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Hi all,

 

After reading some of the threads on here I feel like I've probably got it easy, compared to some, but I hope someone can help or give me a nudge in the right direction.

 

I've worked for a legal firm for over 2 years. Perhaps if I start from the beginning.

 

1. I was employed as an assistant and at the interview a salary and working hours were agreed as normal - 10am to 5pm with 30 mins for lunch (Mon-Fri). Several weeks after I started my manager called me into her office and said that I would have to work 9:45am -5:15pm (Mon-Fri). I was not offered any more money, I was just told that my hours were being increased by 2.5 hours a week. I felt that I had no choice but to accept. I think it was still within my notice period so I was concerned about losing my job.

 

2. I was told at the interview that I was being brought in as an assistant with a view to becoming a fee-earner when a posstion became available. Several months later a fee-earner left but I was not offered their position. Instead, I was assisting another fee earner but the truth is that they were assisting me! Although I was assistant I was clearly the more experienced. I felt that I was held back because I was able to 'keep a watch' over a weak and inexperienced fee-earner. Management knew that the files would be ok provided I was assisting and, at the same time, saving money by not promoting me to a fee-earner position.

 

3. The fee-earner who I assisted eventually took long-term sick leave and I was asked to take conduct of the files whilst they recovered. No assistant was provided to me so I had to run the files myself. I eventually received a memo to say my salary had been increased. I assumed this was because I had helped the firm when I had taken temporary conduct of the files and also because I had impressed with my work, knowledge and experience. This went on for sometime and, eventually, the fee-earner never returned back to work.

 

4. At no stage have I discussed any new terms of contract and no contract has been put in front of me. This is important because the notice period is increased to 3 months as a fee-earner. I have mentioned this several times to my manager (at the time) but then they were side-shifted (They are still at the company) and I was unable to get anything in writing or to discuss my salary expectations. I had received a few salary increases in that time but nowhere near what I expect to be earning as a fee-earner. Each time the letter didn't refer to why my salary was being increased, it was just a single line to say 'As from the (date) your salary has been increased to (£)'. As I stated, the only contract I have signed was as an Assistant.

 

Can I just say to my employer that I only signed a contract as an assistant and I want to cease the fee-earning position and revert back to my role as an assistant? If so, can I argue that my salary should remain as it is or will they insist that I revert back to what I was first earning as an assistant?

 

5. The above points aren't my main issue. Over the last year the department has been under unbelievable pressure which increased even more about 6 months ago when the only other fee-earner and their assistant handed in their notices. Aside from my Supervisor (who had to step into a fee-earning role) I was the only fee-earner in the department for a quite a few months and the stress was unbearable. I warned management several times that they had to stop taking instructions because we did not have the capacity to deal with this amount of work. Still the work piled on. I warned my Supervisor on several occasions that we would receive lots of complaints from clients, which we did.

 

6. Approximately 6 months ago a job was advertised for a fee-earner role. They usually send a company-wide advert as well as externally. When I saw the advert I almost flipped my lid because the salary was between £5k - £7k more than what I was earning. I immediately emailed my Supervisor and said, more or less, that I wanted my salary increased by a minimum of £5k. He notified his (and my) superior who arranged a meeting with me in August to discuss my issues. He said he would get back to me a week later with an answer. A week went by and I didn't hear from him. I didn't want to chase him because I didn't want to ruin my chances of getting the increase. I didn't hear anything until November!

 

By the way, we work in separate cities so it's not like we cross each other during the day.

 

7. I was asked to apply for the job advertised (referred to above) because it was a more senior role. I declined to apply for the role because in my opinion it was impossible to do due to the sheer volume of work involved. The company then interviewed and employed 2 fee-earners. However, I have now been informed that the volume of work for this role has been reduced by about 40%. If this was advised at the time of the advertisement I would have certainly applied for it. I feel like I was deliberately put off from applying for this role.

 

Where do I stand on this?

 

8. In October, another manager (there's so many of them!) inadvertently raised the issue again and then contacted the manager who was supposed to get back to me in August. He said he did not recall us discussing this at the meeting and apologised! We had another meeting and he said he would have to discuss it with the partners and come back to me at the start of December, which he did. At this (very) brief meeting he said he would not be increasing my salary. The reason? Too many complaints! I felt like somebody had picked my pockets! I said that I had warned that clients would start to complain if he didn't put a stop to the instructions whilst staffing levels were poor. He acknowledged that I had warned them!

 

9. He said he would consider my request again in 6 months but this depends on market forces (the usual bull). He did say that he may have to look at it again in April. He also said that there may have to be cutbacks. He said he may have to look at who to let go. I took this as a veiled threat. Also, I don't think he should even be mentioning this to me. I like my colleagues and I feel that I should tell them what he said about possible redundancies in April but if I do will I get into trouble. I don't like having this information when my colleagues don't. Should he have mentioned this to me? Could it be seen as a veiled threat?

 

I know it's long-winded but it's the first time I have talked (typed) about it. I feel like I have been treated poorly, especially over the last 6 months. I basically kept the department afloat whilst they were able to get new staff in and the carrot of a payrise was left dangling for 6 months. New staff who have not been billing any work yet and have basically had an easy ride whilst I have been tearing my hair out. Also, their workload will never reach the level which was intended. They will only ever be dealing with 60% of the workload for which they were hired to do. In addition, I am expected to carry the same amount of files as them whilst earning (at least) £5K less.

 

It's completely unfair. Is there anything I can do?

 

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Hello and welcome to CAG. I'm sorry you haven't had any replies yet.

 

I hope someone will spot your thread later and offer you some advice.

 

My best, HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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