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Meet the lawyer

Shehnal Amin

Shehnal Amin

University: University College London
Degree: Law with French law
Year of qualification: 2016
Position: Associate
Department: Employment

What attracted you to a career in law?

My primary attraction to law stems from a fascination with the way it permeates every aspect of daily existence, whether it’s family life, careers or business decisions. I also wanted a career that is intellectually challenging and involves grappling with tricky issues. Lawyers have to navigate a dynamic and ever-evolving legal system, which really appealed to me.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

I researched the different types of firm that I found interesting, looking particularly at their range of practice areas. A breadth of work areas was important to me, as I wanted my training to be wide in scope, as well as rigorous and high quality. Alongside that, one of the key fundamentals that I was looking out for was friendliness. I wanted to be part of a firm that is people focused and whose values and ethos resonate with my own. Farrer & Co had all those qualities, which is why I applied.

Which departments did you train in?

Farrers has a six-seat system, which is great because trainees experience lots of different practice areas. I started in rural property, then moved onto family law, then corporate, private client and employment – where I ultimately qualified. It was a broad selection of seats, which gave me a good insight into what working in the firm’s different departments would be like. When I got to my employment seat, I really felt that it was the specialism for me. The department undertakes a broad range of work for a variety of clients, which provides fantastic opportunities, and I also connected with the team who are a really friendly group.

Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?

My work is incredibly varied, which is brilliant. I’m involved in so many different aspects of employment law, both contentious and non-contentious. On the contentious side, we act for both employers and employees. When acting for the respondents, we will defend the claim from start to finish, which involves preparing disclosure and witness statements in the build-up to a hearing, working closely with counsel and the client, and advising on overall strategy – for example, the client may want to consider mediation or settlement in order to resolve the claim before it reaches the final hearing. If the claim goes to the final hearing, I will attend as the associate overseeing the matter.

We provide advice on a huge range of non-contentious matters, too. This includes day-to-day advice on, for example, sickness absence, poor performance and redundancy exercises, as well as assistance in drafting contracts and handbooks, and reviewing policies.  

Can you also tell us about your work on safeguarding?

I’m involved with the firm’s safeguarding unit, which advises a host of clients from schools and higher education institutions, to sports organisations, to religious organisations. We provide advice on a range of safeguarding issues, both reactive – where we are dealing with an incident that has happened – and proactive, where we work with the organisation to strengthen its safeguarding practices and policies.

Over the past 18 months, I have been heavily involved in the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse – IICSA – which is a government-led investigation into historic failings that seeks to form recommendations to strengthen safeguarding practices and enhance protection for children and young people. It is a privilege to be involved in something so important and pertinent, dealing with very sensitive issues and emotions that your clients are experiencing, and supporting them in the appropriate way.

What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?

I enjoy the variety – one moment we could be advising a school regarding a parental complaint; the next we could be advising a small business in relation to a discrimination claim. Whether we are advising an organisation or individual, the fact that all employment law is people-focused is another aspect of its appeal.

What skills/strengths do you need to be a successful employment solicitor?

Employment matters are often deeply personal to people. Mental health is a significant factor to consider for clients who are going through a redundancy exercise or face losing their job. Empathy and good listening skills are therefore particularly important in this area of law, as you need to understand what your client needs and to reassure them that you are working with them to achieve a good outcome.

How would you describe the culture at Farrer & Co?

We recently moved offices to a brand new, sparkling space with an open-plan layout makes it very easy to approach colleagues, including partners. As a result, we don’t tend to book formal meetings when we need to put our heads together as a team, so in that sense the culture is fairly informal.

The firm is very people-focused, so the atmosphere is friendly and there is a supportive working environment where people can be their whole selves and differences are embraced. My colleagues have become good friends, so for me, the culture is what makes Farrers stand out.

Are you involved with any networks or groups at the firm?

I am part of the firm’s faith-based organisations grouping. As a firm, we work with clients from a range of different faiths and I run seminars on topics that are of particular interest to faith-based organisations. For example, I recently ran a seminar focusing on IICSA and its interest in religious organisations. A number of different clients and interested parties attended to understand the focus of the inquiry.

Does the firm have social networks such as sports teams and other activity-based groups?

Of course – football, rugby and netball are all well represented, but it’s not just sports-based – we also have a choir, who put on the firm’s annual Christmas carol concert every year, which is lovely to go to. Our women’s network launched last year and people across the firm were asked what they wanted from the network in terms of its aims and activities, so we will be seeing much more on that front in 2020.   

What’s your desert island disc?

Nina Simone, “Feeling Good”.