Social Media and The Legal Industry

SM and Legal Industry

Why Legal?

SM and LegalAs the number of Social Media “experts” grows daily, we also see a number of them finding their niche in the legal industry.  Some have a personal reason to, others do because they have a legal background, and then you get those that simply target law firms for no reason at all.  Those in the latter category often present a Social Media Strategy, which, quite frankly is generic and applies to any business, any industry, any location.

For me, the reason is personal.  I did have an interest in law modules at college, and as a result I specialised in Personnel Management at university as it was the closest thing to law available.  The real interest came from a two week tribunal case in which I represented myself with nothing but the training of a law firm based in Bristol.  This was back in 2006.

My Case

courtThis case had two aspects to it; the first was that of a sexual assault (that is the legal term – sounds worse than it was!), the second was victimisation as a result of reporting this assault to HR.

It turned out that filing the complaint was going to result in other problems regardless of the “investigation” HR promised to carry out.  The word had spread quickly and the atmosphere in the office changed just as fast.

Within the week, my line manager had produced a letter from the company extending my probationary period based on the “poor” quality of my work.  This was regardless of the endless written and verbal testimonials I had received for the very same reports.  Luckily, I had kept the testimonials from senior management.

I didn’t sign the letter.

During the following week I was informed by HR that the investigation has resulted in no action based on lack of evidence.  I appealed.

When you appeal a decision made by HR, they are forced to allocate a different (sometimes a more senior) HR specialist to the case.  Within days, I received a reply from the same HR Manager as before that the appeal had not changed anything and the same decision stands.  There was no evidence of anyone else being involved.

Based on legal advice, I left the company and filed the case to be dealt with by the tribunal.

The Cost

As I didn’t have legal cover at the time so my options were limited.  I learned that had I put a check mark in the home insurance form costing all of £7 per year, I would have been covered!checkbox

The only option was to represent myself and gain legal advice along the way.  The advice turned more into training on a regular basis.  I spent the next six months in a new  work contract elsewhere spending almost every evening learning and training from some fantastic solicitors in Bristol.

Entire TWO WEEKS in Tribunal

panelIt turned out to be an entire two week booking in the tribunal.  If you mention this to any solicitor, they would be able to confirm the complexity level as it is very rare for any case to be this long.

It wasn’t until the day I was cross examining the senior manager, the very person responsible for the assault that I came to appreciate why in more serious cases such as rape; the victims do not take the perpetrator to court.  It is seriously difficult and can destroy you more than before in the process.

From a legal standpoint, I would have needed to win both parts of the case: a) the sexual assault probationary periodand b) the victimisation to win the case.  Winning one part would not allow me to win the case.  From my “legal training”, it seemed unlikely that I would win because the first part requires witnesses and those witnesses are all on their own probationary periods.  They wanted to keep their jobs and knew very well they would not be able to should they get involved.  Winning the victimisation was easier simply because of the written facts and the complexity of the technical reports in question.

Either way, I was going to make a stand and so I did.

The Closing

What was funny about this case was that the Closing is pretty much a big report that everyone is talked through and it includes various cases as reference points.

reports 2This was the bit I seriously enjoyed.  It reminded me of college assignments with references to case law.  My report was 30 pages long and had an entire bundle of referenced cases which it seemed, even the opposing counsel appeared to have found impressive.  This made me laugh, because here we are, debating the quality of my technical reports which had written testimonials, and then I manage to produce a kick-ass legal report for my closing!  Funny!

The Result

As predicted, I lost the first part of the case and won the second.  The biggest win was: I knew the perpetrator would be punished.  Based on the company’s way of working, he would be seen as a liability and will pay with his job – and so he did.

The details of the legal system may not agree with me, and many others, but it sure was interesting and I felt like that two week trial was one of the best courses I had been on!legal fees

The cost of the legal training I used for this case amounted to between £4,500  and £5,500.  The quote to get representation for such a long case was £25,000 upwards.  The choice was easy.  A pleasant surprise was how good the training was.  The “practice” cross examination sessions were simply superb.  Every penny was worth it.

Conclusion

I will forever remember this case as a great lesson and something I am so glad I did.  The things I got from this were:

  1. Legal knowledge I would not have otherwise gained.
  2. Inside information as to who was and was not involved.
  3. Great personal satisfaction for having stood up for myself.
  4. Payback for the old senior manager that needed a slap or two.
  5. A realisation of my real support network and those that have faith in me.  That didn’t include any immediate family members.
  6. How the system works – never hesitating to use the service again if needed – this helps!

Final Words

Something I learnt from the case law I used in my closing:Be Prepared

IF you are going to complain about something at work – regardless of how wrong or unfair it is, BE PREPARED to take it to court.  Often this WILL result in victimisation.  It is a shame if the victimisation becomes the main reason for going to court particularly if the initial incident was not all that important to you.

In this way, I am glad that the assault was my reason to go all the way whilst I felt the victimisation was a by-product and not so important.  This was lucky.

Finally, you can always avoid the entire situation by sacking your boss and working for yourself – however, that might not suit everyone!

questionWhat are your experiences with disputes at work?  Have you ever experienced something you wished you had taken to court?  Do you ever wonder what might have happened if you had or have you moved on?  If you have moved on, it would be great to hear how you did this, particularly for readers that might be in this situation and looking for answers.

Written by: Naheed Hanif  (see more at www.naheedhanif.com)

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