When the Disability Alliance decided to take legal action against a government bill that will cut support for disabled people by £2 billion it chose a small firm of Sheffield solicitors to spearhead the action which could end up in the Supreme and European Courts.
Not only that, the firm it chose was barely a few months old.
Fountain Precinct-based Unity Law may be new and small, but it boasts expertise in occupational health, disability and discrimination that would be the envy of larger firms.
That has been reflected in a growing caseload and new jobs, as well as a desire to add new services like providing advice on employment tailored to its core client base.
“Our unique selling point is that we are not a big national firm,” says founder Chris Fry.
He has a wealth of experience of helping people suffering from hearing damage, asthma, diseases resulting from working with vibrating equipment, dermatitis and Legionnaires Disease and is one of the few specialist solicitors in the country dealing in disability discrimination cases.
“We are prepared to be different, we are prepared to pick on the big boys and we don’t mind taking on the state, if we have to.
“We are winning work over and above big national firms and people have come to us because we don’t want large case loads, we have a stated interest in improving things for individuals and we are able to turn things around quickly.
“We are going some way to putting Sheffield on the map for this kind of work. I am confident that, with the right people, the right infrastructure and the right technologies we are able to do that.”
In addition to its work for the Disability Alliance – a group made up of 250 organisations ranging from self-help groups to major national charities – Unity Law also works for a number of individual charities and other groups, providing advice and representing their members.
The firm has strong links with the British Tinnitus Association and includes among its staff the first two solicitors in the UK to train as tinitus management counsellors.
Although Unity Law is involved with major cases which could result in significant damages, legal precedents and government climb-downs, smaller cases are just as important to Chris Fry.
“I tend to concentrate on cases that do make a real difference to people,” he says.
“Often you can fight for two or three years to get someone a comparatively small amount of compensation – but you can see it makes a big difference to them.
“Ultimately I am a people person and, if we get our job right, we get paid for doing something that actually improves someone’s life.”