Article first published by The Lawyer ‘Barrister of the Week’ on Friday 12 March 2021.
Sir Philip Rutnam’s recently settled case against the Home Office was a unique piece of politically sensitive litigation handled by the head of Littleton Chambers’ Gavin Mansfield KC (Call: 1992).
Concerning a permanent secretary suing for breach of employment rights in the Employment Tribunal, with allegations of bullying against the Home Secretary Priti Patel, this high-stakes case kicked off with a spectacularly dramatic resignation in February 2020.
It was almost immediately after that Mansfield received the call from instructing solicitors Slater & Gordon, with the KC since steering Rutnam to a successful settlement this month, understood to be in the region of £340,000.
This dispute was just the latest in a long line of noteworthy employment scraps for Mansfield, whose instructions have spanned from representing postmen to permanent secretaries. The nature of his most recent case meant an increased level of public attention, although he insists that he was able to detach himself from social media scrutiny.
“Each step of the way I could read on Twitter what my team and I should be doing in the case,” he told The Lawyer. “I found it quite an interesting read, but you’ve got to be able to put it out of your mind. In a high-profile case, everyone has an opinion.”
During his early days as an advocate, and prior to taking silk in 2013, he cut his teeth working on many cases with the Communication Workers’ Union.
It was then during a spell in the early noughties that he first began to specialise in employment work.
Not only does he savour the “little window you get into peoples’ lives” in his cases, but he also enjoys the professional variety it throws up, whether it be acting for hedge funds or professional services firms.
Often, his client relationships start with a personal seminar concerning what it is they do.
He also specialises in team moves and what he calls the business protection area, dealing with injunctions when an individual or group has moved to a competitor.
Overall, he describes the employment arena as a “great intersection of complicated legal issues and people that have real problems. “These are not faceless corporations,” he says. “They are real people.”
The nature of his practice requires a high degree of emotional intelligence, as he often guides clients to the witness box for what could be the first and only time of their careers. “Often you’ve been with the clients all the way through,” he says regarding the emotional burden of employment matters. “You’re there for the ups and the downs. The run-up to the witness box can cause a lot of people a loss of sleep.”
However, he is sure never to overstep the mark: “I’ve always prided myself on however stressful things get, keeping things on an even keel and taking the temperature out.
“There’s no benefit of conducting litigation in an overly emotional or aggressive way. It’s about translating [the client’s] very serious issues in the most powerful and measured way.”
This composed style has served Mansfield well so far, and his latest result for Rutnam will only enhance his practice further.
The Lawyer‘s Litigation Tracker shows that Gavin Mansfield KC has been involved in 10 concluded cases since 2015, representing clients such as Charles Stanley & Co and Arriva.
CLICK HERE to find out which firm has instructed Mansfield most during this time frame.