at a solicitor’s practice.’ says Lorna. ‘If there was anyone that did inspire my path into a legal career, it was my sociology teacher who taught me at A level, she kept suggesting that I should do a law degree and said she believed I would be suited to a career in law’
‘There wasn’t any other subject that piqued my interest quite like law did, so I applied to the University of Liverpool and completed my Bachelor of Laws. Once I graduated, I did my LPC and became a paralegal for a year at DWF before I was offered a training contract.’ I stayed there for almost 10 years and witnessed its growth first-hand.'
Has working in the legal industry lived up to your expectations?
’Towards the end of my time at university, I’d say I became a bit disillusioned because it was just so academic. It was interesting to learn about law initially, but I did find it difficult to see how these laws would apply in the real world and it just seemed so theoretical. It was when I went on to do my LPC, that I absolutely loved the practicality that came with it. It made it easier for me to visualise how the laws I was studying would apply in everyday situations.’ explained Lorna. ‘My expectation was that working as a solicitor would be very technical. Whilst employment law is technical, what I’ve learned through the years is that clients just want you as the solicitor to get them to the answer and provide a solution that balances the risk with commercial reality. It’s not just about quoting the law at them; it’s about giving options and saying what you would do in their shoes.’ I enjoy learning about new businesses and meeting new people, but also standing with them when they’re making difficult decisions regarding their employees or ex-employees.'
What are the main areas of employment expertise? Do you cover any niche areas?
‘My main area of expertise would be employment tribunals. I’ve dealt with employment tribunals for around 15 years for mostly larger clients. I’m also well versed in dealing with redundancies and employee exits.’ says Lorna. ‘Employment law intrigued me because there is never one definitive answer, and I liked the challenge of providing clients with the best outcome. I feel like I’m always learning with each new client I work with as there is no one size fits all.’
Can you recall any key moments from your career so far?
'When I was a trainee solicitor, I successfully ran a tribunal case for an employee who had been dismissed by a local authority after working there for 32 years, and his dismissal was found to be unfair’ explained Lorna. I would be proud of that result now, so I certainly was then. More recently, I successfully defended an appeal by the Ministry of Justice at the Employment Appeal Tribunal against a judgment I had obtained that a Recorder had been the subject of part-time worker discrimination. That was a key reported case and also very notable for me.'
What do you think your clients value most about the way you work with them?
‘I think clients value that I always respect them, deliver clear and user-friendly advice and have their objectives and best interests in mind. The pragmatic advice I give helps them across the line to get them the best result.’
How have you found working at Harper James so far?
‘My time at Harper James so far has been varied in terms of the clients I’ve been working with. The clients have been great and I have worked with some really interesting businesses. I enjoy empowering the smaller employers to deal with their employees and giving them the tools they need to manage, what are sometimes difficult, relationships with their employees. The people I work with are lovely and everyone is easy to get along with. There haven’t been any difficulties and I haven’t come across any big egos!’
Do you have any hobbies? What do you do to unwind?
‘When I’m not at work, I enjoy going to the theatre. I also attend spin classes at the local gym, though I am really not sure I would say I enjoy those! I also have two young children, so they keep me very busy too!’