Edinburgh-based employment law business in running to become law firm of the year

Left to right - Sacha Carey (solicitor), Emma Reid (director, solicitor), Laura Clouston (office manager), Cathy Donald (director, solicitor), Claire Henderson (associate solicitor)

SCOTTISH employment law specialist Ergo Law is celebrating a successful and busy fourth year in business. During 2019 Ergo doubled its number of solicitors and is now competing with industry heavy weights to be named firm of the year.

Ergo Law has been listed as a finalist in two categories in the Scottish Legal Awards: Firm of the Year and Excellence in Client Care. The boutique employment law firm, which was set-up in 2016 by solicitors Emma Reid and Cathy Donald, is up against some of the world’s largest legal firms for the prestigious title of Law Firm of the Year.

The firm started life as many start-ups do, based from a home office and moved to shared office space after a year. It grew significantly in 2019 to double in size to four solicitors, as well as an office manager, and moved to offices in the west end of Edinburgh.

Ergo Law advises organisations of all sizes on employment law needs, but predominantly targets small and medium sized business. It provides advice to companies and individuals on all areas of employment, from discrimination to redundancy and maternity leave. It advises senior executives on service agreements and exits, supports corporate transactions and assists employees on unfair dismissal and other workplace issues.

The firm helps clients avoid the pitfalls around employment law and, where possible, aims to agree fixed fees with clients in advance in order to avoid unexpected legal bills at the end of a piece of work, whilst many law firms continue to charge on an expensive and uncertain hourly rate basis.  In line with this approach to greater transparency and certainty about fees, Ergo has this month launched its ‘Employer’s Toolkit’, a suite of template documents aimed at start-ups and new employers, which includes an employment contract, draft job offer and an employee handbook. The package of documents is designed to allow employers to satisfy basic legal requirements around employees but on a fixed price basis.

Ergo understands that the legal industry is often viewed as overly traditional and inflexible in its approach and, in particular, suffers a high drop-out rate of female solicitors. It aims to take the best aspects of big-firm professionalism and combines that with the flexibility and personal service of a small business.  

Ergo recognises the importance of gender equality and embraces flexible working and family friendly policies, which it said can help tackle the high drop-out rate of female solicitors from the industry. All of its staff, including both directors, work flexibly.

The Law Society recommended promoting the benefits of flexible working in the legal sector to larger employers following the publication of its ‘Profile of the Profession’ survey at the end of 2018.

Ergo is also a member of the Edinburgh Birth and Baby Collective and regularly attends EBBC events to speak about maternity and pregnancy rights.  The Collective holds a regular series of information sessions aimed at new or expectant parents, at which Ergo provides information on legal entitlements and protections, as well as family friendly working.  Ergo also provides advice on a pro bono basis through the Collective’s social media community.

Ergo believes that there is a need for legal advice for women during pregnancy and maternity, as demonstrated by the increase of more than 50 per cent in pregnancy related employment tribunal claims between 2016/17 and 2017/18 (1,357 claims in 2017/2018). The removal of employment tribunal fees in July 2017 took away one of the barriers to claims, especially for those individuals who were more financially vulnerable, such as women on maternity leave.

Ergo director and co-founder Emma Reid said: “We’re a young but expanding firm that is genuinely punching above its weight and doing things in a different way from more traditional players in the industry. We’re really pleased that this success, and our innovative approach, has been recognised by the Scottish Legal Awards which has shortlisted us in two categories, including the very competitive ‘firm of the year’ section.

“We have seen tremendous growth in the last year and the future of the company looks very promising. We have moved from start-up in 2016 to a firmly established growth business, cementing our market share and reputation and growing our client base. Acting for both businesses and individuals, we have also grown our reputation as trusted advisers from an employee’s perspective.

“Evidence shows that access to flexible working has actually decreased in the legal profession, so we’re pleased to be bucking the trend in that respect.”

Claire Henderson,associate solicitor at Ergo, joined the firm last April on a flexible working basis having resumed her career following a break to have children and returning to Edinburgh from London.

Ms Henderson said: “I saw that Ergo was offering a job with flexible working from the start which is really unusual, especially for a law firm, so I was immediately interested in finding out more. I met Emma and Cathy and liked the values and ethos of the firm. It can be hard in the legal profession to find the right balance but Ergo has been set up in a way that lets people work flexibly.”

Ergo Law’s office manager Laura Clouston also joined the firm after a career break. Ms Clouston said: “I work four days a week in school hours and it’s hard to find jobs that fit around that, so Ergo’s approach to flexible working is a big plus point for me.”

Ergo prides itself on client care and its flexible and pragmatic approach to legal services is recognised and valued by clients, as demonstrated by a wealth of positive client feedback.

Rosie Berridge of Accountability Edinburgh said: “We were delighted with the service we received from Ergo Law. Our queries were dealt with patiently and clearly and as a consequence, we have a suite of contracts and policies we can use.”

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