Legal innovator honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award

Malcolm Mackay recognised for services to the legal sector 

The Edinburgh lawyer who was instrumental in changing European law on pregnancy-related dismissals has been presented with WeDO Scotland’s annual Lifetime Achievement Award.
Malcolm Mackay of United Employment Lawyers (UEL) was honoured at the WeDo Scotland annual conference last week in Edinburgh following a legal career spanning 40 years.
He founded Mackay WS, which later became Mackay Simon, Scotland’s first niche employment law practice and possibly the first in the UK, in 1988.
He and his partner, Shona Simon, who is now Scotland’s most senior employment judge, represented 75 women dismissed from the armed forces for being pregnant. In one of the first UK referrals to the European Court of Justice (Brown v Rentokil) they succeeded in changing the law in Europe on pregnancy related dismissals, having lost the case throughout the UK court system.
Simultaneously, Mackay founded Law At Work, a specialist employment law company, specialising in employment law, HR, insurance and risk management services.
Mackay has worked throughout the UK and Europe and in 2004, he established Law At Work in the Channel Islands which was subsequently sold in an MBO (management buy-out) some four years later. He also launched Law At Work in Malta.
In January 2011, after months of illness, Mackay was diagnosed with a near-fatal and rare form of vasculitis, which resulted in total immobility.
Realising that he would have to work within unknown physical limitations, Mackay identified a gap in the legal market in Scotland which would enable high street law firms to deliver specialist employment law services and he, along with his wife Amanda, launched UEL.
UEL now provides a collaborative network of lawyers and legal professionals with a national pool of expertise including niche employment law firms and specialist departments of city based practices, enabling smaller, high street legal practices to handle complex employment law cases locally for their clients.
Picking up where he left off with his international work, Mackay is now bringing in employment lawyers from other countries to join the UEL network. He has also been instrumental in leading the development of specialist insurance products for legal services which was the first of its kind.
Having approached Marsh, one of the world’s leading insurance companies, he worked closely with the firm to develop a unique employment practices liability insurance solution, particularly well-suited to SME employers.
He said: “As a lawyer I am particularly proud and humbled to receive this award from a community of genuine entrepreneurs. For many years I have been keen to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and activity among fellow employment lawyers in anticipation of the major changes that were inevitably going to hit the legal profession and are now very much here.
“The traditional law firm model has many advantages but it neither encourages nor sits well with an entrepreneurial way of thinking. It would be good to see an entrepreneurial approach being encouraged in the way lawyers are educated, trained, and rewarded.”
Belinda Roberts, Founder of WeDO Scotland, which is thought to be one of Scotland’s leading support organisations for entrepreneurs, said: “Malcolm’s award win is worthy recognition of someone who has not been afraid to challenge the norm within professional legal services. His encouragement and support of young lawyers throughout his career has been phenomenal. He is a remarkable entrepreneur who displays an abundance of tenacity, passion and innovation which are so key to entrepreneurial success.”