I hope you have all had a good summer break, and were successful in seeking out some warm, sunny weather either on our shores or further afield.
Whilst a little quieter than the previous couple of months, we have continued with our work to represent, promote and support our membership through the main Committee, Sub-Committees, training opportunities and a number of other meetings and engagements.
The conversation we started at our inaugural meeting with the Law Societies for the Counties of Kent, Leicestershire, Newcastle, Surrey and Cheshire and North Wales will shortly be promoted as we seek to develop, collectively, strong representation at a local and national level. The group plan to meet three times a year and will liaise on an ongoing basis sharing knowledge, expertise and best practice. Our next meeting is planned to take place at the Local Law Societies Conference in London in November.
At the beginning of July, I attended the Garden Party of the Vice-Chancellor of Exeter University, Sir Steve Smith, at Redcot. It was particularly pleasing to receive this invitation as I understand it was a “first” for DASLS to be invited. It was a spectacular setting and the sun shone, as the band played and the Pimms flowed. I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon meeting colleagues from the Devon business world, alumni/ae and staff past and present.
I was delighted to have been invited to attend the Monmouthshire Incorporated Law Society Summer Ball as a guest of its President Andrew Twomlow. I had a fabulous evening, sharing a table with the Presidents of Bristol and Plymouth Law Societies.
Having travelled to Derby for the County Societies Group meeting I travelled to London for the final dinner of The Law Society President Robert Bourns, the evening before he handed over the reins to our new President Joe Egan. I was privileged to be sitting next to Joe at the dinner and we shared some thoughts ov...
Taunton law firm Clarke Willmott LLP was named Law Firm of the Year (11+ Partners) at the Devon and Somerset Law Society Legal Awards earlier this year.
The awards recognised a total of 12 firms and individuals for their outstanding services to clients in the region. Other categories included the Innovation Award, Team of the Year and the Client Service Award.
Clarke Willmott, with offices at Blackbrook Gate, Taunton, provides legal services on a number of specialist areas including agriculture, private client, debt recovery, clinical negligence, family law, commercial property, banking and finance, corporate, employment and HR.
The glittering ceremony was held at Sandy Park in Exeter and was the second annual Devon & Somerset Law Society Legal Awards, following on from a successful first year in 2016.
Kate Gardner, head of the Taunton office, commented: “We are delighted to have won Law Firm of the Year at these prestigious awards. This is a wonderful acknowledgment of the brilliant service provided by the great people in our office so I’d like to say thank you to every one of them.”
“As a firm we are totally committed to the South West and it’s great to be recognised for this continuing investment in the region. Since January, the office has experienced a high increase in staff in response to growing demand for our services and a return of confidence in the economy.”
“Winning the awards has not only supported us with our recent expansion, but has helped assist with the growth within our corporate and commercial services across the county as well as raising staff morale”.
The office decided to enter the awards following the success of the first awards ceremony, and is extremely pleased they did. Kate Gardner continued, “We decided to enter the ‘Law Firm of the Year Award’ as we felt that category best defined a lot of the work we do as a firm. We have grown a strong reputation within Som...
The nominations for the DASLS Legal Awards 2018 are now open! If you’re not sure whether to apply, read how winning a DASLS Legal Award can benefit your firm.
Free Marketing and Publicity
We have all heard the phrase, ‘any publicity is good publicity’ – but one of the best kinds of publicity for your firm is surely winning or being shortlisted for a legal award! As you’ll have seen from previous years, shortlisted applicants have huge media coverage through our partnership with DC Media, including when applicants are first shortlisted, as well as again after the awards evening across printed and digital media such as the Western Morning News, Devon Live and Somerset Live. This free coverage and publicity means that potential clients can see your successes and opens up your firm to new audiences.
With a DASLS legal award sitting on your desk, proudly on display in reception or even on your email signature, it reminds people of what you have achieved from your hard work and dedication. The Family Law Company, winners of Team of the Year in 2016 and Solicitor of the Year, Leader/Law Manager of the Year and Support Team Member of the Year in 2017, said how “The feedback has been tremendous, with clients coming into our offices to congratulate us on our success. Everyone in the company was thrilled with the success, and our awards are proudly on display”.
Happy staff means happy clients! Recognition for hard work will have a massive boost in staff morale, motivation and improves staff retention. Beviss & Beckingsale, winners of Law Firm of the Year (1-10 Partners) in 2017, claimed that “Our staff have said how proud they feel to have won the award and how pleased they are that our firm has been recognised for its good work”. On top of this, it will attract new talent to your firm as it will be seen as a successful and rewarding place to work.
Evaluation of your firm
DASLS’s Legal Awards are about ...
The Language of Compliance and Ethics
Oakalls Consultancy Limited
17 August 2017
I am learning to sail. It’s complicated and – if I’m being honest – a little bit of a mystery. There is unfamiliar language; ropes are described as sheets (sometimes), sails have unusual names like genoa, and there is a constant need to trim and reef. It requires teamwork; the yacht needs a competent crew who must pull together (sometimes literally) and understand the part they play in keeping the boat afloat. Knowing that the boat can tilt at peculiar angles without capsizing takes a lot of trust. It’s interesting but scary at the same time.
Many of you will know this and probably wonder why I am making such a fuss. Here’s the point. Experiencing this new world makes me think about law firms and how strange this must seem to someone joining a legal business for the first time. Whether that person is a trainee or newly qualified solicitor, a paralegal, or someone joining the business to provide non-legal skills such as marketing or IT services, they must quickly acquire the language of the industry if they want to be part of the team and they want that team to be successful.
I have often thought that the regulatory and legal acronyms we use would provide enough materials for a pub quiz round. We have in our legal language such abbreviations as SRA, TLS, OFR, RBR, COLP, COFA, NCA, SARs….. The list is endless. We expect everyone to understand these but, quite honestly, why should they if they are new to our world?
The same is true of regulatory and ethical standards. Most employees will want to be good colleagues but will non-lawyers understand that in a law firm this includes the need to sign up to and demonstrate professional behaviours. Actually, why should we assume that they would understand this? Why should we expect non-lawyers to appreciate ...
Court Mediation is back to stay?
Many will recall that in 2002 we were involved in running a small claims mediation scheme for the Exeter Group of Courts that then expanded to include a main court mediation scheme carrying fees for the mediators. The main court scheme ran for about 18 months and the Society’s mediators achieved settlement rates in excess of 75% for the main court scheme and 60% for the small claims scheme.
Lord Justice Briggs has now recommended in his final report that our scheme should be reinstated on a private basis. The Exeter Judges have responded enthusiastically and the new schemes will start mid July in Exeter and Barnstaple.
Why should we care?
The small claims scheme is a particularly specialised form of mediation and is not likely to involve work that our members do deal with (in the small claims court anyway) but it does actually provide the mediators with very effective time management issues and bring us up to speed.
Main Court Scheme
This is something in which practitioners may well find themselves being asked to participate for clients who have been directed by the court to mediation, (but it will be an opt out rather than an opt in scheme) this being vigorously supported by the judiciary so all of us involved in litigation are likely to come across this scheme from time to time.
Mediation as everyone knows is the management by a third party of a dispute with a view to trying to guide the parties into finding a suitable settlement. Those who are trained mediators can be expected to know the rules, those of us who are not trained mediators will be doing an extra service to their clients if they gain some practical knowledge as to the process of mediation and some guidance as to how to make the best result for your respective clients.
Question: How long will mediation take?
Answer: Three or four hours.
Question: How much will it cost?
The Capital Funding Strategy and Succession
Francis Clark LLP
Succession can present numerous challenges in a legal practice but in this article we look at how the capital funding structure can play a vital role in managing the succession strategy and the related financial aspects.
How can principal succession affect the firm’s finances?
Principal succession within in a law firm can affect the business finances in several areas. However, from a financial viewpoint one of the main factors will be at the point where a principal, for example, decides it is time to retire. This principal may have a significant level of financial capital investment in their practice which, on departure, will need to be released back to them.
As capital is repaid to the outgoing principal that may place a strain on the law firm’s working capital (funds needed to operate day-to-day and financing of capital assets, i.e. business properties). Those funds may need to be replaced in part or in full.
Where those funds cannot easily be replaced it can present a real challenge to a practice in managing its finances.
The capital funding structure of a law firm could warrant its own full article. However, in the context of this feature we will only consider how the capital funding strategy could present a barrier to an incoming and exiting principal for succession purposes.
All businesses require some form of capital funding to provide financial resources to allow it to operate. This capital requirement can change on a daily basis.
If we look at a law firm structure in a partnership or LLP model, typically partners or members will have individual capital accounts combined with current accounts, tax reserves etc which contribute to the overall capital funding requirement.
Some firms have prescriptive models of how capital account levels are set, where others have no formal policy. Having a prescriptive model does, however, provide ...
Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance delighted to be chosen as the President's Charity
Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance was formed in March 2000. Since then we have flown over 12,000 missions. With no direct Government or National Lottery funding, we rely on the generosity of the public for support.
Our operational costs are over £2 million a year and the approximate cost per mission is £2,500. It is inevitable that these costs will rise significantly in the coming year as our clinical team has almost doubled in size due to an increase in our operating hours, our new aircraft is bigger and uses more fuel per hour and we have invested in a great deal of new clinical equipment and training activities.
We operate an AgustaWestland 169 (AW169) helicopter from our airbase situated at Henstridge Airfield on the Dorset/Somerset border. From there, we can be at any point in the two counties in less than 20 minutes. More importantly, the helicopter can, if required, then take a patient to the nearest Major Trauma Centre in the South West within a further 20 minutes.
Our cohort of clinicians include a mixture of Senior Emergency Physicians, Intensive Care Consultants and Anaesthetists, Specialist Paramedics (Critical Care) and a small number of Paramedics and a Nurse who are working towards the ‘specialist’ qualification. We aim to provide a Critical Care Team, consisting of at least a Doctor and Specialist Paramedic, for each mission and operate 19 hours a day (7.00am – 2.00am) using two vital resources which include our AW169 helicopter and Critical Care Car.
Last year (1 April 2016 – 31 March 2017) we flew a total of 886 missions; an increase of 31% on the previous year. Of these missions, 648 (73%) patients were assessed and treated by our Critical Care Team. As part of their emergency treatment, 82 patients required an out of hospital general anaesthetic, of which 11 of these were children. Twenty fi...
Early Neutral Evaluation: An Alternative Approach to the Resolution of Financial Remedy Cases
by Paul Waterworth
One of the fascinations of the practice of family law is the way in which the law itself and the procedures involved in its application, evolve to suit changing social needs and the constant search for more (cost) effective processes. On some issues, it is clear that parliament has been ahead of general public sentiment and on others, the ever flexible common law has often found ways of finding solutions outside legislation. The adoption of marriage for same sex couples is one example of the former. The latter is exemplified by the partial relief of the plight of unmarried couples in the resolution of property disputes by constructive use of the law of trusts, such as was seen in the case of Stack v Dowden  UKHL 17 in which Lady Hale found that “many factors other than financial contributions may be relevant to divining the parties' true intentions”.
In the practice of financial remedy applications (still then called applications for “ancillary relief” - even the nomenclature evolves), it is now nearly twenty years since the introduction of Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) hearings as part of the formal court process. It is easy to forget how revolutionary such a development appeared at the time. By and large, FDRs have been successful with many cases settling at or soon after such hearings.
It has to be accepted, however, that formal court FDRs are not without their problems. There is generally acknowledged to be a lack of adequate court time for each hearing. The number of cases listed and the late production by practitioners of case summaries and copies of offers usually means that there is insufficient time for adequate preparation and consideration by the judge. The inappropriate listing of some cases before part time judges with little or no experience of this area of the law renders some FDRs of little value, at lea...
Court of Protection - Costs, Estimates and Top Tips
by Sponsor bSquared
Costs estimates are nothing new in civil legal matters, although with the implementation of costs budgeting back in April 2013, they have become somewhat of a rarity in litigation claims.
This is not the case within Court of Protection matters, where practitioners are now expected to inform the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) with their estimated fees for the forthcoming general management year. Introduced in Spring 2016, the OPG105 provides the OPG with details of practitioners' costs for the previous year and the estimated costs for the forthcoming deputyship year.
It is only now that we are starting to see the initial estimates provided by practitioners (the year for which the original estimates were provided are now concluding). Here we share some early observations, and provide some top tips as to how you can ensure you can accurately estimate your costs, and what can happen if you underestimate.
The OPG was charged by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to review professional deputyship costs and, in particular, look at how such costs are reviewed and monitored. This was amidst the plethora of changes that were being implemented throughout the civil legal landscape following the Jackson report. Whilst they stopped short of introducing fixed fees or tariffs for CoP matters, the result was that costs would be looked at by the OPG more closely and the need to estimate one’s costs was introduced.
Practitioners are now required to provide the following information within the OPG105:-
1. Details of whether the previous year’s costs were fixed or assessed
2. The amounts paid to the professional deputy
3. Reasons why a previous costs estimate has been exceeded by more than 20%
4. Whether fixed costs or assessed costs will be utilised for the forthcoming management year
5. Details of fee earner hourly rates to be used
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Business without managed services is more reactive, costly, and unpredictable. Consider the impact of unscheduled downtime, caused by a virus or technical failure. The average costs to small and midsized businesses can be staggering. A Gartner study revealed that each unmanaged desktop costs businesses an average of £4000 a year in emergency services, lost productivity and opportunity costs, with an annual total cost of ownership (TCO) that is typically 42% higher than for managed PCs and 29% higher for unmanaged laptops.
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Starting Conversations – Talking about Mental Health
We all have mental health, just like we have physical health. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act, and it also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
Mental health problems range from the worries we all experience as part of everyday life to serious long-term conditions. Research shows that 1 in 4 of us will experience them each year, and the legal community is no exception. Many legal professionals are reluctant to talk about mental health in the workplace, for fear they may be perceived as weak or not coping.
Spotting the Signs
It’s not always easy to recognise the signs of poor mental health or stress. Stress is the most common cause of workplace distress: these are the signs to look out for:
Out-of-character behaviour such as irritability, mood swings, anger or short temper
Lack of energy, concentration and motivation
Frequent bouts of illness
Problems with sleeping
Panic attacks, which can include feeling sick, short of breath, shaking, sweating
Failure to achieve targets
Overconfidence despite making mistakes
Withdrawal from usual social interaction and hobbies
Deteriorating relationships with managers and/or colleagues
Neglect of personal dress and hygiene
Increasing use of alcohol/coming into the workplace smelling of alcohol
Overreacting when challenged
A combination of these behaviours could mean the person is experiencing mental health issues, and could signal that it’s time to think about seeking information, support and reassurance.
Talking about mental health at work can be difficult. People can find it helps to be open, and can feel relieved that things are not hidden any more, but they may also experience negative reactions. It’s important for people to remember they are n...
Devon and Somerset Junior Lawyer's Division – News
This month's article is written by Benjamin Thomson, Education Secretary on the JLD Committee.
JLD Article September 2017
My role as education secretary is to provide JLD members with advice and guidance to help them improve their understanding of aspects of the law, as well developing their abilities. This year, my focus has been on providing updates on the latest legal developments, helping members get to grips with things they are likely to come across in practice, such as CCMCS (hopefully before they encounter them!) and helping those in school to get into law, or at least understand what a lawyer does.
Since starting the role in November, I have organised two events with Paragon Costs – CCMC training, with a mock hearing, in March and a costs update in August. Despite not currently being in litigation, I know that the information given - and the thorough and engaging manner in which Paragon Costs delivered it - would have helped me when I was in clinical negligence. The events were social as well as informative, going for a meal and drinks after the mock CCMC with the Paragon team that had come down.
Getting young people into law has been a focus of the committee throughout the year. The winners of our essay competition, organised by our diversity representatives Kyla and Lela, did their work experience at Michelmores, Tozers and Ashfords in July. I supervised the work experience student at Tozers. I am currently in my final seat, in property, and certainly had no qualms about getting the work experience student stuck into the same work I was doing – I believe that you learn by doing; there was no point her just reading a textbook as I remember doing on one of my work experiences!
On 8th November I will be speaking at Taunton School’s annual ‘Business, Law and Apprenticeships Careers Event’ to speak about my e...