Who is Joe Nicholls and what drew him to become an employment lawyer?

In this series, we introduce some of the people that make up Stephens Scown. We learn about their expertise, what drew them to join the legal profession and find out a little bit about who they are outside of the workplace.

Here we introduce Joe Nicholls, one of our new Employment partners.

What does Joe do as an employment lawyer?

“I advise individuals and businesses on a broad range of employment issues.

The focus of my role is on employment disputes and this includes negotiating internal disputes, as well as representing my clients in legal proceedings in the Employment Tribunal. I work closely with the other lawyers in the employment team and as a partner, take on responsibility for their development.

It is a demanding role, with tight deadlines and often involves matters arising which need to be addressed immediately, in order to safeguard my client’s position. Acting for individuals and businesses allows me to advise each more comprehensively, both technically and strategically.”

Why did Joe Nicholls specialise in employment law?

“I had a great opportunity at my first firm. I started in the post room and moved into a paralegal role. The firm exclusively dealt with personal injury cases, but after taking on a partner from a magic circle firm to set up an employment team, I was immediately keen to become involved. I had studied employment as an area for my LLB undergraduate degree and enjoyed it, but hadn’t had exposure to it in practice.

As an area, employment law is fast paced, challenging and allows a degree of creativity. It isn’t a process driven area of law. Those were the things that both appealed to me, and suited my personality.”

What was Joe’s journey into law?

“I didn’t have a plan. I studied law at A-Level and then planned to travel, rather than go straight to university, but I took the more sensible route of getting a degree first. I picked the area I had enjoyed most at college and would be most transferrable if I decided to go in another direction.

I graduated at the start of the 2006 recession, where training contracts were rare and some firms were paying people to defer. I felt it was the right time to take a break from study, so I spent a couple of years travelling around North America and Europe. It wasn’t until I moved to London in my early 20s that I really decided on a career in law.

I believe life experience is really important and I think that my experiences outside of work and education have shaped the kind of lawyer that I am.

I studied alongside working, qualifying firstly through the CILEX route and then as a solicitor. I spent around six years working and studying, in addition to my LLB. It has taken commitment and patience, but the hard work allows me to do what I love for a living and I am able to reflect upon the journey (so far) with pride.”

What does Joe Nicholls enjoy most about working in employment law?

“I enjoy the strategic side of disputes and diving deep into the issues and evidence to seek out weaknesses in the other party’s arguments. It is a real privilege to be entrusted with improving or resolving employment challenges for a company or charity, knowing that the outcome of any dispute can be significant for their reputation.

Where I can help solve a problem in an ethical way, it is satisfying knowing that is often beneficial for both parties. Employment law isn’t blinkered towards an all or nothing outcome and with a sensible and objective approach, I find there is often a resolution to be found where both parties feel like they’ve achieved a good outcome.

Helping people see beyond the emotion of a dispute and achieving an outcome that can really benefit them, reputationally, emotionally or financially, is where I add value as a specialist.

Employment lawyers are largely a decent bunch and provide great support to each other as a community. Working in a team of motivated, talented and interesting colleagues is really what makes me want to keep doing it for a long time to come.”

If Joe wasn’t a lawyer, what else might he have been?

“Well, on the basis that it would be unrealistic to say professional golfer, I’ve always liked the idea of being involved in the tourism industry. I could see myself in the operational side of a hotel business or travel company.”

How does Joe Nicholls spend time outside of work?

“I have two young boys, aged five and two, so family life centres around them.

We try to get outside and be active as much as we can: on bikes, swimming, exploring in the woods or at the beach. I like to run and play or watch sport. A relaxing day would start with going out for breakfast and having coffee by the sea. A glass of red wine with a Thai-green prawn curry is a pretty good sounding evening in with my wife.

I also volunteer as a Trustee for a multi-academy trust of primary schools, as a way to help improve the opportunities for some of the under-privileged children in my local community.”

You can find out more about what type of work Joe is involved in here.