What's on your mind?
If you’re just browsing or aren’t too sure where your concern fits, the prompts below may help. We haven’t covered every eventuality, but we hope that one of the issues will take you to the advice you need. If not, please do give us a call.
Family matters: relationships, disputes and dependents
Traditional models of family life are in a serious state of flux: marriage remains popular – but so do separation and divorce. Civil partnerships bestow broadly similar rights to marriage, but co-habiting couples are often surprised to find that even a lengthy relationship doesn’t automatically confer those rights.
The law offers protection, whatever lifetime commitment you’re making. And, whilst not romantic, prenuptial (and pre-partnership) agreements are increasingly popular and very useful.
The primary concern of most families that break up is the welfare of any children. At a time of highly charged emotions, objective, informed guidance will help protect the child’s best interests and help you reach agreement on contact, residency and maintenance issues.
Protecting your wealth and personal assets – tax efficiently
There are numerous ways to protect your wealth and assets for the benefit of the next generation.
Estate planning is all about what you hope to achieve. Holding property as tenants in common rather than joint tenants, discretionary trusts, gift and loan schemes are just some of the tools available to minimise inheritance tax liability.
You might also want to consider passing some or all of your estate to your grandchildren, whether directly or in trust for their future.
Looking after someone else’s affairs
When you’re enjoying life it’s easy to forget about the devastating effect that losing the capacity to take decisions or manage your own affairs can have.
Considering an appropriate power of attorney to allow your financial affairs or healthcare to be looked after in accordance with your wishes, is a sensible step you can take at any stage in life.
If you were to lose the ability to make decisions for yourself without having an appropriate power of attorney in place, then it might be necessary to make an application to the Court of Protection for someone to be appointed to act on your behalf.
Buying or selling your home
Buying or selling a home is one of the most stressful experiences in adult life. You can’t control everyone in the process and you may feel that some elements are out of your hands but you can control which solicitor you use to guide you.
Property accounts for a large part of most people’s wealth, but before completing on any transaction, think carefully about how you do it, the status of ownership and the consequences.
Parents are increasingly helping their children to fund homes of their own, but what’s the best way? An outright gift could work for wealthier parents whose estates face a significant inheritance tax charge, but if you’re contemplating funding your own care in later years, some form of loan could be a better alternative and provide more security.
Engaging with your employees
Organisations don’t succeed by standing still. Whatever transition you’re facing it is likely to impact on your employees so engaging them from the start is crucial.
We work with you to make sure you get the balance just right between properly protecting your business, and clearly (and lawfully) expressing your policies, contractual commitments and reward structures.
However hard you try, things can sometimes go wrong. Workplace disputes take up enormous amounts of time – time that you could usefully spend on more positive forms of employee engagement so it makes sense to minimise the likelihood of them occurring.
As an employee you may want support in negotiating a fair deal or to ensure your rights are protected when your employment contract ends. We can help you review contracts and advise on the smart decision to take.
Preserving client relationships
Winning new business may make the headlines but a healthy client base relies on your ability to retain existing custom and encourage repeat business. You invest significant time and energy in building these relationships so it’s important to document roles and responsibilities for clarity and transparency.
We help you engage with your customers on terms that truly reflect your product or service and clearly scope the extent of the service you provide.
Online trading offers scope for even greater interaction with your target audience but there are inherent risks to transacting business on the internet, including the hazards of storing and sharing data.
Getting value from your suppliers
The process of purchasing from suppliers is vital to the success of your business but opportunities to press for additional value can often be overlooked.
It makes sense to have a spread of suppliers rather than being overly reliant on one or two, however this can make your supplier management process complicated. In many organisations the procurement process is spread out across a number of departments so the true cost to your business can be obscured, and opportunities to re-negotiate may be missed.
Managing growth and change
If you decide that your business priority is growth, you need to plan carefully. Growth has its risks, but the right strategy can deliver stability, security and long-term profits.
Growing your business organically may be a long-term strategy but it will also reap rewards. In this case the key consideration will be how to build your market share. This may be through product or service development, strategic partnership or an increase in sales.
Whichever option you choose you’ll need guidance in protecting your interests as you go. You may also need to consider additional financing to fund the growth or invest in people, new technology or premises.
And, it’s important to remain afloat while you’re concentrating on growing – cashflow becomes even more important so make sure you recover debts efficiently.
A quicker way to expand your business might be to make a strategic acquisition or merge with another business.
Safeguarding your intellectual property
Intellectual Property can include the name of your business, the products or services you make or provide, a brand, or any other kind of written or artistic creation.
Your IP is likely to be a valuable asset. Securing and protecting it could be essential to your business' future success, so it's vital to understand your rights and how the law can help you.
It’s equally important to avoid infringing the rights of other businesses. And, whichever side of an infringement you’re on, if you’re involved in an IP dispute, you need to take action swiftly.
Coping with regulation and compliance
There are many considerations that will help you manage your exposure to risk, the most basic of which is to ensure you comply with the various governance and regulatory obligations you have. Amongst other things you’ll need to consider how you comply with your duties as a director, as your obligations as an employer and your responsibilities as a business owner.
The Bribery Act 2010 is a new piece of legislation that has significant implications for businesses, whatever their size and serious connotations for individual employees and directors.
Planning for the future: managing succession and exit
Whether you see your business as the culmination of a lifetime’s work, a legacy for your family or an entrepreneurial exercise created with the sole aim of an eventual business sale, you’ll need to consider carefully what the future holds.
Even if you’re not planning to sell for a while, you should ensure all arrangements are in place and that you’re business is in tip top condition to make the sale process an effortless one.
Pre sale considerations include ensuring your company books and records are in good order. Potential buyers will look at cash flow, so it’s good practice to make sure you’re billing and collecting money promptly.
Buyers will also assess the strength of the people remaining at your company – having a strong and loyal workforce with compliant employment contracts in place will prove attractive.
And, if you’re an owner manager you should consider your personal liabilities too. Once you sell your business you could be realising wealth generated from a lifetime’s work. Planning for how to manage and invest that is essential.
Preparing for the unforeseen?
Your business reputation could be at risk if you fail to cope effectively in the event of a crisis.
It’s a good idea to have a coping strategy in place for any eventuality – you’ve got to review every operation from how you store documents and data, to the security of your assets and the impact of your business on the outside world as well as assessing the contingency arrangements of your suppliers.
For instance, addressing the issue of fraud can seem like an unnecessary drain but when your business’ reputation and potentially crippling losses are at stake can you afford to ignore it? In planning to protect your business from fraud you’ll need to consider protective covenants so that when people leave your valuable information is safe.
If your business gets into financial difficulty you may need to swift take action to implement measures that will help you avoid insolvency.
Property strategy: making sure your property portfolio is fit for purpose
A clear property strategy is an essential part of your business plan. Your premises should help you operate effectively without incurring excessive costs. So, in choosing the right approach for you - you’ll need to balance your requirements for long term stability with the need for flexibility as your business grows.
If your property portfolio is fit for purpose, you control costs and enhance profitability.
Many of our commercial property clients manage several sites, each with different leasing or property ownership or investment arrangements, so things can get quite complex. It’s no surprise then that disputes regularly occur, and you may need guidance in arguing your case.
We act on both sides of property litigation acting for both corporate occupiers (tenants) and landlords, banks, construction companies and developers.
Outsourcing: turning a fixed cost into a variable one
The potential to outsource elements of your business may at first seem like a cost-saving option but before you embark on any project to save on overheads and resource make sure you look at the detail and consider the longer term effects.
The key to successful outsourcing is the seamless operation of two organisations both from an internal perspective and for your customers. You’ll need to set out the responsibilities and obligations of your supplier and those that remain with you.
We advise clients on both sides of the outsourcing process so we’re well placed to help you scope your plans and manage the relationship.
New routes to market: new technologies, distribution arrangements
Effective collaboration and partnering can help you develop new offerings, access new markets or present comprehensive service solutions to your customers.
If you sell through a network of third parties with specialist sector knowledge or extended geographical spread, consider which route to market meets your objectives.
New technologies provide more scope for greater efficiency-savings – as well as providing new ways to communicate with larger groups of people and targeted audiences. Your website, for instance, can be used to market and sell online to customers, identify and monitor behaviours and to provide after-sales support. It can also play an important role in strengthening client relationships and improving the efficiency of your dealings with suppliers.
Resolving disputes: save money and management time
Our mission is to find ways of working with you to avoid costly, disruptive and damaging disputes.
It’s another example of how we have redesigned our firm to address the needs of our clients. Ideally, your susceptibility to disputes will already be minimised through your carefully prepared contracts and compliant processes. But you can’t pre-empt every hitch, and you may at some point need the assistance of litigators to act on your behalf. We’ll explore every aspect of your case and investigate the best route to resolving your dispute, including alternative dispute options such as arbitration or mediation.
Our practice is broad and we have specialist litigators that can represent you in resolving breaches of contract, IP disputes, employment issues, defending liability claims and property litigation as well as significant expertise in managing disputes in our key industry sectors.