Colleague Spotlight

James Tamm, Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

James' background

With 13 years of experience now under his belt, James Tamm has come a long way since his days as a junior solicitor. Having begun his journey in 2007 as a trainee at a private practice firm in Liverpool, he soon developed a taste for the challenge and variety of employment law.

Just four years later, James joined the ranks at Ellis Whittam as an Employment Law Adviser and has never looked back, making haste in working his way up the ladder. Today, he proudly serves as our Director of Legal Services, and holds responsibility for a team of 45 lawyers.

James' qualifications

Qualified Solicitor (2005)

Member of the Employment Lawyers Association

An interview with James

Tell us more about your background?

For the most part, I have a purely legal background; I’ve always known what I wanted to do. However, the employment law side of things is something that developed slightly further down the line. I developed a taste for the subject during my time as a trainee solicitor at a private practice law firm in Liverpool, with it being one of the four types of law I studied during this period. I found it to be by far the most varied, interesting and challenging of the areas, and so I was keen to pursue it from this point onwards. The firm where I completed my training was a claimant trade union firm, so I feel I’ve seen most things from the other side of the fence, which gives me a unique insight now. From there, I went on to various employment law roles before joining Ellis Whittam as an Employment Law Adviser in 2011. In my nine years at the company, I’ve been lucky enough to undertake five different roles, with the most recent being as Director of Legal Services. I’m extremely proud of how far I’ve come professionally during my time at Ellis Whittam. Though I consider myself to be an all-rounder, I possess particularly extensive experience in dealing with litigations. Trade union issues and industrial action, complex TUPE, discrimination, redundancies and restructures, and board level disputes are all examples that immediately come to mind.

What does your role at Ellis Whittam entail?

In my capacity as Director of Legal Services, I am responsible for delivering the Legal Team’s strategic objectives and have direct line management responsibility for a team of around 45 lawyers. It’s a big job but I thoroughly enjoy it. In terms of my day-to-day, it’s pretty varied. Being in charge of such a big department, I am constantly attending to a series of small, short-term tasks whilst also delivering on big-picture strategic projects that add value to the department in the long-term. Because of the responsibilities I’ve taken on since moving into my latest role, I’m less hands-on with clients than I used to be, outside of a couple of our larger key accounts. The various demands on my time make it difficult to actually advise on a daily basis!

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

Employment law can be complex and challenging, but I feel that I thrive off this. COVID-19 in particular has meant that things are now changing more frequently and quickly than ever before, and keeping on top of the new regulations and translating them into readily digestible content for our clients has been very rewarding. However, the flipside of that is of course the workload, and trying to keep all the plates spinning has been a major challenge to overcome. There’s usually a number of different things ongoing at the same time and there never quite seems to be enough hours in the day.

What’s the most common mistake you see employers make, and what advice would you give?

Not dealing with problems when they first arise, though simple at face value, is perhaps the most common mistake I see employers make. It’s easy to let things lie or brush them under the carpet, but in my experience, a problem with only snowball if left unattended, especially when it comes to employee relations. What’s more, the abolition of Tribunal fees has undoubtedly made things more difficult and complicated for employers. We’ve seen the number of claims made by employees skyrocket in recent years as a result. It now only takes a disgruntled employee five minutes (and zero cost) to fill in a claim form and then all of a sudden the employer becomes embroiled in a legal process that can take years to resolve. With all that said, I would encourage employers to be brave and assertive, and tackle problems early and thoroughly.

What have you done recently that has made you proud?

At Ellis Whittam, we were recently recognised by Legal 500 as a leading firm for employment in the North West. In coordinating our application for that, we showcased the quality of the work we do for clients, and I am very proud of the way in which we executed it. I would say that was particularly rewarding. On a more personal level, I am a member of the Employment Lawyers Association, and this is something I take great pride in.

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

At a very basic level, we simply solve problems. Our clients contact us with an issue and it’s our job to find an efficient solution to that problem whilst balancing any associated legal risks. That problem-solving aspect sits at the heart of everything we do, and I believe that we are second to none when it comes to achieving that. I would also say that the financial certainty is a big factor in the service we provide. Given the rise in Tribunal claims in recent years, the insurance we offer gives our clients peace of mind that if the worst happens, they have a safety net. What’s more, with a combination of dedicated advisers, qualified lawyers and a genuine focus on solving problems, I believe that we provide our clients with a unique advantage.

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