Every month Katy Gordon speaks to Courier Country business people to learn what makes them tick. This month, she met Noele McClelland of Thorntons at Malmaison in Dundee.
Different aspects of the law affect us in different ways and for different reasons. One of the most common is employment law, which dictates everything from working hours to pay to office temperatures. Meeting with Noele McClelland, the head of employment law at Thorntons, gave me a whole new perspective on exactly how much work goes into keeping employers and employees on the right side of the law.
Noele and her team work with clients across Courier Country (and further afield) on everything from initial business start-up to employee contracts to mergers and acquisitions. But there’s one area of interest in particular for Noele.
“I find disability discrimination law fascinating,” she told me as we tucked into our gorgeous main courses. I’d gone for the dolcelatte and walnut tortellini while Noele had opted for the hake.
When I asked what that particular area of the law was so interesting, she explained: “It’s mainly because it’s something that employers aren’t as knowledgeable about because they aren’t medical professionals and because most of them don’t have disabilities.
“It can lead to unintentional oversights because assumptions are made. What we do is look at it from the other side and through our work we increase understanding, which is always a good thing.”
Another way that clients are able to increase their own understanding of the various facets of employment law is through the workshops and mock sessions run by Noele and her team. It can be anything from tribunals to staff grievance meetings.
“It’s great for us because we get the chance to have a bit of fun and do some acting, but it’s also a fantastic way for clients to learn and all the feedback we’ve had has shown they have been well received.”
Because Thorntons solicitors cover a wide area and many offices, Noele can be out and about in different places during the course of a week.
When I met her at Malmaison she was part way through a series of presentations at the different offices updating them on the work of the employment team.
However, with two boys, aged nine and seven years, each day starts at 6am to get them ready for school, before arriving at the office at 8am to start a busy day.
Most recently the team has created packages aimed at SMEs to encourage them to make use of employment law help and advice.
“We’ve found that SMEs tend not to have their own in-house HR or legal teams and we want to help create partnerships with them.
“Many don’t want to call a lawyer because they are worried about the bill they receive, but our packages mean that our fees are transparent and they pay a fixed amount every month for our services.
“This allows us to support them and give them the tools to make them confident in their decisions.”
As with most people who are juggling their careers with family responsibilities, the hardest question for Noele to answer was what she enjoys doing with her spare time (what little of it she has).
“I like a good book and I’m trying to get back into running,” she answered after a pause. “I’ve set myself the goal of a half marathon before the end of the year.”
She added: “My mum had five kids, she managed all of us and worked full-time as a nurse as well– I don’t know how she did it!”
But what was obvious to me as Noele told me about her mum and her strong work ethic was that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.