solicitors north east uk

Whether you are demanding compensations or trying to navigate discrimination or dismissal issues at work, the need for a solicitor in North East England may arise anytime. Solicitors can also help to handle custody, divorce, and other family issues, or prepare your will and contracts. These professionals also come in handy in selling and buying properties.

Whatever the case may be, you must hire the right solicitor. But the big question is, how do you identify the right solicitor among the pool of solicitors? We have some helpful tips in that regards.

  1. Understand the difference between a barrister and a solicitor.

Sometimes, we tend to confuse a solicitor with a barrister. But the truth is they offer different services. The solicitor is who you need for most legal issues, but if you need with a relevant specialisation to handle a particular case, the barrister is your go-to option.

Some solicitors focus on certain fields. For instance, if you need help with an adoption case, you should work with a solicitor that focuses on family law over one that focuses on employment law.

Start by asking the focus of your solicitor. Do they have sufficient experience in the area of your legal issue? Understand all the options available. Do you qualify your legal aid? Or can you go for a personal compromise instead of working with a solicitor?

A good solicitor will not be bothered about you walking away. However, they will make you understand the problem on the ground and how best to resolve it.

  1. Big firms are not a guarantee for excellent results.

How broad or expensive a firm is, does not determine their legal competence. Do not get swayed by the fact that your law firm asks for a huge amount of money as a service charge. Yes, large firms can handle multiple cases simultaneously, but this is not entirely an advantage. For instance, you may not get the priority if you are not one of their best-paying clients.

You will most likely get excellent professional help and personal attention with smaller firms. You will be surprised that most large firms are more interested in making profits to keep the firm running than providing excellent services

  1. Do not choose based on proximity.

It is common to see people go for law firms that are close to their locations. While local attorneys are convenient to find and easy to reach, it doesn’t make them the right North East England solicitor for you.

Instead, prioritise a solicitor who specialises in your legal area, even when they are outside your local geographic area. But if your local attorney’s area of specialisation is the same as the legal area of your case, then you are good to go.

Working with a solicitor who is willing to travel also gives you a better shot at preventing indifferent bureaucracy. Such solicitors tend to provide a neutral and more comprehensive perspective. The experience also counts, especially if you are dealing with the government or large organisations. Rich experience in foreign cultures and languages can be a plus.

  1. Be clear about the fees.

Another factor that determines whether a solicitor is right for you or not is how much they charge for their services. Knowing the cost and how to pay beforehand will help you make the right decision. It will also help you determine if you qualify for legal aid or not.

Your solicitor should also inform you of future billings (if any) and how often. Do they charge a fixed fee, for instance, an hourly rate? Or they charge as a percentage from the damages or property sold/purchased? Do they charge you for bank transfer or currency exchange? Do you pay for postage and courier, filing and registry fees, and other miscellaneous fees?

Most importantly, what payment methods are available? Do you get discounts on specific payment methods? Ask these essential questions and have the ensuing discussions before you proceed to work with any solicitor.

  1. Prioritise effective communication.

Always go for solicitors that communicate effectively. The ideal solicitor should be able to argue, mediate, and provide accurate estimations of your chances in court. Be wary of solicitors that offer a fast resolution even when the details of the case aren’t available to them. They are mostly wrong.

Another important red flag is a solicitor who fails to keep their clients in the know. With several communication channels available, a client must always stay informed at every step of the way. You should know how frequent the communications will be and how you can be reached for official approvals before making moves.

Most big firms do not bother about these. Instead, they focus entirely on the final results. Whereas, making a client feel unimportant or lost in their case is a great disservice.

On your part, you must help your solicitor by providing as much information and documentation as you can. It would help if you also offered honest and accurate answers to questions. Lying to your solicitor to save yourself from embarrassment will only hurt the efforts of your solicitor and your chances of winning the case.

  1. Do not decide based on word-of-mouth recommendations.

It is easy to ask friends and family for solicitor or barrister recommendations. However, the fact that their recommendations were successful with their cases is not a guarantee that they are right for your case. There are several deciding factors in cases, including methodology choice and temperament levels.

For instance, some solicitors are aggressive in their approach. While that must have worked for them in previous cases, it may not be ideal for your situation. Likewise, a solicitor who adopts a passive approach may not be suitable for an issue that requires aggressiveness. If you are emotionally invested in your case, you should find a solicitor who is sympathetic enough not to prioritise revenge over logical resolutions.

Set your requirements when searching for a solicitor. Your company, insurance provider, trade union, or any other institution you are affiliated to may recommend or assign a law firm to you. You are not obligated to work with such, especially if you do not trust their competences.

  1. Ask about their personal range of expertise.

The personal range of expertise means how long they have been practising and what kinds of cases they have handled. Some cases are better suited for solicitors with little experience, while others require the veterans. However, it is important to note that having several years of experience doesn’t necessarily translate to better competence.

For simple cases, you should prioritise their level of communication and commitment to work instead. But if you have more complicated issues, the experience will then count. As mentioned earlier, solicitors are generalists. But even at that, they have areas they find more comfortable working in. Sole practitioners tend to have more time to spare and will most likely give your case the full attention it deserves.

You can also go a step further by finding out about their typical clients. Yes, you will not get specific details, due to the lawyer-client privileges. But you can know if your potential solicitors have worked with more individuals than companies or vice versa. The approach of solicitors who have worked with several wealthier clients are somewhat expensive, and may not match what is needed to fight for the interest of individuals who are not rich.

  1. You should check their online reviews.

Contrary to the popular view, online reviews are a reliable means of assessing the competency and track record of a solicitor. Platforms like Review Solicitors, Glass Door, and Law Society contains reviews of law firms you can use in determining if your potential law firm is reliable.

The great thing about online reviews is that they are intentional. Online reviewers are usually enthusiastic about their experience. So, when a reviewer drops a positive review about a law firm, it is because they were impressed. Otherwise, they would not hesitate to drop a negative review.

While at it, do not expect to see a perfect review list for any law firm. No matter how good or perfect a firm can be, there will always be one or two disgruntled customers who have one thing or the other to complain about. But when these negative reviews are up to five or more, you should be concerned.

You can also use online resources to search for the right solicitor in the North East of the UK quickly. All you have to do is check through the list and decide based on your instinct and conviction. If possible, you can call and arrange meetings with a few law firms. This will help you assess them and see if they are right for the job.

  1. Ask about their approach to resolving a legal issue.

As mentioned above, two different solicitors will most likely approach the same case in different ways. For example, you may prefer an aggressive attorney for your divorce case. But you must be sure that the temperament is not going to give the solicitor of the other party an undue advantage.

If you are seeking out-of-court resolutions in a divorce case, you are better off with an attorney that can state the facts without setting either party off. The opposite is what you need for cases of compensation of claims – only a dogged spirit will get you what you want in that regard.

So, talk to your potential solicitor about their case philosophy. This way, you can see if they are fit to represent you in your legal issue.

  1. Inquire about their operational technology.

Is your solicitor familiar with different technological aids that may increase their (and your) chances of success? This is beyond the usual social media and internet presence or working with regular communication devices. By technological aids, we mean, how do they retrieve and preserve evidence? Do they use cloud-based services, file and document management, and other data management services?

For instance, an attorney who wants to handle your accident compensation claims must be familiar with the automobiles and machinery industry, as well as cameras and video recording. If your case is not evidence-based, the document handling system a solicitor adopts will determine if they can keep and show your files as and when due.

In cases where you are new to technology, you can ask specific questions about the needed technology and how your solicitor can help you acquire them.

Finally, you can only choose the right solicitor and set the right expectations if you understand what you want. Good luck!

 

divorce uk marriage law

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A lawyer gets married to a lawyer. Once they divorce, one of them gets half the assets plus £400,000 extra for no longer being a lawyer.

More seriously: There was a recent example in case law judged by Mr Justice Philip sMoor, in which a couple met at a firm. She was an in-house lawyer by the time they were engaged, and was considered to have ‘a good chance’ of eventually becoming a partner at the law firm. The husband did not wish for her to remain at the firm when they married, and she accepted this outcome.

They first met in September 1999, when he was an associate solicitor and she was a trainee. She became an associate in March 2001, and their relationship initiated by 2002, and soon after the husband was made an equity partner. She was promoted to managing associate in 2006, and moved away from the office to work at a bank as an in-house lawyer in 2007. They married in 2008.

Since then they had been married for a decade with two children.

Justice Moor stated that while it was “unusual to find significant relationship generated disadvantage that may lead to a claim for compensation,” but this was such a case in which “the wife gave up her legal career, with the support of the husband.”

He added “He was somewhat ungallant as to the wife’s abilities, telling me that he did not think she was an exceptional candidate despite her two exceptional grades in her 2006 and 2007 appraisals. He has clearly convinced himself that her frailties mean she would never have been made a partner at the firm.”

The wife agreed that “compromises had to be made” when they got married, and she agreed to “put her career to one side for the children”. She considered herself “incredibly driven” and “it was very difficult for her to leave the firm”, not wanting to give up “her financial security or the ‘badge of honour’” she noted in the evidence that the husband “did not make her give up her career” – it was all by her own volition.

I am satisfied that, by the time the decision was taken to leave, she had formulated her plan which involved both marriage and, hopefully, children. She viewed herself as the parent who would take primary responsibility for the children. The husband’s career took precedence,” Justice Moore said in the judgement.

Mr. Justice Moor noted that this should not be a case that opens the way for other relationship-generated disadvantage claims.

He said: “I have already made the point that, in many of these cases, the assets will be such that any loss is already covered by the applicant’s sharing claim. In other cases, the assets/income will be insufficient to justify such a claim in the first place. It follows that litigants should think long and hard before launching a claim for relationship-generated disadvantage and they should not take this judgment as any sort of “green light” to do so unless the circumstances are truly exceptional.”

 

The Concept of Redress in UK Law

The obvious answer to the question in the title is: No, of course not.

When during a marriage one partner must take a step back to put family ahead of ambition and earning power, this is usually reflected in the division of assets and maintenance. While one may find material success in their career, the less tangible support offered by the other partner in emotional and mental needs should not be discounted either. Would the breadwinner have gone so far if they did not have their family to allow them to set down their burdens and/or prevent burnout? Taking care of children and one’s home used to be a full-time activity and being a mother remains a career in itself worthy of respect.

The concept of redress is to give compensation or payment for a wrong that has been done. Not usually is marriage considered a ‘wrong’ done to somebody. Relationship-generated disadvantage is already often compensated for, and any additional claims are usually awarded only for sake of child maintenance or when the relationship has things involved that are more abusive or criminal in nature.

Where compensation does look similar comes from the nature of damages awarded in personal injuries – the claims cover not just hospital bills and suffering, but also wages lost and potential future earning potential in the case of permanent personal injuries.

Thus, in a way, the answer is also somewhat… yes? If you get married and get a divorce, it is inevitable of course that you have to sacrifice something. You’re supposed to both be putting something into the marriage as equal partners and not everything can be so easily given a monetary value.

In this particular instance, the woman gave up a particularly lucrative career, earning £100,000 a year before she left. Many eligible men now also fear marriage as something that will hack away half their net worth when they get divorced. However, being taken to the cleaners by a gold-digger is nothing new either. It is symptomatic of a relationship of un-equals.

For every high-flying international billionaire like say, Elon Musk, there’s also a similar sanity check Bill and Melinda Gates. Treating marriage as a potentially adversarial partnership will make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

Relationship Disadvantage in Median Households

The case, as Justice Moor stated, should not open the floodgates to other similar claims. Most median households would not apply. This is not so much a ‘rich people exemption’ but that the potential earning power of both partners in the marriage would be close enough that it would not matter.

Only matrimonial assets can be divided as part of financial remedy proceedings. After a divorce with children, one of the spouse will be made to continue maintenance payments for their children.

It’s not only financial adversity that affects couples in divorce, but when involving children it’s not just the welfare of children that should be considered but also parental separation and adult psychological distress. The one with the children needs additional upkeep in order to raise their children, but additionally paying maintenance continues to give the other parent rights to equitably access their children and play a substantial role in their lives.

 

No Weight Given to Pre-Nuptial Agreement

Now, when one thinks of preserving one’s assets in marriage, one usually thinks of pre-nuptial agreements. Some might think that the division of assets and spousal maintenance after a divorce is biased towards the woman. They would be wrong.

It is biased against big money. Relationship-generated disadvantage can be most clearly seen with prenuptial agreements that treat marriage and time spent together as little more than a contract-based relationship.

Let’s take the example of Morgan McConnell, the great-granddaughter of the founder of Avon Products, and Anil Ipekci, whom she met when he worked as a concierge at Le Parker Meridien in New York. They first met in 2003 and began co-habiting in January of 2005. They decided to marry.

A pre-nuptial agreement was drafted by McConnel’s private lawyer and another lawyer was found in order to give Ipekci independent legal advice. It just so happened that this lawyer was the solicitor that acted for McConnel in her divorce for her first husband. He first met the lawyer on the 3rd of November 2005, and by then the marriage had already been fixed to commence on 26th of the same month of 2005.

The draft had surprising qualities, which as Mr Justice Mostyn noted:

“The husband must have been very surprised by what it contained. First and foremost, it provided that the agreement was deemed to have been made under the laws of the State of New York and that its validity and effect and construction should be determined in accordance with those laws regardless of where either party resided or was domiciled at the time of death or divorce or separation. Second, it provided that the parties wished any proceedings relating to the marriage to be determined in accordance with the laws of the State of New York and that they submitted to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of that State.”

Among the provisions given to Ipekci (in event of marriage lasting at least three years and with two children) was that any increase in the value of three properties in the name of the wife that were sited within Barnes, Hanwell, and New York, would be divided equally between the parties on divorce. The husband would not be entitled to claim any alimony or any other money from the wife. In the agreement the three properties were attributed with the value of $1.6 million or at present £1.24 million.

The husband was counseled that the agreement was slanted heavily in favour of the wife. Nonetheless, he signed it on 11 November 2005 and the parties were properly married 15 days later.

Now what actually happened was that the proceeds of the three properties were folded into their existing family home in Barnes, which had a net value of £1.074 million. There being no increase in value for both parties to share, under the agreement the husband would receive nothing at all.

Mr Justice Mostyn held that it would be wholly unfair to hold the husband to the agreement he signed for several reasons:

  • The contract specifically stated that the agreement would be governed by New York law. Astoundingly, the agreement was not accompanied by a certificate that it conformed with the local law it attested, and thus the agreement in New York would have “minimal weight, if any” citing a previous case in the New York Appeal Court that a document “would carry no legal force except for the minor impact of its historical voice”.
  • It would therefore be unjustifiable to attribute weight to the agreement when under the law that both parties signed it under it would not be granted any weight,
  • While it could not be said that the husband was afforded a full appreciation of the legal implications of the document, and it was not proven satisfactory that the solicitor who gave the advice was not compromised. The situation showed apparent bias.
  • The agreement didn’t serve any needs of the husband,
  • Thus Justice Mostyn attributed no weight to the pre-nuptial agreement.

Since all of the assets in the case either were or had their origin in non-matrimonial property, the claim was decided solely by reference to the principle of needs.

Mr Justice Mostyn said:

“The following are relevant considerations in determining the reasonable needs of the husband:

  1. i) This was a 12-year cohabitative relationship.
  2. ii) As a result of the way that the parties organised their married life the husband has made no provision for himself from his earnings either by way of savings or pension.iii) The standard of living, whilst not by any means a determinative factor, is relevant and was in this case reasonably high.
  3. iv) It is in the interests of the two children of the marriage that their father has a reasonable home in which they can stay with him comfortably and that they do not perceive him as being in some way the poor relation.
  4. v) The husband will not be making any contribution to the maintenance of the children or to their school fees – they will be supported entirely by the wife save in respect of those incidental expenses met by the husband during the time that the children spend with him.vi) In respect of the sum allowed for the husband’s housing it is not necessary for all of it to be provided to him outright. There was agreement at the Bar that it would be reasonable for half of the housing sum awarded to be charged back in favour of the wife (or her estate) on the death of the husband.”

He awarded the husband a lump sum of £1,333,500 of which £375,000 was subject to a charge-back.

The English court is not bound to make an order in the same terms as a prenuptial agreement. While it could make a good defense against financial claims, at certain necessary times the court may make orders different to them.

Pre-nuptial agreements can be reviewed, they are not set in stone. A rational marriage can decide for itself if people should be held to the terms of a historic agreement and avoid costly litigation.

Or in summary, if big money wants to play silly buggers with contract law the courts will have none of that mischief and works with what is most realistic.

 

Money and Property after a Marriage Ends

The court in the UK will general divide things in half, but that is merely the starting point. Matrimonial assets refer to money and properties that were gained during the course of the marriage, which may include

  • Family home
  • Other real estate
  • Pensions
  • Savings
  • Vehicles
  • Furniture & appliances
  • Stocks, bonds and mutual funds
  • Businesses

The court aims to divide assets in a fair and equal manner, but this doesn’t mean a mathematically equal measure. The court will seek to provide for

  1. The relative needs of each party – the spouse with the weaker economic situation may be given more as part of the settlement, such as the home, etc., unlike the spouse who can afford multiple properties.
  2. Child custody – the spouse who is responsible for primarily caring for the children would need to be awarded more to secure their welfare.
  3. Compensation for future earnings – the spouse who sacrificed their career in order to care for their family and children may be awarded more in capital in order to get back on their feet and prepare to rejoin the workforce.

Also do note that it’s not just assets that can be distributed, but also debts. Everything accrued during the marriage period may be split during the decision. This may include mortgages, credit cards, loans, and other commitments.

It is not easy to quantify the worth of being a good mother or father, but such a thing has a far greater influence than merely the number of properties or figures in the bank account. The UK courts recognize the value of the physical, emotional, and psychological support provided by the non-working party in a relationship.

For divorce lawyers try Hadaway & Hadway Solicitors

redundant business woman

Enhanced Redundancy Protections 2020

Will you be removed from your job for redundancy in 2020? It’s an ever-more pressing fear in the looming environment of economic uncertainty, but as an employee you too have rights and options. There are some new legislation coming that may help to address some of these issues.

Defining Redundancy

Before you can appraise if you have a valid reason to claim or contest redundancy, first we must define what redundancy is. According to the Employment Rights Act 1996, an employee has been dismissed for redundancy if the reason is that:

  • the employer ceases to carry on the business in which the employee was employed;
  • the employer ceases to carry on that business in the place where the employee was employed;
  • the needs of the business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind cease or diminish; or
  • the needs of the business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind in the place where the employee was employed cease or diminish.

Note how this means a need for the same amount workers to do a particular job has diminished, not that the need to perform a job has diminished. If a task can be done with fewer employees, or if a company must move or restructure, then that is a valid case for redundancy. If there simply is less incoming work for employees to do, that is not redundancy. If you are doing a job and then they get someone new to fill that job, that is not redundancy! Redundancy happens when the job you are supposed to be doing no longer exists.

It is illegal in the UK to use redundancy as a reason for a dismissal when there no legitimate issues with employee performance.

Redundancy is often used as a convenient excuse for firing employees for reasons less sensitive to voice. It may be a matter of job performance, friction in the workplace, business income failing to support the number of employees, or some form of discrimination. If you get a notice that you may be let go for reasons of redundancy, it may be prudent to look behind that for the real reason.

There are upcoming laws in 2020 that make the excuse of redundancy easier to challenge. It is also sometimes advantageous for an employee to claim redundancy, since there are enhanced redundancy pay arrangements for long-serving employees. Get all that you are entitled to in a dismissal.

 

woring beyond Retirement Age

Working Beyond Retirement Age

The UK does not have a default retirement age anymore, and employers may no longer force employees to retire. Now, a company may have its own retirement cut-off age policy, but all dismissals must come from a justifiable basis instead of simply entitled discrimination, age-related or otherwise.

In a recent judgment of Ewart v The Chancellor, Master and Scholars of the University of Oxford, the Employer Justified Retirement Age policy was meant to provide a proportionate means of creating opportunities of employment for younger and more diverse staff. However, the statistical evidence provided by the claimant proved that the policy only created a small number of vacancies. It was decided by the tribunal that the University did not show sufficiently that the policy contributed to the achievement of its legitimate aims to an extent that it can justify the discriminatory effect.

State pension age in the UK is increasing, and age discrimination is something that concerns many employees who are at approaching an age where finding a new job is quite unlikely if dismissed.

 

Maternity Leave

Pregnancy and Maternity Leave Protection

Many employers don’t like paying out for maternity leave because it is a long period of time of reduced productivity, and there is an urgent need to find someone else to perform the job that the pregnant employee must leave behind. Then once the new normal has settled in, is there a need anymore for the previous employee? This is why women need stronger maternity protections as the mere mention of ‘pregnancy’ sends alarm bells ringing for employers.

According to a government report, one in nine women had been fired or made redundant when returning to work after having a child, or were forced out from unfair treatment. Research estimated that up to 54,000 women a year felt they had to leave their jobs due to maternity discrimination.

Maternity discrimination is of course illegal, and those on maternity leave have special protections in a redundancy situation. Under the Good Work Plan of 2020, there will be expanded redundancy protections – six months after return to work, and up to two years in total for the maternity period.

According to Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999, if your job is at risk of redundancy but you need to be present for interviews – if for health reasons you cannot be present, you do not have to attend interviews. Regulation 10 says that you should be given first refusal over suitable alternative jobs that are not substantially less favorable than your original job, over other employees being made redundant.

Sefton Borough Council v Wainwright EAT 2014 notes that a woman on maternity leave should be considered alongside other employees when assigning employees into other posts.

Men also have protections under Shared Parental Leave in the first year after birth or adoption to be immediately offered suitable alternative employment.

Dismissal Comes before Redundancy Trial Periods

The case of East London NHS Foundation Trust v O’Connor has Mr. O’Connor working as a Psycho-Social Intervention (PSI) worker for an NHS trust. In March 2017 he was informed that the role was being deleted under restructuring on 3rd of July 2017 and he was offered an alternative role of Care Co-ordinator. He began a trial of the role on that date.

O’Connor raised a grievance that the role was not a suitable alternative and the trust agreed to extend the trial period until this was resolved. In Nov 2017 his appeal was rejected and he declined the offer of the Care Coordinator role again. He was dismissed on Dec 2017, and the trust refused to make statutory redundancy payments on the grounds that it believed that the alternative employment had been unreasonably refused.

A tribunal decided that O’Connor had not actually been dismissed until December, and as such the trial period was not in actuality a statutory trial period.

If you are given notice that your role is being deleted, there is no rule of law that the notice of deletion was inevitably amount to a dismissal. Employment solicitors have noted that an employer must also carefully follow procedures in removing employees for redundancy instead of assuming things.

What if the Whole Company Goes Bust?

How will you get redundancy payments when your employer or company turned insolvent and now completely unable to pay your wages? Then you can claim it from the Redundancy Payments Office and the National Insurance Fund.

The Redundancy Payments Service was started to allow employees to receive their Statutory Redundancy Pay in a much more timely manner than having to wait for their employer’s assets to be liquidated.

You may claim your:

  • redundancy pay
  • holiday pay
  • unpaid wages/overtime
  • statutory notice pay

You may apply online at https://www.gov.uk/claim-redundancy.