Clare Murray is the managing partner of specialist UK employment and partnership law firm, CM Murray LLP. Clare advises multinational employers and senior executives on employment law issues, and international professional services firms and their partners on partnership issues, both including sexual harassment allegations, cross-border disputes, team moves and restrictive covenant issues. In January 2018, Clare gave evidence before the House of Commons women and equalities select committee in its inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace and was subsequently appointed as a specialist adviser in that inquiry.
What do you enjoy most about working in the labour and employment field?
I really enjoy the cross-border aspects of employment law; it has been a particular focus of our firm for a long time. The additional legal and tactical issues that are involved when working in multiple jurisdictions, particularly in a dispute, make those employment matters even more fascinating, and an understanding of how to respond to them even more important. It is also an incredible privilege to work with employment law peers across the world; we learn so much from employment lawyers in other countries in terms of addressing common technical issues, strategic handling, client management and business innovation, which is invaluable.
What motivated you to establish your own boutique firm?
I had two great mentors as a young lawyer who taught me skills in both employment law and practice building. I felt that, with the benefit of that mentoring and with some entrepreneurial spirit, we could create a specialist employment and partnership firm that was very internationally focused, flexible and built around core values. Thirteen years later, it has been a very rewarding experience – we own all of our own successes and equally all of our mistakes; we have a shared vision for the future of the firm; and we shape the business, the work we do and how we work in line with that vision. And we are in charge of our own destiny – nothing beats that.
In March 2018 you were appointed specialist adviser to the House of Commons women and equalities committee in its inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace. How does your work there enhance your offering in private practice?
Looking at it from the other side first, I think my work in private practice, having acted in many matters on all potential sides in sexual harassment allegations – the complainant, the employer, and the accused – brought a balanced perspective and rounded understanding to my specialist adviser role.
Being immersed in evidence regarding sexual harassment at work and perceived misuse of NDAs, from not only victims and their advisers but also crisis counsellors, academics and regulators (among others) certainly gave me a greater clarity of vision on sexual harassment, the pervasive nature of it in our society and what can be done to address it effectively in the workplace. It also showed me the important and very positive role that employment lawyers around the world can play to help employers understand how they can put things right when an incident does occur, and how they can change workplace culture to avoid it happening in the first place.
In your opinion, what should the legal community be doing to tackle this issue within the profession?
Within the legal sector, we must all speak up when we see sexual harassment – either as victims or as bystanders. Firms must operate a clearly stated zero tolerance for the victimisation of complainants. Law firm partners should be specifically trained and incentivised (financially and otherwise) to drive diversity, to ensure equal treatment in all areas, and to proactively and effectively deal with sexual harassment at work whenever it occurs.
How has employment law changed since you first began practising?
Back in the early 1990s European law was only beginning to filter through as a significant shaping influence in employment law in the UK. In the decades that followed, it has played such an important role in underpinning and maintaining employment protections here, that might otherwise have been eroded by successive governments. We have to hope that, whatever the outcome of the current Brexit negotiations, the very balanced approach we have to employment law protections here in the UK – which protect workers while also attracting business for inward investment – is maintained for the long-term future.
What do you think will be the greatest challenge facing the next generation of employment lawyers?
Avoiding commoditisation as far as possible – seeking out instead those areas of employment law (and related areas) that rely on super-specialist knowledge, judgement and empathy, and which are less susceptible to artificial intelligence.
What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
“When you win, quickly and silently move on.”
What is your proudest achievement to date?
If I can mention two things: first (and completely ignoring the above career advice), our successful representation in the Supreme Court of the intervener, Public Concern at Work (now Protect) in Clyde and Co v Bates van Winkelhof, a case which had profound implications for lawyers, accountants and other professionals who blow the whistle on wrongdoing, by extending to them as LLP members, whistleblower and other worker rights in the UK.
Secondly, building a firm that is able to attract the unbelievably talented and committed lawyers we have in our team: that gives me a huge sense of achievement and pride (and also keeps me on my toes to ensure we keep driving our firm forward!).