“I was born in Dundee, right up on the East Coast of Scotland, and I left university with an accountancy degree but knew I didn’t want to become an accountant, so I became a management trainee with Aegon. I benefited from being part of an in-house legal team and realised in the early part of the 1990s that if I wasn’t a qualified Solicitor, I wasn’t really going to be able to progress. I’m very ambitious and quite driven so I decided the best thing to do was to go back to university and get a law degree. In Scotland, you have to do a full law degree, but you can accelerate it into two years instead of three, and that’s what I did. It was a lot of juggling because my son was just two and a half years old at that time!
I qualified with an employment law firm, which at that time was the only niche employment law practice in the UK. I had some fantastic experience there which set me up to decide that that was what I wanted to do – I wanted to specialise in employment law.
I then moved to England, and of course I had to re-qualify as it’s a different legal different jurisdiction to Scotland. I re-qualified as an English qualified solicitor and worked in Newcastle for a while, then moved to London where I was initially a Partner and then European Head of Employment and Pensions of a US global law firm. I eventually continued my travels to set up the business and live in Tunbridge Wells, which is where I’ve been since 2007 with my family and dog Ellie who’s an integral part of the office.
I set up Loch Employment Law here and alongside it, I have set up an HR consultancy business HR Advise Me, offering wellbeing services through Loch Wellbeing too. The reason I did that was because on a day-to-day basis, businesses were getting caught out by making the right decision to exit someone from their business, but they weren’t doing it the right way and losing at Employment Tribunals. So, I realised that actually what they needed was HR support on a day-to-day basis to enable business owners and managers to focus on what they do best – running the business and to help make the right decisions and do it in the right way. The Employment Solicitors help protect their business with the right documentation, solutions and advice on strategic decisions. They can also effectively defend or pursue claims in the Courts or Employment Tribunal. We added on the wellbeing side, as well as having mediators who are there to try and resolve disputes before you have to get solicitors involved. So, the whole business is designed to look after people and ‘People are our business’ is our strap line.
When I set up the business in 2007, we were heading straight into the credit crunch and the start of a recession and at that time some employers did not see the benefit from paying for great HR support. If you get great quality HR support, you don’t need the solicitors to get involved to minimise the damage to your business and a lot of issues can be prevented. The Employment Solicitors are still essential and can provide practical, commercial advice on disputes or issues. Every business is different, and we are able to tailor our services to fit clients needs, so we can provide commercial advice and create documents that fit your business. The HR Advise Me team are brilliant at working in partnership with clients, whether that’s in recruitment, handling grievances and disciplinaries or absence management. We look at HR advice as helping to prevent the damage and the solicitors cure what’s happened or limited the damage that’s been caused. Once clients understand that and see how effective what we do is, they’re with us for the long-term – we have clients that have been working with us since way back in 2007.
We added on the wellbeing side in 2014, which was really in recognition of the impact that mental health was having on employees and staff. We’ve got mental health first aid trainers, who provide the mental health training, we also offer stress resilience courses for employees and wellbeing sessions which have been very popular recently. It’s all about helping to look after the solicitors mental health and we do also look after the physical health in terms of offering wellness checks and first aid training too.
We are a one stop shop and our HR consultants are literally sitting alongside us in the office, so they’re benefitting from our knowledge as well as the solicitors from seeing what the HR consultants experience too. Unusually, the HR consultants have exposure to employment solicitors and other HR consultants do not have that exposure which is what makes us different – we work as a team with clients but also independently.
I love finding strategic solutions for our clients. Sometimes, they are not even sure what the issue is or what the outcome is that they might want, and it means talking to clients about their concerns, what they want to achieve and then finding the solution that fits with their business to get there and, for me, that’s really rewarding.
We want to continue to expand, we have an office in Brighton as well as Tunbridge Wells, and we were about to open an office in London, then COVID hit. As soon as we are back to normal, we’ll be setting up a physical presence in London as well. I’ve got a cracking team of twenty-five and I want to continue in helping them grow. We want to grow our staff as we grow our business and employ great people who have the potential to become really fantastic solicitors, great HR consultants and HR Medical Specialists. That’s what we’ve done, and we will continue to do.
If I had to give advice to people setting up a business, I would say, think carefully before you do it. It’s going to be very hard work and potentially quite challenging from a financial point of view. You may not be making any money and you might have to use up your savings to make it work. Think very carefully and get great advice. Don’t dive in – it sounds like a great idea to be self-employed and your own boss but actually, there are some negative sides to it that you need to think about. I’m happy to talk to people about it because I’ve experienced the negatives and the challenges that come with starting up on your own. Take advice and talk to people that have done it, learn from their experiences, so you don’t potentially make mistakes, keep your eyes open and realise what you’re going into. Having said that, I definitely wouldn’t change where I am today”.
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At Loch Associates Group, we specialise in developing solutions to help organisations manage and look after their people. We provide a unique combination of employment law, HR, health & wellbeing and mediation expertise, ensuring clients have access to a range of services from a single trusted partner.
The four distinct areas of the Group work both independently and in partnership with each other. This allows us to tailor our services and develop a bespoke plan perfectly suited to your needs whilst being flexible enough to adapt as your business grows.
We can manage your day to day HR requirements and provide health and safety support.
We can also work on an ad-hoc basis to resolve disputes, manage absences and look after your staff’s wellbeing with mental health training, allowing you to streamline operations and work more efficiently.
Our award-winning team covers the whole range of issues a business may face employing staff. People are our business, and we are here to ensure your operations are compliant, your employee management is effective, and to help you get the best out of your workforce.