David Eastwood, Head of Team, Legal Services
With a career spanning three decades and numerous different roles and fields, David is undoubtedly one of Ellis Whittam’s most seasoned legal experts. Having first entered our ranks as a Senior Adviser in October 2014, he quickly became a highly-valued presence, and was soon appointed to the position of Head of Team.
Today, he continues to fulfill this role managing a team of nine predominantly home-based legal advisers whilst maintaining relationships with dozens of clients. Having previously worked primarily in food retail for national supermarket chains before joining EW, David now supports clients from the facility management, manufacturing, care, transport and professional services industries, making him an all-rounder when it comes to employment law.
LLB Law Degree (Hons)
Postgraduate Diploma in Employment Law
An interview with David
Tell us more about your background?
Like many in my position, the journey began with becoming a fully qualified solicitor. This included the usual steps, such as a law degree and a legal practices course. More unusually I conducted my training whilst working in an “in-house” position. Since then, I’ve spent the majority of my career in food retail, working for national supermarket chains initially as in-house employment lawyer and later as Head of Employment and Employee Relations and so with a significant HR aspect to my role. My first in-house job covered a mixed bag of employment, trading standards, consumer protection and civil litigation. Over time and as the employment work grew, I recruited a team to deal with the other areas. I also undertook a 12-month role for an international facility management provider before joining Ellis Whittam in 2014. Having started out as a Senior Employment Law Adviser, I then moved on to the Head of Team role, and now manage a team of nine legal advisers. In all, I now have around 30 years of experience of dealing with employment law issues, so I think I’ve seen, if not it all, at least most things!
What does your role at Ellis Whittam entail?
Despite being Head of Team, much of my role consists of answering emails and calls, so I’m never far removed from the realities of client issues. Other than that, my main responsibilities are looking after my team of consultants and ensuring they are supported, as well as managing client relationships. I would say that I’ve now dealt with around 60 different clients during my time at Ellis Whittam, including organisations in the manufacturing, care, transport and professional services industries. If I’ve developed a style over the years, I would say it’s direct and to-the-point. Employment law can be a minefield, so I truly believe this is the best way to go.
Which aspect of the role do you enjoy the most, and which do you find most challenging?
Even after 30 years in the field and six years at Ellis Whittam, I still take great pleasure in providing solutions and options to enable clients to get the best outcome for the organisation. That really is the essence of employment law, and you have to thrive off that in order to succeed. However, there are of course challenges to overcome, and I would say that striking a fine balance is the one that stands out. More specifically, balancing the need to be respectful of clients with the requirement to often tell them that they are wrong. This can be tricky to achieve.
What do you think has changed in recent years in terms of employee relations and the role of the employer?
This obvious answer is of course COVID-19. This has changed things both positively and negatively. Many employees are, to an extent, resigned to losing their jobs or at the very least having reduced incomes. However, as a result, they are more inclined to contest this due to a severe lack of other opportunities. Though tricky terrain to navigate, this presents a very interesting landscape in the world of employment law. My one piece of advice to employers, now and always, is to make note of when each new employee passes the 23-month mark in their role.
What have you done recently that has made you proud?
I recently assisted an employer in identifying that two employees they wanted to make redundant could in fact be dismissed with no risk or cost if they acted the following day. This was a revelation to the employer, and made life much easier for them at the time. This might not seem like a big, glamorous or even desirable event, but I feel this sums up why this role can be so satisfying at times. When a client takes heed of your advice, follows through with it and eventually reaps the rewards, it’s a great feeling.
How would you describe Ellis Whittam’s support, and what makes it unique?
After more than three decades in the field, I can say with sincerity that Ellis Whittam is a truly unique and high-quality organisation. In particular, we offer a financially stress-free experience for clients, with no hourly fee to worry about. This gives them the freedom to achieve much more with their adviser than they might have done otherwise. Secondly, I’d be the first to attest to the sheer quality of the team. Here, we have a team of outstanding Employment Law consultants, and I feel confident in saying that, between them, they could tackle any case.
Meet some of our team
“I’ve taken Ellis Whittam into every organisation that I’ve worked with. I’ve introduced them to many teams and many colleagues and referred them with absolute pleasure because I genuinely trust in the service that we get.”
Debbie Jamieson, People Director
“We get a great deal of comfort and satisfaction knowing that we have support as and when we need it, in a decisive and responsive way.”
Richard Berry, Group HR Director
Bluestone National Park Resort
“What we recognised in Ellis Whittam is the background that they have. They are able to supply knowledge and experience in a number of disciplines, which enables us to develop our business in a way that’s safe, to do it on time and with a quality to it.”
Debbie Rainbow, Director of Human Resources and Health & Safety
“As the company started to get larger, we knew we had to protect our employees and our contractors both onsite and in the offices. Ellis Whittam is exactly what we needed to move the company forward.”
Joanne Beaver, Operations Director
“We have found Ellis Whittam to be responsive and aligned with our business in terms of our processes and expectations. Their pragmatic approach has proven to be a great fit – nobody wants to be fighting their adviser on basic employment decisions.”
Jonathan Green, COO
“Ellis Whittam supports our 280 staff members with Employment Law and Health & Safety and has provided quality management training too.”
Lisa Best, Head of Service Delivery
What do you need help with?
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