Legal speak interview: Charles Crookall, HR manager, law firm Halliwells in Manchester

How did you get to where you are now?

I became frustrated with the public sector and its inflexibility, so I decided to return to the private sector. I had worked in financial and professional services in London but law was new to me. I recall telling the recruitment consultant that Halliwells wouldn’t be interested in me as I hadn’t worked for a law firm. How wrong can you be?

What takes up most of your time at work?

Dealing with people and their issues.

Which three attributes are needed to do your job?

Relationship building, personal and professional credibility, and a very thick skin!

What legislation causes you the most headaches?


How do you keep up with new and changing legislation?

I regularly read articles and case studies. Working for a law firm gives me ready access to expert advice. I also attend our employment law seminars for clients which enables me to meet HR professionals from a broad range of organisations.

What’s HR’s biggest legal challenge?

The need to ensure compliance.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The variety, and also the opportunity to work with a really diverse group of people.

What’s the most challenging case/situation you’ve had to deal with?

When working for the Highways Agency a drunken lorry driver hit one of our patrol vehicles, almost killing our two officers, and then ploughed into a motorist, killing her. I worked with the officers and other traumatised staff who had witnessed the incident on screen in our control room.

What would be in your room 101?

Trash TV and Halliwells’ detractors – who seem to be motivated by jealousy.

What really annoys you in life generally?

Intolerance in all its forms.

If you could wish one employment law away, what would it be?

I would not wish away any one in particular, but would like to re-write some of them.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

The human race’s ability to destroy everything it comes into contact with.

When you were a youngster, what was your ambition?

To be a professional footballer (goalkeeper). I had trials for Blackpool in their First Division days and also Blackburn Rovers. Sadly I didn’t make the grade, but enjoyed a long and successful career in senior amateur football. Ironically, I was offered terms to play rugby league for Blackpool Borough but turned them down as I hoped that football would come knocking.

Who’s your hero?

Nelson Mandela – a true living legend who fought against oppression and hatred and emerged to lead his country and gain international acceptance.

Crookall’s CV

  • 2007-present: HR manager, Halliwells

  • 2003-2007: Senior business partner, Highways Agency, Manchester

  • 2000-2002: Executive consultant, KPMG, London

  • 1999-2000: Interim HR consultant, Prudential Assurance, London

  • 1989-1999: Head of HR team, LIFFE, London

  • 1983-1989: Senior industrial relations adviser, Acas, London

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