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Cohabitee Awareness Week

There is no such thing as a common law marriage.

There is also no such thing as a common law husband or wife. Current cohabitation law means it is possible for a couple to live together for decades, to have children together and then to walk away when the relationship breaks down without taking any responsibility for their former partner.

Cohabiting couples are ever more common place with more than one in five being unmarried. Millions of people cohabit without realising the legal implications of not being married. It is often assumed, after a period of cohabitation, rights similar to married couples are acquired but this is not the case.

As society has changed, the law has been left behind and is now woefully lacking as far as cohabitees are concerned. For instance if one party dies during their relationship, the survivor is not automatically entitled to anything from the deceased’s estate. Only if the parties owned property jointly together or the deceased left a gift in their Will to the surviving party will they be entitled automatically to any financial monies or assets. If there is no Will and no joint asset the surviving partner may have to bring a legal claim to try to recover any money or assets they believed they were entitled to share in.

Other ways Cohabitees lose out

  1. Married couples need to go to Court to divorce when they part. Cohabitees can simply separate and live away from one another. No legal steps need to be taken.
  2. Cohabitees have no legal obligations to one another financially i.e. to provide maintenance or to share pension assets. Married partners are legally obliged to financially support each other and share in the assets acquired during the marriage.
  3. If you cohabit with a partner who rents the family home in their sole name on the relationship breakdown there are no rights to remain living at the property. Married couples are protected as they remain entitled to occupy the former family home under the Matrimonial Homes Act.
  4. A former cohabitee cannot make claims for maintenance for themselves even if they are caring for their former partner’s children. The only claim that can be made are on the children’s behalf save for child maintenance.

If you are currently cohabiting and have no plans in the future to marry you may like to take legal advice with regard to your financial position in the unfortunate event that your relationship breaks down. A specialist family lawyer will be able to advise you how to protect yourself and your family for the future.

Steeles Law recruits a new family law team

We are delighted to announce that Sally Harris and Sally Briggs recently joined Steeles Law bringing over 25 years’ legal experience in the Family Law sector.

Having previously worked for top legal 500 firms in Norfolk, Sally Harris is a dedicated family law professional, who takes pride in building trust, transparency and listens carefully to understand her client’s needs.

‘We are absolutely delighted to welcome Sally Harris and Sally Briggs to the firm’, said Nicki Ramsbottom, Director. ‘They have a strong legal reputation locally and are highly regarded by clients; it’s a real privilege that they will be working with us to build our family legal services from our Norwich and Diss offices.’

Sally Harris specialises in a full range of family law legal services, including divorce, financial and property issues following relationship breakdown and childcare disputes including contact. Sally is a member of Resolution and a Law Society Accredited Family Law specialist. She is a trained collaborative lawyer and a member of The Good Divorce Group.

Sally Briggs is a family law paralegal and is experienced in supported Sally Harris on all aspects of Family Law.

“We are delighted to have joined Steeles Law and are looking forward to looking after existing clients and new. We look forward to welcoming new enquiries regarding divorce and family law issues at both Steeles Law’s Diss and Norwich offices.”

‘Chambers UK 2020’ lawyer rankings released

Steeles Law celebrates Chambers UK rankings with Managing Director and Principal Solicitor, Oliver Brabbins retaining his band 1 lawyer ranking against some impressive competition in the East Anglia region.

“I prefer Steeles because they are down to earth, they don’t sit on the fence and they respond quickly and decisively.” said one referee.

The Chambers UK guide is one of the leading independent directories of UK legal services and identifies leading firms and lawyers in the UK in terms of technical legal ability, professional conduct, client service, and diligence.

Oliver advises on the full range of contentious and corporate employment law with clients describing him as “decisive, pragmatic and able to turn things around very quickly.”

Oliver is particularly highly regarded for his advocacy skills, representing clients at employment tribunals across the UK and the Employment Appeal Tribunal.  As well as advocacy, Oliver has a special interest and expertise in advising on large scale reorganisations and redundancies, industrial relations and the TUPE Regulations.

**Current rankings and information taken from The Chambers UK 2020 edition.

For more information on services for you, and services for your business, please call 01603 59800 or contact us on info@steeleslaw.co.uk. Appointments are available in Norwich, Diss, and London.

*The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.

Ethical Property Foundation celebrates 15th Anniversary with Steeles Law

Since 2004, leading UK property advice charity, the Ethical Property Foundation has supported 5000+ voluntary groups with expert property advice partnership with the legal profession and property industry.

During that time, Steeles Law has been one of our most active supporters – helping us reach voluntary groups across England & Wales tackling a huge range of issues.

People work for their local community groups because they want to change the world and not worry about the state of the roof or their lease, and yet property is one of the reasons why so many charities are forced to cut services or close.

Steeles Law has built a strong reputation in the charity field and has supported the Ethical Property Foundation in many ways over the years. Director Michael Fahy is a leading member of our Register of property professionals who together advise many of the 400 charities which we support each year. He is also a long serving trustee and regularly delivers popular Negotiating & Managing Your Lease workshops – as part of our National Programme for Property Education, the annual series of free workshops which we run for small voluntary groups across the country. Steeles Law has also supported our bi-annual Charity Property Matters Surveys which we have run with the Charity Commission since 2012. Last year this revealed for the first time that more charities were renting from commercial landlords than from local authorities, many of which are now selling or developing premises occupied by charities to raise money.

So what sort of voluntary groups do we support? Here are just a few recent clients…

  • A counselling charity reeling from a dilapidations bill
  • A community group seeking to take on a public library
  • A scout group needing advice on a right of way
  • An animal rescue centre negotiating a new lease
  • A community theatre negotiating scenery storage space from a UK agency
  • An African community centre seeking maintenance advice for their old building
  • A dance school trying to move to bigger premises
  • A cricket club which has just inherited a field

It is hard perhaps to picture the stress and worry that local people feel when responsible for property in their local community group. Thanks to leading charity specialists like Steeles Law, the Foundation can help these groups survive and succeed.

And so, on October 24th in our Farringdon offices, with colleagues from Steeles Law, we are raising a glass to 15 years of providing successful property advice. We look forward to many more years working with Steeles Law not least on future work expanding our property education and research. These are exciting and demanding times for the voluntary sector and at EPF are very fortunate to have such expert support.

Antonia Swinson is CEO of Ethical Property Foundation www.ethicalproperty.org.uk @epf4charities

Steeles Law supports The Benjamin Foundation Sleep Out Fundraiser 2019

We are absolutely delighted to announce that we will be supporting The Benjamin Foundation’s largest fundraiser. A group of senior staff members will be spending the night of Thursday 14th November in a car park, with little but a sleeping bag and cardboard to keep warm, as part of the Norwich Sleep-Out 2019.

As part of the Steeles Law 50th Anniversary a focus has been placed in giving back to the local communities who have been instrumental in supporting the firm over the last 50 years. Charity initiatives so far have included coffee mornings, sponsorship of the Theatre Royal Get Together Group for the over 55s, CSF Hadrian’s Wall Challenge and pro bono work.

Andrea Smith, Marketing Executive said, ’I am delighted that we are supporting The Benjamin Foundation Sleep Out, I have been a supporter of the charity for many years and grateful that so many of my colleagues are taking on this challenge’.

Spending the night at Norwich City Football Club with over 100 other supporters of the charity will be a ‘humbling experience’ for those taking part said Andrea who took part in one of the first events in 2016. ‘While we acknowledge it won’t be the same as the real hardship faced by rough sleepers, it will help raise much need funds for our region and support The Benjamin Foundation mission to end youth homelessness.

‘Could you spend one night outside so others don’t have to?’ This the question The Benjamin Foundation asked us, and one which Oliver Brabbins, Richard Bailey, Nicki Ramsbottom, Michelle Trenerry, James Conley, Denise Traube and Lorraine Ashton said that together they will take on the challenge. Together they aim to raise over £700. The team fundraising page in now live (https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SteelesLaw1), to follow their experience on the night, look out for updates on the company Twitter and Facebook pages.

Chris Elliott, Marketing and Fundraising manager said ‘We are delighted to have a team from Steeles Law taking part in our Norwich Sleep Out for the first time. Their fundraising will help us support vulnerable young adults in Norfolk and prevent them becoming homeless.’

If you would like to make a donation to support the team challenge, please see our fundraising page , all donations, big or small are gratefully received and will make a huge difference to the charity.

If you would like to get involved in The Benjamin Foundation Sleep-Out 2019, or would like more information about the event please see their webpage.

Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Powers of Attorney: How to minimise Attorney abuse of power

In an ideal world, the person making a Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA), (the Donor) will appoint trustworthy Attorneys who carry out their duties in the correct and proper manner. In this article Amy Taylor sets out some helpful DO's and DON’Ts for the Donor and Attorneys, to help minimise the risk of abuse.

As a private client solicitor, I often find myself discussing the importance of making Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA), with my clients, my family and quite frankly anybody who will listen to my advice!

In an ideal world, the person making the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), (the Donor) will appoint trustworthy Attorneys who carry out their duties in the correct and proper manner. Sadly in my 10 years of experience I have dealt with a number of financial abuse cases ranging from the son or daughter who thought it was ok to ‘help themselves’ here and there to the carer who befriends a Donor with the intention to abuse their position as an Attorney.

I have set out some helpful DO’s and DON’Ts for the Donor and Attorneys below, to help minimise the risk of abuse.

As a Donor:

  1. Do take professional advice. DIY Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) applications may save fees but in the long run this could cost you thousands if you choose the wrong Attorneys or fail to include provisions setting out how your Attorneys may act.
  2. Do hold you Attorneys to account. For example you can stipulate in your Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), that your Attorneys should submit annual accounts to a third party professional for auditing.
  3. Do put preferences in stating whether you wish for your Attorneys to make gifts to anybody (including gifts to the Attorney). A recent test case bought by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) decided that so long as the Donor has authorised an Attorney in the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to make the gift then he/she can do so as long as the instruction is not mandatory.
  4. Do consider appointing professional executors of your Will. What an Attorney may think they have got away with during the Donor’s lifetime will be picked up by a vigilant lawyer following the Donor’s death.
  5. Don’t appoint a sole Attorney unless this is unavoidable – if you have more Attorneys involved they are more likely to hold each other to account.
  6. Don’t leave the preferences and instructions section blank. Take advice from a professional and include any preferences or instructions that are right for you; Lasting Powers of Attorneys (LPA), should be bespoke not generic!
  7. Don’t appoint an Attorney who is bad with money – just because they are your son or daughter doesn’t mean they are the right Attorney for you.
  8. Don’t give third party access to your bank account without a Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA), in place – there is no accountability with third party access.

As an Attorney:

  1. Do keep a record of the decisions you make as Attorney and keep receipts of all expenditure. If you maintain proper financial accounts it is very easy to explain your actions down the line.
  2. Do open a separate ‘Attorney’ bank account to deal with the Donor’s finances – an Attorney must not mix their own money with the Donor’s. The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) says joint account are ok where a joint account was operated prior to the Donor losing capacity, however I prefer to see separate accounts so there is no risk of confusion.
  3. Do consult the Attorney on all decisions to establish whether they lack capacity to make that particular decision. Only once you have established they do not have capacity can you then make that decision for them.
  4. Do check how the Donor has asked you to make decisions – perhaps they have allowed you to make some decisions on your own and some jointly with another attorney.
  5. Do check to see if the Donor has put any instructions or preferences in place on how you can act and stick to them!
  6. Don’t delegate your power to anybody else. There are some circumstances where you can delegate your power e.g. to a discretionary fund manager managing an investment portfolio, but the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), must include this preference.
  7. Don’t pay yourself a wage or help yourself to the Donor’s money! Only professional Attorneys can charge for acting as an Attorney and only when the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), allows this. Lay Attorneys can claim out of pocket expenses only.
  8. Don’t let your Donor down….act with honesty, integrity and make wise decisions.

The Office of Public Guardian can and will investigate cases of suspected abuse and if anybody suspects an Attorney is abusing their power they should contact the Office of Public Guardian (OPG) safeguarding unit.

To find our more about how to start the process for appointing someone you trust (your Attorney) to make decisions on your behalf during your lifetime, if you become mentally incapable of dealing with your own affairs, see our dedicated ‘What you need to know about Lasting Powers of Attorney’ fact sheet.

To speak to a member of the Steeles Law specialist Wills, Trusts and Probate team, please call 01603 59800 or complete the ‘Get in touch’ online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you. Appointments available in Norwich, Diss and London.

*The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.

Mental Health in the Workplace

Your mobile phone doubles up as a workstation, you can be contacted almost anywhere in the world at any time, it’s no wonder we often struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance in today’s age of technological evolution.

Often, we tend to focus on the ‘work’ part a bit too much and the ‘life’ part too little. All it can take is a brief (but demanding) buzz in your pocket and you’re back to answering emails in your spare time even though you aren’t in the office.

You might think this increase in working hours leads businesses to perform better – offering a more instant service to clients, or dealing with internal issues quickly and efficiently, the charity Working Families is launching the national Work-Life week during the week 7-11 October 2019, which aims to challenge that assumption and raise awareness of the negative impact a poor work-life balance can have on staff and businesses in the long term.

For example, a Mental Health Foundation survey recently found that as working hours increase, so does the likelihood of experiencing stress, anxiety or depression. This link between work-life balance and mental health should be taken seriously by employers, not just for the benefit of the health of their staff but for the cost consequences involved if they fail to address the risks. Below is an exploration of the issues that arise when staff work-life balance becomes unstable, causing mental ill-health to occur in the office, and considers how to best address mental ill-health in the workforce with consistency and in compliance with the law.

The impact on the business:

A recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development study highlighted the impact that mental ill-health can have on organisations, finding:

• 37% of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues
• 57% find it harder to juggle multiple tasks
• 80% find it difficult to concentrate
• 62% take longer to do tasks
• 50% are potentially less patient with customers/clients.

Clearly then, staff with good mental health are more likely to perform well, have good attendance levels and be engaged in their work. So promoting positive work-life balance which improves the mental health of staff in your workplace can be a hugely beneficial step towards increasing efficiency and preventing further health issues from arising.

Policies and procedures:

Businesses with written policies and procedures are able to monitor and manage absences for mental ill-health far more effectively than those that don’t. Company policies promoting a healthy work-life balance and addressing sickness absence, as well as capability or persistent short term absences means that staff are clear on what will happen should they have time off sick. This also ensures you are consistent with staff and provides a process for you to follow when issues arise. Naturally, it is important that employees are aware of and understand the policies as soon as you implement them in the workplace.
It would also be sensible to include an obligation in the employee’s contract of employment that they attend an independent medical examination at your request. This will enable you to obtain a qualified medical view on their ability to work and whether you should begin making changes to try and improve their mental health.

Managing staff experiencing mental ill-health:

You should be both confident and proactive in supporting staff experiencing mental ill-health. In order to effectively manage absences, keep detailed records and review them periodically if necessary. You should then be able to spot any patterns of illnesses which might suggest underlying mental health problems. This also helps you manage employees who take short but frequent periods of time off.

A return to work interview can be especially useful at identifying any mental health issues. They allow you the time with the employee to properly ascertain the reason for the time off, whether it be something related to work or something in their personal life. This can also offer the employee an opportunity to confide in someone if they need it, thereby enabling them to receive the support they need to recover and return to work.

Reasonable adjustments:

It is also important to be proactive if an employee’s absence/s suggest their mental health amounts to a disability. You should always seek the opinion of a doctor or medical expert at an early stage and attempt to minimise their symptoms if you can.

If an employee’s mental health does constitute a disability, be aware of your obligations under the Equality Act 2010. For example, having taken medical advice you should consider how you can make reasonable adjustments to an employees duties in order to better accommodate their illness at work.

Personal Injury:

There is a clear rationale for businesses to take the approach outlined above and promote good mental health in the workplace too. Changing an employers approach to work related stress doesn’t just benefit the employees, it can benefit the business by reducing absence levels and improving overall performance.

Employers also have a legal obligation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees. Businesses have a duty of care over their staff, and this includes psychiatric injury suffered as a result of the employer’s negligence. If an employee can show that the employer knew, or should have known, that the injury would occur then they can bring a civil claim for damages against them in court. This reinforces the importance of obtaining medical evidence about the employee’s mental health and minimising the risks of it getting worse.

For more information on our Employment services for employees and or employment services for businesses, please contact our employment law team on employment@steeleslaw.co.uk or call 01603 598000. Appointments available in Norwich, Diss and London.

*The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.

Norwich law firm, Steeles Law celebrates retaining top tier ranking in The Legal 500 guide

The Legal 500 provides the most comprehensive coverage on recommended law firms in the UK, with the eagerly awaited East Anglian listing launched on the 26th September. Steeles Law is delighted to announce an impressive 13 practice areas recognised, along with 2 elite ‘leading individuals’, 2 lawyers listed as ‘rising stars’ and 12 lawyers are recommended by the Legal 500.

‘I am delighted that our legal team have had their hard work and achievements acknowledged with highlights including top tier ranking, leading individuals and rising stars’ said Nicki Ramsbottom, Director ‘We have achieved one of our best years for Legal 500 recognition, which has highlighted our growth into new business services and recruitment drive attracting top talent. It is fitting that we are able to celebrate these achievements during our 50th anniversary year’

So what does this actually mean to our clients? Andrea Smith, Marketing Executive explains that the Legal 500 rankings give examples of past work, client base and most importantly for prospective clients, work testimonials. ‘As a firm we are extremely grateful for the support we’ve had from clients and referrers with excellent feedback. Prospective clients can be assured that they will get the very best service when they instruct Steeles Law. Every client situation is different, irrespective of what area of law is being addressed, as a firm we take pride on treating every client as an individual and working with them to achieve the best outcome for their needs

Overview:

CORPORATE AND COMMERCIAL
Work highlights include regulation and governance for a political party, renegotiation of a £14m commercial agreement for not for profit organisation and bespoke commercial agreements for an expanding manufacturer developing a revolutionary new product.

‘The firm is flexible and listens to us, providing wise and realistic commercial advice in our best interests that is understandable to laymen; and they are prepared to work late and over weekends to deliver our needs.’

COMMERCIAL LITIGATION
The dispute resolution team acts for a wide range of clients in various industries including food production, education, business advisory and political parties. Recommended solicitor Rachel Sims ‘is really smart, sensitive and persuasive. She understood the problems, reacted quickly and got the job done.’ And Damian Pitts, formerly of Pinney Talfourd LLP.

DEBT RECOVERY
Legal Executive Denise Traube, who has 17 years’ litigation experience, retains her ‘leading individual’ status and 1st tier ranking for Debt Recovery, she is supported by solicitors Rachel Sims and Damian Pitts.

BANKING AND FINANCE
Head of Company Commercial Richard Bailey leads on banking and finance matters with Karen Bacon. The Corporate, Commercial Property and Dispute Resolution practices work together to advise investors and borrowers, including multinational corporations and high-net-worth individuals in the UK and overseas, on financing matters.

EMPLOYMENT
‘The advice given has always been timely and of a very high standard’

Oliver Brabbins leads the employment practice, in which Director Robert Hickford is a rising star. ‘Robert Hickford always makes himself available to help. He is very experienced and gives excellent counsel including ideas, options and other considerations’. The firm acts for a number of notable clients in the food sector and continues to attract prominent clients in other industries for discrimination cases, large-scale redundancies and restructuring, TUPE matters and industrial relations. ‘I trust and appreciate their counsel. Unlike some other firms they don’t sit on the fence and work through solutions with you to enable a decent outcome. They also don’t labour points and issues that don’t need reams of advice, which we appreciate.’

PRIVATE CLIENT – AGRICULTURE AND ESTATES
Karen Bacon has substantial experience in agricultural property transactions in Norfolk and Suffolk and frequently handles matters of inheritance tax and succession planning for agricultural clients.

CHARITIES AND NOT FOR PROFIT
The charities group is led from London by Michael Fahy. The firm acted for a number of high-profile charities during the course of the year.

FAMILY
The small practice handles high-value and complex family cases and is highly regarded among referrers in Suffolk and Norfolk, most notably in Children matters and financial remedy cases. ‘A very efficient practice. A very friendly office. Staff are always polite in person or when receiving calls.’

PRIVATE CLIENT – PERSONAL TAX TRUSTS AND PROBATE
Steeles Law has six specialist fee-earners in its well-established Wills, Probate and Tax group, which has a strong reputation in the administration of estates and matters concerning powers of attorney and mental capacity. Practice head Karen Bacon has 30 years’ experience and is a leading light in the market. She works from both Norwich and Diss to advise clients in Norfolk, Suffolk and further afield. Amy Taylor is recommended as a rising star and is praised by her clients as ‘We appreciated the apparent breadth of her knowledge and the options she presented, while leaving us to make decisions on an informed basis.’

EDUCATION
Led by Corporate partner Richard Bailey, this team focuses predominantly on advising multi-academy trusts. The firm has converted more than 30 schools to academy status and currently act for six multi-academy trusts. The team also undertakes work for further education colleges and a local specialist university. The scope of its work also covers property and employment law.

REAL ESTATE – COMMERCIAL PROPERTY
The Commercial Property group at Steeles Law is led from London but the Norwich office plays a pivotal role in a practice that acts for developers, investors, landlords, tenants and landowners, in sectors such as retail, commercial and residential development, charities, education and agriculture. In Norwich, Simon Button’s caseload includes work for multi-academy trusts and McDonald’s franchisees. Praise from clients include ‘The team is very knowledgeable and always very helpful and attentive to your needs.’, ‘I found them a joy to be dealing with and highly recommend them to other people.’ And ‘Lisha Gorsia is very helpful. She has no arrogance or self-importance.’

PROPERTY LITIGATION
A first year ranking for Property Litigation as a result of the growing caseload handled by Rachel Sims and Damian Pitts. Rachel has a strong track record in tenant insolvency matters, dilapidation’s claims, forfeiture matters and contested break options with Damien frequently representing commercial landlords in claims for forfeiture and dilapidation’s, and for both commercial landlords and tenants in business tenancy renewal claims.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
Led by Corporate partner Richard Bailey has a niche in acting for clients in the hi-tech engineering sector, particularly those involved in cycling, automotive and motorsport. Bailey also advises publishers on copyright and trade mark issues, and the firm is increasingly active in assisting clients in the creative industries with copyright matters, design rights, patents, trade marks and the law of confidentiality. Denise Traube and Rachel Sims are also building up the firm’s profile in contentious IP matters.

**Current rankings and information taken from The Legal 500 United Kingdom 2020 edition

For more information on services for you, and services for your business, please call 01603 59800 or complete the ‘Get in touch’ online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you. Appointments available in Norwich, Diss and London.

*The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.

Employment law advice for no-deal Brexit

It’s probably fair to say that British politics is in a somewhat volatile state at the moment, with more questions being asked of our constitution than ever before.

Should the Queen have suspended parliament? Will it stay suspended, or will the Supreme Court find that it was unlawfully prorogued? If so, will it make a difference to anything? Does anyone care anymore?

With no sight of any deals being done, it looks like Boris Johnson remains set on leaving the EU at 11pm on 31 October regardless. So what are the implications of a no-deal Brexit on employment law here in the UK and how can you prepare yourself and your business in the run up to B-Day?

Firstly, make arrangements for British staff that will be travelling to the EU on business. Although they will be exempt from the visa requirements for up to 90 days in a 180 day period – this is specifically in relation to visiting only. After a no-deal Brexit, British citizens will not be able to undertake paid work without obtaining the relevant visa.  So you should ensure you and, where necessary, your staff have the correct paperwork if you are travelling to an EU member state on business. Travel to Ireland will not change as it is covered by a specific arrangement.

British citizens will also need to have a passport which is valid for at least six months from the time they enter the EU. Be aware that some British passports are issued for more than 10 years in total but only the first 10 years of validity can be counted towards this six-month requirement. There is a government-produced calculator that people can use to check whether they have enough time left on their passport to cover a visit.

Finally, consider supporting any employee’s who are EU citizens, in what must be an unsettling time. Remind them that, even in a no-deal scenario, they can apply for settled status up until 31 December 2020 if they have lived in the UK for at least 5 years at the date of the application. Those who have lived in the UK for less than 5 years can still apply for pre-settled status in that time frame. This should provide some comfort for any EU workers you have whilst also preventing a mass exodus after 31 October due to them being forced to return to their country of origin. Again, Irish citizens will not need to do anything.

Once prepared, all there is left to do is sit and wait… and hope for the best!

Steeles Law encourages legal sector to take up the technology gauntlet

The Lord Mayor of London used his annual speech at the Judges Dinner last week to encourage the UK Legal Sector to reignite its determination to pursue ways of using technology to improve the profession and, more pertinently, its clients’ experience.

Mayor Peter Estlin highlighted the legal sector’s innovative use of AI and machine learning algorithms to improve the accuracy of completing monotonous, administrative form-based tasks, to emphasise a need to embrace new technologies in other aspects of legal practice and to ensure the UK remains a global leader.

He also referred to the monumental strides taken in terms of gender equality in law since the Sex Disqualification Removal Act came into force 100 years ago; an act which paved the way for women to become lawyers for the first time. It is thanks to this Act, that today: there is now a ratio of 50:50 male and female solicitors. He then claimed that technology is now an issue of similar importance that should be pressed with the same level of urgency, to avoid being left behind.

He commented:

“The Law Society has found that adoption of technology amongst UK legal firms remains limited, meaning that the capabilities and benefits of these technologies are yet to be fully harnessed”.

But what does any of this really mean for local law firms and their clients in Norfolk and further afield though?

There is undoubtedly a lot more that we, as local lawyers, could be doing and, hopefully, some of the following practices will become much more commonplace (in fact, the norm) in the not-too-distant future:

  • E-signing of contracts – doing away with the need for the “quill and ink” pen that some still insist upon
  • Electronic-only Client onboarding processes (collecting satisfactory ID and money laundering information) – meaning that clients are not harangued for reams of information, unless absolutely necessary
  • Streamlining of previously paper based legal work – such as online disclosure processes, relating to business sales and purchases.

The most important consequence of initiatives such as these, must surely be that the client’s experience should be improved – and hopefully made more timely. After all, the lack of speed of response is one of the issues that clients still complain about most.

In order for this to happen though, there is a real onus on lawyers to embrace and relish the prospect of change and the increased use of technology where appropriate, with the genuine desire to improve service levels. The Lord Mayor has laid down the gauntlet; it’s now down to us to take up the challenge!