ASHWATHI SOMAN

That “you learn something every day” is not just a cliché … learning does not just come from the classroom; the source of learning unleashes itself from experience.

Law affects every aspect of our lives. We live in a society which has developed a vast number of rules to control the activities of its members. Put your hand up if you are one of those people who believe law and legal practice can only be located in law firms. You are definitely not alone in thinking so, but you could not be more wrong.

 

As part of my studies at Brunel, I am currently on work placement at Kronos, a US-based, multinational company that develops management software and aims to help businesses run more efficiently.

 

My day-to-day work requires me to have a solid understanding of the law, as in-house lawyers are instrumental in shaping and protecting a company’s brand and its reputation. E.g. if there is a GDPR breach in the company, it can have a devastating impact on that company’s business as a whole. Similarly, a company’s “best friend” can be a settlement agreement, one that includes a non-disparagement and confidentiality clause, precluding a disgruntled and discontented employee from disseminating false or derogatory comments about the company.  

 

Also, as law students, we often assume that lawyers need to use and understand complicated “legalese”, but my experience at Kronos has taught me how important it is to ensure that information provided is as accessible as possible. Essentially, my job consists of making everyone else’s job easier by converting the legal jargon into language that everybody understands.

 

As I hope to specialise in employment law, working at Kronos has provided me with the invaluable experience of working in Human Resources (HR) and the Legal Department. Based on examples of key tasks that I have undertaken since starting my placement, a typical working day at Kronos might include any one or more of the following tasks.

  • Weekly team meetings

I am frequently invited to contribute my knowledge and ideas on issues that include the impact of Brexit on a multi-national company; the Working Time Regulations (WTR); and Harassment prevention training. When asked to critically evaluate how my role in the HR/Legal department impacted on the overall functioning of the business, my response was “happy employees make happy customers because if employees are happy and productive, they are better able to attend to the development of business relationships”.

  • Reviewing an employment dispute.

I will read all the available documentation, paying close attention to detail. Even blank spaces may have an implicit meaning.  Claiming that the document does not communicate what you thought, or what you meant, will not help your case or protect you against another’s claims.  I view the case methodically, reading the chronology of the events, the victim’s statement, the accused member of staff’s statement, witness statements, interview notes, the investigation report and conclusions, the invitation for a formal hearing and the transcripts of the meetings. I then present my findings, conclusions and recommendations to HR as the whether the standards of a fair and lawful procedure have been fully met, highlighting any points that need to be corrected in order to resolve the legal issues. Dealing with such cases has given me a better understanding of why companies need to have effective and organised procedures in place so that employees can raise their grievances internally without feeling the need to progress to external dispute resolution forums, which, apart from the cost and other resource implications, could have adverse effects, both for the company and staff morale. 

  • Designing a Harassment Prevention training programme.

Through doing this I have learned to receive and act upon constructive criticism whilst enabling employees to contribute to the overall standards of the company.  This has helped me to understand the importance of credibility and effective teamwork.

  • Undertaking a WTR audit

This was specifically aimed at identifying whether Kronos branches in other EU states are adhering to EU regulations.  This has helped me to develop my skills in collating, interpreting and evaluating information that is both relevant and credible, to the task I am being assigned to. 

  • Research into well-being in the workplace

This developed into writing an article for employees, specifically on the importance of financial well-being, and creating a programme for the company to work to.

  • Diversity and Inclusion

Good companies, like Kronos, incorporate this legal obligation into their company ethos and culture, proactively embracing diversity and Inclusion as opposed to seeing it as a constant obstacle to be overcome. As a member of the HR team, I was tasked with using my knowledge of legislation such as the Equality Act 2010, to produce a document, converting the hefty and significant legal requirement of Diversity and Inclusion into accessible business terminology. The topic itself demanded nothing less than the document be accessible to everyone.

  • “Artificial Intelligence” (AI).

Most people experience a “crush” in their life. It is exciting, new and causes a great deal of exhilaration. For many lawyers and businesses, the idea of AI has become their latest “crush”, because it can animate the legal landscape in a positive way and make businesses become more efficient. Kronos inspires other businesses to use technology to do just this. My increased understanding of the role of technology and how it will influence law firms and businesses in the future has led me to discover many projects in the pipeline concerned with developing AI for law e.g.in the fields of performance management automation and productive coding. Since working at Kronos I have come to understand just how much technology and the law are inseparable.

  • “blogging”

On a slightly lighter note, “blogging” has developed from my own attempts to express my feelings about each of my experience(s) at Kronos as outlined above, into something very rewarding. I have received feedback from Kronos employees as it concerned them, and they asked me to investigate further which granted me the opportunity to expand my skillset. 

The Brunel Lawyer

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