As a solicitor with over 20 years practise under her belt, Joanne decided to transfer her experience into volunteering. Now, she applies her wealth of knowledge and skill to providing free employment law advice to the people of West Sussex. Joanne enjoys making a difference and giving individuals access to the advice they have a right to know.
What made you decide to volunteer for the CAWS?
After practising as a solicitor for over 20 years, I decided to retire from my position as Head of Employment at Morrison’s Solicitors. Here, I managed a small team and focused on providing employment law advice to private clients.
I began volunteering at Citizens Advice in Reigate and Redhill which made me aware that individuals often need more advice than a free half hour slot and of course many people cannot afford solicitors’ fees.
I therefore decided to combine working part time in private practice with volunteering at CAWS for one or two (and sometimes more!) days a week. There are very few organisations providing free legal advice in West Sussex. This means that many people badly treated by their employers or who may just have queries about their rights, do not know what to do. This is particularly the case for vulnerable workers in low paid or low skilled jobs, who are at risk of exploitation.
Tell us about your role at the charity?
I provide initial employment law advice on a range of issues over the telephone. Often this develops into my helping to draft grievance letters or, responses to disciplinary allegations, and ‘letters before action’ aiming to settle a dispute before it becomes protracted. I also negotiate on behalf of workers who have employment claims against their employers.
What do you enjoy the most about your role?
It is very satisfying to work with residents of West Sussex in resolving their workplace disputes and to know that I have helped to make a difference. It is also a pleasure to work with a group of people at CAWS who are so committed to the work of Citizens Advice.
Have you gained any skills since volunteering?
Yes! Working remotely has forced me to pick up some IT skills – with the help of CAWS colleagues.
What has been the most valuable part of your volunteering experience?
What would you say to someone considering volunteering for CAWS?
That it is a very rewarding experience. I encourage other lawyers to get involved even if for only a few hours a week. Not only are you helping those who likely would not otherwise have access to legal advice from a solicitor, and let me tell you they are hugely grateful for it. But you will also hone your own skills and knowledge in doing so.
If you’re interested in volunteering, click here