Colleague Spotlight

Alexandra Farmer, Head of Team & Solicitor

Alexandra's background

In 11 years of legal practice, Alexandra has already built an impressive career and garnered wide-ranging expertise, with experience ranging from pharmaceuticals, to beauty, to the charity sector. Following the completion of her legal training in 2009, she worked in private practice and later as the head of an employment law consultancy, before joining the Ellis Whittam ranks in 2013.

Having served for seven years as an Employment Law Adviser, she has now taken over as the Head of our Partnerships Team, which will see her managing a team of six advisers who support over 30,000 members across 15 partnerships.

Alexandra's qualifications

LLB Law Degree (Hons)

Legal Practice Course (Distinction)

An interview with Alexandra

What was your background before joining Ellis Whittam?

Technically, my legal journey first began when I decided to pursue law academically and complete an LLB honours at university. However, my real affinity for what I do now developed during my studies, when I took an Employment Law module in my final year and received a Ciba-Geigy Prize for the highest achieving student. It’s an ever-evolving area of law that mixes commerciality with the need for a personable approach, and I knew almost immediately that it was the one I’d want to specialise in. Whilst undergoing further professional studies, I worked as a part-time teaching fellow at Lancaster University. Having received a Distinction in my Legal Practice Course, I then completed my training contract at a Legal 500 firm in Bolton, and officially became a qualified solicitor in 2009. Since then I have worked in private practice and later went on to run an employment law consultancy business. Since 2013, I’ve been working with Ellis Whittam, first as an Employment Law Adviser and later moving on to Senior Employment Law Adviser. As of December 2020, I will officially be fulfilling the role of Head of the Partnerships Team at Ellis Whittam, whilst also continuing to serve as a solicitor. I think that, having now amassed a decade of experience, I’ve developed an aptitude for several different areas, including redundancy, changing terms and conditions, TUPE and managing long and short-term absenteeism.

What does your role at Ellis Whittam entail?

In my new capacity as head of Ellis Whittam’s Partnerships Team, my core responsibility is directly managing the relationship with our partner clients and the commercial partnership managers. This takes up a significant portion of my time. Aside from this, one of my main responsibilities is leading a group of six advisers to make sure that partner members receive the best possible advice and support. On a typical day, much of my time is spent managing them and supporting them in their development. I still also undertake advice work, which consists of answering client calls and email enquiries. Since my role change, I am now responsible for roughly 25 clients in total, with 15 being partner clients, supporting approximately 34,000 members.

Which aspect of the role do you enjoy the most, and which do you find most challenging?

Despite the technical and varied nature of my role, supporting and mentoring more junior colleagues and watching them grow will always be the most rewarding aspect. This is why I’m particularly thrilled to be moving on to a Head of Team role. In terms of challenges, it can sometimes be difficult to meet a client’s specific desired outcome, especially when there isn’t an immediate ‘safe’ option available. In these scenarios, the main task is to think pragmatically and gradually work towards a solution. That said, this is also one of the most rewarding parts when achieved.

Can you share any achievements or success stories?

In broad terms, I feel my biggest recent success has been supporting my team through the disruption we’ve experienced this year due to COVID-19. Workload and personal stresses have been particularly high, and it’s been a major challenge to manage this amongst a team of people whilst still performing my standard duties and maintaining the high standards of service our clients expect.

What advice would you give to employers?

My best piece of advice would be, quite simply, to never ignore employee issues or try to brush them under the carpet. The best solution is always to manage problems quickly and consistently. This is now more important than ever I feel, as employees are more aware of their rights and, since the abolishment of Tribunal fees, they’re more willing to commence formal proceedings. This is something that employers must keep in mind at every turn. The biggest mistake I see employers make is not managing issues early enough and ignoring small conduct issues or failing to deal with poor performance until reaching a breaking point. Communication is key, and could mean the difference between a swift, simple process and a painfully complex scenario.

How would you best describe Ellis Whittam’s support, and what makes it unique?

At Ellis Whittam, everything we do is aimed at providing dedicated, committed support to our clients. We are always on call for contact as and when it’s needed, whether that be for a serious matter or just a simple question, and, crucially, each of our clients is assigned a dedicated adviser or small team of advisers that will get to know your organisation and approach over a period of time, enabling them to almost become a member of your own team. This more intimate approach undoubtedly produces a stronger client relationship and ultimately better results. In every scenario, we will always work tirelessly to achieve a client’s desired outcome, highlighting any risks as needed and providing constant support throughout the process so that you have one less thing to worry about.

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