What You Need to Know About
a Career in Employment Law

See also: Confidentiality

For most of us, employment law is an area that we try to avoid most of the time. However, a career in the legal profession can be incredibly rewarding. An employment law career in the UK requires a strong understanding of the legal rights and responsibilities of employees, employers, and labour unions.

Let’s look at some key points you should know, and then explore the skillset that most employment law specialists are expected to have.

Key points

Here are some key important things to know about pursuing a career in this field.

  • A law degree is a necessary requirement
    To practice as a solicitor, or barrister, in the UK, you will need to have a law degree from an accredited university, and pass the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Professional Course (BPC).

  • Specialisation is common
    Many employment lawyers in the UK choose to specialise in a specific area of law, such as unfair dismissal, discrimination, or whistleblowing. You’ll likely discover which area you prefer as you study and gain further experience.

  • Litigation is common
    Employment law cases in the UK often end up in court, so it's important that you’re comfortable with litigation and the courtroom, although there are other, non-court-based roles that you can carry out as well if you prefer.

  • Familiarity with UK employment law is crucial
    UK employment law is different from that of other countries, so it's important to have a thorough understanding of the laws and regulations in the UK, including the Equality Act 2010, the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the Working Time Regulations 1998.

  • The work can be emotionally taxing
    Employment law cases in the UK often involve disputes between employees and employers, which can be quite emotionally charged. It's incredibly important to be able to maintain objectivity and professionalism in such situations, no matter how difficult it is.

  • Experience and networking are important
    As with any legal field, building experience and networking with other professionals in the industry can be crucial for finding employment opportunities, and advancing in your career. This means interacting with the professional community, to hear about the latest updates in the field and hear about openings as they come up.

  • Job opportunities
    Employment law solicitors work in law firms such as Weightmans Solicitors, in-house legal teams, trade unions, HR teams, and government agencies. Barrister's work is typically more independent, in chambers or as self-employed. You can choose to work in whichever environment you find most closely suits your specific skill set.

  • Continuous learning
    Employment law is a constantly evolving field, with new legislation and case law being developed all the time. To be successful in this field, it's important to stay up to date with the latest developments, and to continue learning throughout your career.


If you’re truly interested in a career in employment law, then you’ll likely be wondering if you have the appropriate skillset. There’s definitely a lot that you’ll need to learn, and some basic soft skills that can take you a long way.

  • Legal knowledge: As with all legal fields, an in-depth understanding of employment law is essential. This skill set will need to be developed to a very high level, to allow you to specialise in your area of choice.

  • Analytical skills: It’s important that you have the ability to analyse complex legal issues and disputes, and break them down into simple and understandable terms. While a lot of this can be learned, it also requires a certain way of doing things and approaching problems.

  • Communication skills: Strong written and verbal communication skills are crucial for a wide range of reasons, from explaining legal concepts to clients and colleagues, to negotiating settlements and resolving disputes. The ability to communicate in a clear manner with clients, co-workers, and other legal professionals is essential.

  • Attention to detail: Employment law often involves reviewing complex information, looking for tiny details that could swing a case for your client. It's important to have strong attention to detail, even when tired or stressed, in order to spot key issues and potential legal problems when it matters.

  • Problem-solving skills: Employment law can often involve challenging legal issues, and requires the ability to think creatively and critically to find effective solutions. While you can learn legal codes, the ability to interpret them creatively while remaining within the law is something that some people just excel at.

  • Research skills: The ability to conduct comprehensive legal research in a timely manner is an important skill for employment lawyers. This includes the ability to locate and use relevant case law and regulations, and to rapidly analyse their impact on specific cases.

  • Negotiation skills: Successful employment lawyers must be skilled negotiators who can mediate disputes and reach mutually acceptable agreements. This requires the ability to understand the interests of both parties, and to be able to find common ground that both parties find palatable.

  • Time management skills: Employment law can involve working on multiple cases at the same time. As a result, it's important to have strong time management skills in order to prioritise and manage tasks effectively, without compromising on the quality of advice you provide.

  • Emotional intelligence: Employment law often involves dealing with sensitive and emotionally charged situations, such as workplace harassment, discrimination, and unfair dismissal. Emotional intelligence is just as important as legal expertise, as it’s critical for building rapport with clients, and handling tricky situations in a professional manner.

  • Adaptability: As mentioned before, employment law is a rapidly changing legal field, and it's important to be able to adapt to those changes as seamlessly as possible. Incorporating these changes into your practice ahead of the competition will be what marks you out as an outstanding legal professional.

To sum up, a career in employment law in the UK can be incredibly rewarding, and it requires a solid understanding of the legal rights and responsibilities of employees, employers, and labour unions, as well as strong communication and litigation skills.

Familiarity with UK employment law is crucial, as is continuous learning. Job opportunities are diverse, from law firms, in-house legal teams, trade unions, and government agencies, and with different roles from litigation, advocacy, or advisory positions. Networking and experience building are also essential, for finding the best employment opportunities and advancing in your career.

About the Author

Content provided by Weightmans Solicitors.