Interview with Martin H, Lawyer in Labour Law

“I provide comfort when rights have been infringed upon.”

COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?

I represent people who have been fired by their employer. I help them at a critical time in their professional lives. Most of the time, people who have just received a pink slip, whether it is justified or not, are in a state of shock. They need concrete help. So my role is to be understanding and establish their situation clearly. What’s important, for a lawyer, is to properly consider the human aspect of a problem. Standing up in court provides additional stimulation.
I often congratulate myself for having chosen this field of law, because if I were a company lawyer, for example, I think I would get bored very quickly, working with documents instead of people all the time.

IS THIS STRONG HUMAN RELATIONSHIP ELEMENT A DECIDING FACTOR?

Over the course of his or her career, every lawyer makes a choice, deliberately or not. So they end up working in an office and managing transactions, or they pass the bulk of their time in the courtroom. I consider it stimulating, even though I know that many are intimidated, particularly my clients. In representing them, I hold their hand; I provide them with a form of comfort, notably when their rights have been infringed upon.

WHICH MEANS WORKING IN A DISTRESSFUL ENVIRONMENT…

Yes, I do have to deal with a lot of negative emotions. So for each case, I force myself to be detached. I consider it purely as a “legal case.” Clients expect their lawyers to be able to act. And holding their hand doesn’t mean crying with them. Their quasi-systematic distress also impels me to draw a line. Work is work. Obviously, there are some exceptions, but I do try to contain the whole thing in a purely intellectual sphere.

COULD YOU GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE OF A SIGNIFICANT CASE?

Recently, I had a 50-year-old come to me because he had just been dismissed after 15 years of service, with the equivalent of two weeks of dismissal wages. He asked for four weeks, which the company refused. Encouraged by his circle, he decided to consult a lawyer. He was obviously very surprised when I told him that he was entitled to one month of salary per year worked. He was simply not familiar with the law.

WHICH SKILLS DO YOU HAVE TO DEVELOP?

It takes excellent analytical skills because you have to assess a case with sometimes very little material. And the people who call on me don’t always have a valid case; some have been fired for just cause. You have to be able to change your viewpoint to consider all the angles, and finally decide if the legal action you are preparing to undertake is legitimate. You also have to know how to negotiate in order to arrive at a compromise. And finally, you have to persevere to be able to have your concessions accepted. So if a case is weak, it’s better to reach an amicable settlement—even a not very generous one—rather than go to court and waste time and money.

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