Monday, 29 April 2013

Stress is still lawyers’ biggest concern

lawyers stessFrom Legal Futures 19/04/13:

Three-quarters of lawyers in the UK and Ireland report being more stressed than they were five years ago but two-thirds are reluctant to report their concerns to employers, a survey has found.

However, while seven out of ten said their work environment was stressful, almost half also described their workplace as friendly.

I would be interested to know what proportion of responders worked in law firms versus in house.  Very interested indeed.

Results from the latest survey by LawCare – the independent charity which helps lawyers with problems such as stress, depression and alcohol misuse [all lawyers, then] – which consulted around 1,000 lawyers of all stripes across the UK and Ireland, mirror the preliminary findings reported by Legal Futures last August.

More than 57% of those who responded were English and Welsh solicitors. Almost 15% were solicitors in Scotland and more than 11% were Irish barristers.

No, “there was an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman” jokes please. Ahem.

Being overloaded with work (60%), poor management – including lack of appreciation (53%) [diddums]– and feeling isolated and/or unsupported (53%) topped the list of causes of stress, although many respondents skipped this question.

Erm – where’s “unreasonable and unrealistic clients” on that list? And why isn’t the “work overload” figure higher?


Long hours (41%), poor pay (30%) and having unattainable targets (30%) were also cited, along with lack of job security, being asked to do work beyond their expertise and being bullied.

And just in case you hadn’t had your daily dose of the bleeding obvious, here’s a corker of an observation.

Hilary Tilby, LawCare’s chief executive, said […] “Lawyers are, as a rule, high achievers who have high expectations of themselves. They do, therefore, have to be careful that they do not become stressed as a result of trying to live up to those expectations.

Thanks, Hilary. ;-)

Surely the bigger concern is why so many lawyers are suffering with stress in the first place and why more isn’t being done at an earlier stage to combat it (i.e. the LPC or professional skills course)?  Thank goodness I managed to avoid using the phrase “grass roots level” there.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Parliamentary Privilege: Frivolous Personal Injury Claims

parliamentary injury claimsFrivolous? Well, how else would you describe someone filing a claim for tripping over their umbrella, ripping their crotch bending over to plug in a computer or getting their glasses bent when they failed to open a door before trying to walk through it.

Ah yes – stupid. That’s the word I was looking for. ;-)

From the Telegraph 22/04/13:

The House of Commons paid £95 to an employee who tripped on an umbrella and £90 to another who ripped their trousers as part of more than £40,000 handed out in compensation over five years.

Between January 2008 and January 2013 employees have received a total of £44,609.49 in compensation, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

"Personal injury compensation" for "slips, trips and falls" accounts for £42,550 and the rest relates to property damage.

You’ve gotta watch out for those slips and trips. Personally, I’d remove all stairs, cushion all doors and install high grip flooring throughout parliamentary premises. MPs have a proven track record of having difficulty with anything which doesn’t involve being chauffeured around whilst sat on their fat behinds.

This property damage includes £435.50 for five "ripped suit jackets" and £688.80 for an incident in March 2012 when a "security road blocker rose up under the rear of a car while waiting for the preceding vehicle to exit through gates".

Crikey. Let’s just be thankful that a skirt-wearing female wasn’t stood over that bollard before it rose to the occasion. A damaged [car] undercarriage seems a small price to pay by comparison.

An employee who incurred "damage to glasses due to a problem with door" was awarded £240 and £90 as handed out for "trousers ripped whilst connecting IT equipment under the table".

I sincerely hope the problem with the door wasn’t the person failing to open it before trying to walk through. More to the point, how much does a tailor charge to sew up a crotch? Actually, when you put it that way, £90 sounds quite reasonable.

Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance said: "It is deeply depressing that the compensation culture has even found its way into the House of Commons.

"It's frankly ludicrous that taxpayers are footing the bill for when someone snags their clothing in Parliament.

Now, hold hard, Matthew. A ripped crotch is a ripped crotch and someone’s got to foot the bill. If I was the employee who’d trousers had split when plugging in a computer, I would have tried to bring an action against the House of Commons for the negligence of their canteen staff serving such highly calorific food.

A spokesperson added: "The House of Commons, like the Civil Service, self-insures for employers' and public liability.

The exemption from holding employers' liability insurance comes from the Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Dealing with Cold Callers

cold call tacticsI’m not at all sure that many businesses could give a flying frick about the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (oh, those catchy names just roll off the tongue so easily don’t they)? And registering your number on TPS – you might as well not bother, for all the good it’ll do.

The upshot means we’re all stuck with one of those scourges of modern life - cold calls.

From the Telegraph 02/04/13:

Here are five of my favourite countermeasures, tried and tested against a variety of cold-callers, from double-glazing salesmen to people conducting lifestyle surveys from a call centre in Mumbai:

1. Be even friendlier than the cold-caller. This counter-intuitive ploy wrong foots the caller and enables you to occupy the moral high ground. Greet them effusively, say how nice it is to get their call, ask where they are calling from, what sort of day they have had, etc. Then, when you have softened them up, change tack. “Listen, mate, I hope you are not trying to sell me something, are you? Don’t you hate those creeps who try to flog you something over the telephone?!” It is extraordinary how quickly they beat a retreat.

Hmm – interesting, but this requires having a conversation with one of those fetid imbeciles which is usually just too painful to bear.

2. Ask cold-callers for their home number. I have tried this several times and the results have been gratifying.

Tee hee. Good one.

3. [Challenge their use of a the word “courtesy” when receiving a ‘courtesy call’.] Rather than just ranting at this travesty of the English language, I ask them what exactly they understand by the word “courtesy” – and whether they regard getting someone out of the bath to discuss mobile phone charges as exemplifying the quality.

Ooh – good thinking. I remember a moron cold caller tried opening a conversation with me once by saying “it’s just a quick call” to which I said, “it’s going to be a very quick call” and put the phone down. I’m still rather proud of that one.

4. Refer them to non-existent legislation that they may be breaking. Crude, but effective. Nothing disconcerts a cold-caller more than an authoritative voice warning them that they are in breach of section 117 of the Telecommunications (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2007.

Haha… love it.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Good Deed Feed

bus injury claimI generally take a butchers at the good deed feed in the Metro at some point on the train each morning during my commute to work. (It’s funny how a journey never gets any less painful the more times you do it.)

Well, this morning, I saw a good deed unfold in right under my nose.  That’s pretty rare these days.

Walking past the bus station on my plod into the office, I had to wait at the crossing while a couple of coaches pulled out onto the main road. Seconds later, I was amused to see a girl with a small suitcase dart across the pavement in front of me and into the road where a National Express coach was held up at a red light.  She ran to the coach door and began tapping earnestly at it, waving her ticket at the driver.

Evidently, she had missed the coach by mere seconds and was desperate to get on – something vaguely akin to Keanu Reeves’ antics in the film Speed.  OK – that’s a slight exaggeration.

The coach driver was having none of it, though.  Letting passengers on and off of buses away from designated stops seems to be a big no-no these days. Apparently their liability insurance won’t cover them when their drivers irresponsibly let passengers jump out on the road only to suffer immediate injuries (or worse!) seconds later when they get squished by another vehicle. Funny that. Claims for injuries caused by accidents on the road seem to be fairly prevalent, I gather. Ahem.

This driver, however, was strangely charitable – as well as being safety-conscious. After gesticulating wildly back at her (which resulted in her peering bewilderedly back at him, mouth open and brow furrowed), the lights turned green and the driver then pulled back into the station to pick her up.

“What a kind-hearted chap”, I thought, before noting rather more cynically that the girl’s short skirt and shapely figure probably didn’t work against her in this instance. ;-)

I wonder if she submitted her experience to the Metro’s good deed feed.  I’ll have to check in the morning.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Does the UK suffer from a compensation culture?

Guest Post

Car AccidentHailed by many as a direct response to a growing compensation culture in the UK, the Jackson reforms introduced on the 1 of April brought in a number of new pieces of legislation intended to prevent Britain from becoming a “claim happy” nation. In some quarters it has been suggested that the reforms come too late or don’t go far enough to protect those unfortunate people who are targeted by “unmeritorious claims”, while figures such as Lord Dyson, the Master of the Rolls, have suggested that compensation culture is in fact a myth propagated by the media.

What all concerned are keen to point out, however, is that these changes within the legal system are not intended to clamp down on genuine claims made by those badly affected by an accident. Personal injuries can be serious issues and those organisations built around helping claimants to push their cases through the small claims courts are wrong to be universally labelled as ambulance chasers. As specialists in road traffic accidents (RTAs), Winn Solicitors come across one of the most stigmatised of them all – the whiplash claim. But what is interesting to note, is that the facts paint a very different picture to the public perception, as was seen when the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers took a closer look at the statistics. Their finding showed that 40% of people suffering from whiplash don’t claim as a result of a whiplash injury, even though one in five people suffering from whiplash suffer from the injury for more than a year. With symptoms varying from migraines and dizziness, to neck pain, blurred vision and even depression, it is important that accident victims have access to the right level of care – whether it be physiotherapy, gym-based rehabilitation or acupuncture. And they shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about being compensated for the cost of any necessary treatments.

Another important distinction to be made between the road traffic accidents dealt with by Winn Solicitors is that an accident on the road more often than not incurs a significant cost. Aside from your home, your car is probably the most expensive purchase you’ll make, so being shunted from behind can have implications for both your insurance premiums, excesses and no claims discounts, while the inability to commute can cause significant financial problems.

In short, the cost of a road traffic accident is a hit to the pocket and the dangers of using heavy and high-powered motor vehicles are part of the reason why all motorists must insure their cars by law in the UK. This law means that if you find yourself hit by another motorist you are able to recoup the cost of repairs, replacement vehicles, injuries and other associated costs. By calling Winns before your insurers, you can make sure you safeguard your premium, no claims and excess, too.

If you’ve had a crash in the last three years and want to find out if you are eligible to make a legitimate claim, don’t feel that you are part of a culture. Call Winn Solicitors or click here and we’ll assess your case and help you to claim full and fair compensation for your non-fault accident.

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Monday, 15 April 2013

Managing digital assets after death

digital assets willFrom the Telegraph 12/04/13:

Google has launched a new service to help its users make an online will that dictates what happens to their data after they die - either permanently deleting it, or passing it on to loved ones as a digital inheritance.

Inactive Account Manager lets users of all Google services choose "trusted contacts" who will have access to their data once their account has laid dormant for three, six or 12 months, depending on their preference.

As a final warning before releasing the data, Google will send an email and text message to the user to make sure that they have passed on, and not merely left their accounts inactive.

Alternatively, users can choose to have their data deleted permanently.

Google product manager Andreas Tuerk said, in a blog post announcing the launch: "We hope that this new feature will enable you to plan your digital afterlife — in a way that protects your privacy and security — and make life easier for your loved ones after you’re gone."

A growing proportion of a person’s assets are in digital or virtual form these days - so much so, wills often have a provision for digital assets now. In fact, I blogged about it only recently.

Just including passwords within a standard will can have obvious drawbacks, ranging from potential security risks if the testator is careless with their copy, right through to problems keeping it up to date if you (sensibly) change your passwords regularly. 

As Google sensibly ask:

What should happen to your photos, emails and documents when you stop using your account? Google puts you in control.

If you’re a user of Google’s services, this one really is a no-brainer.

Still, I like their avoidance of difficult subjects in the blurb on their Inactive Account Manager page.

There are many situations that might prevent you from accessing or using your Google account.

It’s strange that they don’t expressly mention being dead, comatose or left in a persistent vegetative state.

Funny that.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Can I Still Get Family Legal Aid?

Guest Post

legal aid family lawFollowing the introduction of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 there has been a lot of publicity and comment some of which could be misunderstood to indicate that legal aid will no longer be available in family cases from 1 April 2013.

Whilst there have been significant changes to legal aid it still covers certain proceedings.

These are:-

  • Public family law cases regarding the protection of children including care proceedings, pre-proceedings advice.
  • Private family law proceedings such as contact and residence disputes where there is evidence of domestic violence.
  • Private law children cases where there is evidence of child abuse
  • Foreign Child Abduction matters
  • Representation of child parties in private family law cases
  • Legal advice in support of mediation
  • Domestic Violence Injunction
  • Cases for Non Molestation and Occupation Orders
  • Forced Marriage Protection Order cases

It is very important to be aware that divorce, dissolution of civil partnerships, financial and children matters are eligible for legal aid only if the client can produce evidence of domestic violence or child abuse.

If that evidence does not exist or cannot be provided, legal aid will not be available.

The evidence of domestic abuse is complicated and needs to be provided before the legal help can be made available.

Legal aid is only available to the victim of domestic abuse, not the perpetrator and so it will often be the case that only one party can be represented by a Solicitor.

The firm cannot grant legal help, nor apply for a Legal Aid Certificate for private family law services without one of the following:-

  1. the Opponent having a relevant unspent conviction for a domestic violence offence
  2. the Opponent having a relevant police caution for a domestic violence offence given within a twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application for civil legal services.
  3. evidence of relevant criminal proceedings against the Opponent for a domestic violence offence which has not ended.
  4. a relevant protective injunction against the Opponent which is in force or which was granted within a twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application for civil legal services.
  5. an undertaking given in England and Wales under the Family Law Act subject to certain conditions.
  6. a letter from a person appointed to chair a MARAC confirming that the Applicant was referred to the conference as a high risk victim of domestic violence which again, needs to be within a twenty four month period.
  7. a copy of a finding of fact made in proceedings in the United Kingdom again, subject to the twenty four month rule.
  8. a letter or report from a health professional subject to certain conditions.
  9. a letter from a Social Services department in England or Wales or its equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland, again within a twenty four month period with conditions.
  10. a report from domestic violence support organisation, again subject to a twenty four month rule providing certain information.

Alternatively, evidence that children are at risk which needs to be provided in similar circumstances to the above.

As can be seen, there is very strict criteria but it does not mean that legal aid cannot be obtained.

In most circumstances the Applicant will need to obtain the evidence prior to making the appointment with the Solicitor. However, once that evidence has been obtained advice can be provided very quickly.

In addition the rules regarding financial eligibility for legal aid have been tightened up and financial information will need to be available in time for the first appointment.

The message is if you are the victim or potential victim of domestic violence/abuse or your children are at risk of abuse seek legal advice and do not delay.

Stephens Scown, Solicitors in Exeter,, offer personal, business and specialist legal advice.

Parents release poignant message from texting tragedy

From the Huffington Post 11/04/13:

The parents of a university student killed in a car crash as he typed a text have released his final message in a bid to warn other drivers against doing the same.

Text Death

He was responding to a friend’s message and had typed: “Sounds good my man, seeya soon, ill tw” before he crashed.

Heit’s mother Sharon released a statement via the police, which was published in the Greeley Tribune.

“Please, vow to never, NEVER text and drive. In a split second you could ruin your whole future, injure or kill others, and tear a hole in the heart of everyone who loves you.”

The number of people you spot behind the wheel texting or otherwise fiddling with their mobiles is staggering; the phrase ‘an accident waiting to happen’ has never been more apt.

Of course, texting isn’t the only incredibly dangerous thing that people get up to whilst driving – as I blogged about previously.

When you see the truly tragic results that can ensue, is sending that text really that urgent?

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A Guide to Interest Rate Swaps Redress and Compensation

Guest Post

Piggy BankAs the scandal escalates over mis sold interest rate swaps more and more businesses are wondering if they have been mis sold this highly complex hedging product by their banks and if so, are they entitled to redress? Directors of SMEs are looking for a guide to interest rate swaps not so much to understand what they are, but rather how they can reclaim money they shouldn’t have paid.

If you took out a commercial loan on or after 1 December, 2001, you indeed may have purchased some form of hedging product as a condition of the loan. Claiming redress will not be as easy as it should be, primarily because of the complexity of the product, but the place to begin is with a basic understanding of exactly what interest rate swaps (IRSs) are.

A Brief Synopsis of Interest Rate Swaps

Fundamentally, interest rate swaps are sold alongside a loan so that the borrower can be protected against future rises in interest rates. It is a separate financial contract to the underlying loan in which floating rates are swapped for fixed rates. In theory, a floating rate would rise if the current interest rate rises. This would increase the customer’s payment accordingly.

Banks knew that customers don’t want their interest rates to rise so they sold them an interest rate swaps package to ‘protect’ them against rising costs. It is the contention of many customers who purchased these packages that they were unaware of the costs associated with the IRS. The complexity of repayment calculations was far beyond the scope of their understanding and they were certainly unaware of the enormity of exit penalties.

Unfortunately, further confusion rests in the fact that there are more than just simple interest rate swaps which were sold and some customers weren’t advised of the risks they would be taking on. There may have been a better hedging product to suit their needs and banks weren’t forthcoming with that information.

The Financial Service Authority’s Involvement in Interest Rate Swaps

As a result of literally thousands of complaints, the Financial Service Authority (FSA) began to evaluate the situation. As recently as this year, they revised how banks were to review any IRS sold after December 2001 and how to handle those sales that merited financial redress. The FSA appointed independent reviewers who would oversee each bank’s review in order to assure unbiased reviews of any claims.

In order to do this, the FSA had to establish guidelines to go on. The main aspect of interest rate swaps reviews is in determining whether a business customer was sophisticated or unsophisticated. To put it plainly, did a business have the acumen to understand these complex hedging products before being sold the package?

There are several ways in which the FSA sees a business as being unsophisticated such as whether they had fewer than 50 employees, an average of full and part-time workers. As well, the FSA looked at the company’s balance sheet and their annual turnover – but even these have shades of grey since other factors needed to be considered as well.

Complications in Claiming Redress and FSA Revisions to Review Criteria

Banks that agreed to the pilot review in the summer of 2012 (Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC & RBS) began reviews based on the criteria set forth by the FSA. They looked at when the IRS was sold and whether or not the customer was considered sophisticated or unsophisticated. Unfortunately, this opened up a number of appeals which they then had to consider.

For example, a business could be considered unsophisticated according to size and annual turnover but might be savvy enough to have a solid understanding of hedging products. On the other hand, a business with employees numbering over the 50 mark cutoff could have a majority of workers only on the job seasonally.

At the moment, the FSA is taking these things into consideration and as of March 2013, banks will need to make reviews based on these revisions. Then there are also a great number of questions which needed to be addressed such as what to do with interest rate swaps that were mis sold to companies that have been wound up.

It is the finding of the FSA that companies no longer on the register are no longer considered to be entities. Consequently, these companies are not entitled to redress or compensation for any losses incurred due to mis sold interest rate swaps.

In their most recent publication dated 13 March 2013, Interest Rate Swaps Questions, the FSA suggests that there are a number of extenuating circumstances that should be considered under appeal. Any business that feels a review by the bank is incorrect should get legal representation to file an appeal with the court. Micro enterprises (fewer than 10 employees) may file an appeal with the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

PC cops it over curb

police woman personal injury claim

From the Huffington Post 31/03/13:

A petrol station owner who phoned police when he thought he was being burgled is being sued by one of the attending officers because she tripped on a kerb.

Steve Jones called police last August when the alarm protecting his garage forecourt went off around midnight.

PC Kelly Jones, 33, answered the call during which she tripped on a six-inch kerb.

The garage owner told the Mirror: "I thought nothing of it, other than she must have been a bit embarrassed – and I helped her up."

The officer claims she injured her wrist and leg in the fall […] but was able to continue the search of the premises.

PC Jones is now suing him for thousands of pounds for "unnecessary risk of injury" as she was not warned about the kerb and it was insufficiently lit.

Quite right too. Curbs can be hazardous.

In other news, one of Ms Jones’ colleagues is suing the local council, seeking damages for pain and suffering after they stubbed their toe on a step when chasing after a suspect.

After all, if a Tesco delivery driver can go A over T and sue the property owner, why not a copper?