What is your approach to giving employment advice? Responses to this question from specialist and generalist advisers, as well as solicitors working with the Citizens Advice service, emphasised a particular process. While the advice interview must start with the client’s story, this initial narrative account represents only the first step; it is in what comes after this that the critical work of advice is achieved. In this chapter I explore how advisers move from the story of a dispute to the law. The practice engaged in by advisers is far more than simply an exercise in legal diagnostics. As I will explain, this represents just one stage. Other critical elements include teasing out the full range of relevant factual detail relating to the employment dispute, communicating the law to clients, and framing the law in terms of possible courses of action.
These latter aspects of the process take into account contextual issues beyond the immediate law, and involve consideration of the hurdles inherent in the Employment Tribunal process, the disposition of the client, and the level of support that the adviser can offer throughout the course of the dispute.
The advisers in our study typically began the first advice session by giving clients space to talk freely about the problem they faced at work. As described in Samuel Kirwan’s chapter, allowing them to tell their story often had the effect of putting the client at ease. But, crucially, it also commenced the first step of identifying the nature of the dispute.