Garvey Hanchard

Garvey Hanchard

Partner at Bloomsbury Square Employment Law

Garvey Hanchard is co-founder of Bloomsbury Square Employment Law LLP, a West End boutique which focuses on employee matters. He shares a day in his working life with The Brief.

In 2021 I co-founded Bloomsbury Square Employment Law alongside partners Will Burrows, Nicola Welchman and Chris Hogg. Having had careers that took in a range of leading firms we established our business to provide an alternative to the late nights, daily commuting and chargeable hours targets that come with life at a City firm.

Bloomsbury Square Employment Law is a boutique firm focused on employee matters, working in particular with executives and senior management.

We very occasionally carry out work for companies but we chose to focus on employees after market research demonstrated a clear preference among employee clients for firms like ours that don’t also work with employers.

They feel they are more likely to get a sympathetic hearing from us, and that we won’t also have much bigger clients who, they feel, might take priority.

Although the firm is structured as an LLP, our business model is closer to a consultancy firm, and we are open to taking people on either on a salary or a percentage of billing. As well as our lawyers we now have a practice manager, a commercial director, a marketing person and administrative support.

Home start

All of our partners have complete flexibility to work from home or at the firm’s office in Bloomsbury Square, Holborn. Unless I have meetings scheduled with clients or partners I typically work from my home in North London, saving precious commuting time.

This means early mornings tend to be a nice, relaxed affair because there is no rush to catch the train.

I start with a quick Bible verse for the day then I catch up with the news over my morning smoothie.

I always read this in the same order: world news, UK news, sport, and then Liverpool Football Club news. I am a creature of habit – and a fanatic for Liverpool FC!

Overnight enquiries

My working day starts by catching up on client emails and selecting and calling potential new clients from the referrals that have come in overnight – of which we get a lot. We now have six partner-level solicitors, each of whom works the hours that suit their lifestyle and preferred caseload, and whichever of us is working that morning will take turns to go through these enquiries and follow up.

We do a lot of digital marketing and also receive a significant number of referrals from former clients, so we receive a lot of enquiries – usually more than we can help with.

Some of our partners like to focus on non-contentious, straightforward contract and settlement agreement work, so they will usually pick those enquiries, while others prefer to take on the big employment litigation cases.

My practice currently sits somewhere in between, and I mostly get involved in discrimination cases, executive disputes or help with managed exits for clients who don’t want to go down the contentious employment tribunal path.

“A jolly good listening to”

We offer a free telephone consultation to any enquiries that we believe would be suitable for us, and will always provide an email response to those whom we can’t help, explaining what we believe the situation to be regarding their case.

I am an accredited workplace mediator and strongly believe in giving people a “jolly good listening to”, so I will often spend 45 minutes at a time talking to each prospective client, meaning I will typically spend up to an hour and a half each morning having these initial conversations.

Having the time to engage with people and provide free initial consultations is a real benefit of working at a firm in which the lawyers don’t have chargeable hours targets.

It is a big reason why we consistently achieve strong levels of client satisfaction, resulting in those clients making referrals as well as giving us excellent online reviews.

When we take on new clients with contentious matters, we will often offer them the choice between an hourly rate or a damages-based agreement, which is effectively no-win, no-fee.

Unsurprisingly, nine out of ten will opt for the no-win, no-fee option. This can end up with them paying more than they would if they paid by the hour, but it is often valuable for them to know they won’t end up out-of-pocket if their case is unsuccessful.

Lunchtime stroll

Lunchtimes tend either to involve a home gym session or a stroll through the park to the sandwich shop, listening to Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell disagreeing agreeably on the latest The Rest is Politics podcast.

Alternatively, if it’s raining, I will watch half an episode of whichever Netflix crime documentary I am in the middle of.

Bread and butter legal work

When I get back to work in the afternoon, I get on with the things that employment lawyers do: negotiating with other lawyers, drafting letters and emails, reviewing and advising on contracts or settlement agreements, and meeting tribunal deadlines.

The matters I work on usually result in a settlement because the only people who really benefit from the tribunal process are the lawyers.

Clients don’t want to go to tribunal, partly because the system is stretched and claimants can be waiting for 18 months or more before a hearing. Employers also don’t want the ongoing uncertainty or any adverse publicity that might come with a tribunal case.

So, for a case to go to tribunal these days, something has often gone wrong or maybe the company isn’t playing ball with the settlement discussions or the claimant is just asking for too much money.

That said, we are handling quite a few tribunal cases at the moment but, because we only set up in business three years ago, the wait times mean many of these have yet to progress to final hearings. When hearings do take place, these are now, post-Covid, often via video conference, so attending face-to-face tribunals is less common than it was six or seven years ago.

Shutting down

Subject to client demands, I try to shut my computer down by 7.00pm at the latest, which feels a lot earlier when I’m working from home.

I still play football competitively at the weekends for, slightly randomly, a Metropolitan Police Over-35s team, so finishing by 7.00pm gives me time to get to training in the evenings. However, I currently have a (football-related) broken toe, and the season has just ended, so I need to find something else to do for now!


Bloomsbury Square Employment Law

Connect with Garvey Hanchard via LinkedIn