Neal Mellor, associate director at Law By Design...
What is your role?
My role is that of the modern employment solicitor - delivering services to clients (tribunal litigation, non-contentious advice etc) and developing the business. Working at a start-up boutique practice, I also have a greater scope to contribute to the day-to-day running of the business.
Why did you become a solicitor?
I studied languages at university but I always had an interest in law. There were no graduate schemes that stood out to me so I took the plunge and did a law conversion. Ultimately it was the pull of being involved in genuinely interesting work and being able to make a positive difference to clients that drew me in.
Where is the best place to go if you want to find out what is really going on in the office?
Working in an open plan environment, for a boutique practice where we all know, like and respect each other, it’s all very open. Having spent six years at a large international firm, any cross-departmental gathering of staff is a good bet. Roll On Friday can also be suspiciously accurate for the meatier “rumours”!
What is the best thing about your job?
Being able to genuinely contribute to the business; knowing that my efforts are valued; and having a transparent career plan which is, to a large extent, in my own hands. This was the real appeal for me joining Law By Design.
What is the toughest thing about your job?
The biggest frustration is seeing clients spend money when (my moral side implores me that) they really shouldn’t have to; be that on settling a weak case to avoid incurring costs, or to fight a case that should never have been brought.
Who has been the biggest influence in your career to date?
I have been fortunate to have been trained by two excellent lawyers in Michael Morrison and James Upton; who both gave me the ability to develop as a lawyer and to build a client base.
What’s the most interesting case you have dealt with?
“Interesting” is a dangerous word in law, as it is code for “complex”. That said, as a trainee I was involved in a classic “passing off” case which could easily have come straight from an LPC text book. The fact that we were successful made it all the better.
What has been the greatest achievement in your profession to date?
Successfully defending a multi-day whistle-blowing case and recovering costs has been the highlight. My client, a foundation trust, was being given a rough ride in the press at the time, including on that case, so it was vindicating to get such a positive result (not that the press reported that mind you!).
Where do you see your business in five to 10 years? What are the biggest challenges you will face?
As a boutique, we don’t intend to have hundreds of employees; we have reacted to what we think the market needs. The aim is to be recognised as a leading provider of employment law and HR advice in the North West and beyond. I am confident we will do that and the biggest challenge moving forward will be imprinting our name on the map outside our current networks.
Which person outside the legal sector do you most admire?
I saw a documentary recently about a chap in Syria, Dr Osman, who set up a hospital in Alepo. His make-shift hospital was under fire every day and was reduced to rubble, but he rebuilt it and carried on. Anyone with that tenacity and selflessness gets a nod from me.
What would you have been if you weren’t a lawyer?
I would love to say footballer, cricketer or DJ, but that would infer that I had a chance of making it in one those fields. A more likely career would probably have been in marketing or teaching English abroad.
What would you advise lawyers beginning their legal career today?
Think carefully about what area you want to work in and where the market will be in that sector in six years. Also, speak to people who will have the answers to these questions and listen to their advice. Finally, be prepared to be flexible about where your career will take you.