Living dangerously: Diary of an ABS professional, Week 11

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Mr ABS discovers that the murky field of employment law is surprisingly lucrative.

This week I had the unpleasant experience of opening the bill from the law firm I consulted after I was made redundant.

The lawyer I consulted was with a boutique law firm and charged a whopping 400 an hour. He had been recommended by a structured finance partner from a magic circle law firm, who made enquiries for me among his employment colleagues - and they may have had a vested interest in recommending their expensive mate.

I had one meeting with this employment lawyer, and it took just one hour to go through the circumstances surrounding my redundancy. At that stage he told me that the best I could hope for for unfair dismissal was 60k, and that if I found a job shortly after my redundancy this would dramatically reduce the size of the potential award.

At the time I thought I was fairly employable, but that was before the structured finance market deteriorated like a Cialis-deprived octogenarian. It was also before I had realised that my interview skills were rusty to the point where I could blow my chances of being regarded as a serious candidate in less time than it takes to say "I will never work again."

The other nugget of valuable information the employment lawyer provided me with was that one does not recover legal costs in an unfair dismissal procedure - even you win.

To everyone who might be chopped, these are the only two pieces of valuable information that an employment lawyer is going to provide you with. As imparting this information takes only 35 seconds, the lawyer I saw waited for me to spend 55 minutes recounting why I was there. A minute or so later I was out of his flashy office, where each inhalation cost me 80p, including VAT.

The sorry story didn't end there. Five days later the lawyer sent me an e-mail to remind me to send him my employment contract so that he could see whether my notice period could be paid without income tax. I told him at the time that though I had little trust left in the bank, HR was after all in the business of hiring and firing, and if there was any opportunity for them to do it in a tax-efficient way they would surely have done it; I was not sure that there was any value to be added by him in this respect. A few weeks later, he again mentioned that I should send him my employment contract.

God, what a beginner I am! In the end, I did send him my employment contract. In return I received an unintelligible letter, which he probably drafted with his loo brush. As a result, the bill now facing me is more than three times what I would have had to pay if I had resisted his fishing technique.

To add insult to injury, I have to pay VAT even though no value was added. This is very expensive for the hour of verbal massage and the piece of loo roll he sent me.

Oh ye redundant ones, beware.

On the positive front, my strip club lead of last week is firming up; by the sound of things it will not be an amazing role, but if it works it will at least keep me away from home for a few weeks. I am glad to have always been objective with investors about the quality of the paper I sold.

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