Negligence – If You Thought You Have Had a Bad Day!

NegligenceWhen you think of serious negligence cases, you might consider road traffic accidents, accidents at work or careless professional advice. What would not necessarily come to mind would be someone tripping on his or her shoelaces and causing a spectacular amount of damage.

Nick Flynn, who admitted to having a “Norman Wisdom moment”, managed to bump into three 17th century vases, reducing them to a jumble of broken porcelain. The accident occurred at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The antique vases were from the Qing dynasty, and the largest of the three was 32 inches tall and weighed nearly 100 pounds. With an estimated value of between £200,000 and £300,000, this was a serious incident by anyone’s standards.

Mr Flynn was first banned from the museum and then arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damages. He was later released without charge, having convinced the police that the incident was a genuine accident. Mr Flynn was said to appear unrepentant and perhaps he felt he had gotten off “scot-free”. Although he escaped criminal prosecution, he could still be pursued by the museum in the civil courts for damages.

More Clarity for Assisted Suicide Law

Suicide LawEarlier this year we covered the law surrounding assisted suicide, and at that time we did state that more definite clarity was required for people who wanted their loved ones to accompany them on trips abroad. The Suicide Act 1961 already clearly states that if anyone aids, abets, counsels or procures someone else’s suicide, they could face a term of imprisonment of up to 14 years. Therefore we are all aware of how the law works with regards to this country; however, it was how this Act of Parliament would extend to cover people travelling to the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland that everyone was keen to ascertain.

Following a long and arduous battle with every level of court in our land, Debbie Purdy has finally won her case to have this area of the law far more clearly defined. Quite why the Director of Public Prosecutions (Mr Keir Stamer QC) and other top legal professionals continually insisted on subjecting this woman to such an unnecessary battle will probably never be known, but thank goodness, the latest stage of this case has resulted in the House of Lords ordering Mr Stamer to release the details of his interpretation of this law.

Five Tips to Improve Your Internet Research Skills

Internet Research SkillsConducting research on the Internet can prove to be either a gold mine, rich with nuggets of knowledge and information, or a mine field littered with stretched truths and dead ends. Which of these two you experience depends on how you go about your research, where and how you look for information, and how you organise it when you find it.

Here are five top tips to make your research easier, more accurate and more effective.

1. Know your sources.

It’s easy to find pretty much any information you want on the World Wide Web. The problem is that it’s not always entirely accurate. For this reason it’s good to try and find the same information from multiple sources and, if possible, the original source. You should always ask yourself if the site you are using is the most reliable source of information. Does it cite additional sources? Do the authors write objectively or subjectively? Is it a creditable organisation?

Dealing with Complaints

Dealing with complaintsWhile we all like to think that we meet our clients' needs and that our quality of service is tip-top, there are still occasions when our clients disagree!  In the current climate, clients have become very choosy, and feel more confident to say when they are not happy with something.  So before it gets to the stage where we start to look foolish, lose our clients or they take matters further, here are some helpful tips for dealing with complaints:

1. Let the client have their say.  When someone is angry or upset it is helpful for them to have the opportunity to "let off steam".  It also indicates to the client that you are willing to take the time to listen.

2. Say you are sorry to hear what has happened.  This does not mean you are admitting that you or the firm are in the wrong, but that you are sorry the client thinks this is the case and is upset.  This apology often goes a long way to placating the client and brings them to a less emotional state of mind from which you can discuss the situation on a rational basis.

Where There is a Will, There is a Way

A review of recent problems in relation to wills, succession and inheritance

In recent years a number of concerning trends have developed in the area of wills and probate. In this article we will consider the latest figures on estate planning in England and Wales. We will also look at the impact untrained and unregulated will writers are having on this area of legal practice.

Will and Estate Planning

The people of England and Wales are surprisingly complacent about the importance of making a will. A recent survey revealed that only 41 percent of the adult population have an up-to-date will. In addition, about one-third of people who responded to the survey said they had no intention of ever making a will. Fiona Woolf, former president of the Law Society, neatly summed up the importance of making a will:

Writing a will is one of the most important financial and personal decisions for people to make…. if you care about what happens to your property and assets after you die, you must make a will. Without a will, the State decides who inherits your estate, so your friends, relatives and favourite charities may get nothing.

The Twitter Phenomenon

TwitterEvery year it seems some new technology emerges from the depths of the Internet and spreads through our culture like some great bushfire. The late nineties saw the birth of services such as Geocities, Hotmail, Google and eBay, followed by the noughties and the web 2.0 social networking explosion. Suddenly everyone became a blogger, and switched-on, web-savvy youth became micro-celebrities on MySpace. MySpace has now taken a backseat to the mighty Facebook, where people are able to connect friends and family in a way that had never been done before. Long-awaited reunions are no longer left to chance, because sooner or later lost loves and old school friends can be found and added to your Facebook friends list.

The Right to Remain Silent

The Right to Remain SilentBefore the mid-nineties, when suspects were being questioned by the police in relation to an offence, they had a definite right to remain silent. However, this was changed somewhat with the introduction of s.34 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Although this statutory provision does not usurp this right altogether, it does set out some fundamental criteria that can be relied upon by a magistrate or jury when they may feel that a defendant should have been more cooperative at the time of the police interview. As a consequence, they can then go on to draw adverse inferences from this silence.

We can all probably relate to the police dramas where an arrogant individual is being questioned by the police for a crime of which he or she is accused, and the individual insists on staring into space, chewing gum and casually answering ‘no comment’ to each and every question that is put to them. For years this was a very common barrier, one that the police encountered on a regular basis. It was strongly felt that the fundamental right of silence was being abused, and this definitely hindered the determination of the facts in such a case.

Living with Integrity

Living with IntegrityWhat’s the key to living an authentic life that honours your most important priorities? Living with integrity.

Integrity is a good foundation on which to build our lives. Living with integrity means honouring the morals and standards that we set for ourselves. For example, if you have a standard that says ‘I always tell the truth’, then you should be honest with your boss when he or she asks you to take on extra work when you do not think you’ll have the time to do it. Or if you have to tell clients when there will be a delay in the work that your firm is doing for them, then instead of making up an excuse, you should tell the truth.

Living with integrity entails having strength of character. When we neglect to honour our standards by going against the rules we set for ourselves, our life becomes confusing. When this happens, we have a hard time gaining insight, and as a result, life starts to break down. Plans might fall through. We may attract people who drive us crazy. Doors seem to keep closing regardless of how hard we work.

Because we are unique individuals, we each have different standards by which we live. No one standard is better than another. The important thing is to know your standards for living and to honour them, so you can create more flow in your life.

How New Laws Are Made

How are new laws made?New laws are needed all the time to reflect the changes in social conventions and what society considers acceptable. The activities or choices of people that may have been intolerable to others 50 years ago may now be widely acceptable, and laws need to evolve to accommodate the changes in society.

Old laws can become outdated and need to be reformed. The Government may bring in new laws in line with its policies, and sometimes new laws need to be made in order to act in accordance with international or European law.

When the Government introduces a proposed law it is called a Bill. Before it is put forward, there will be discussions with interested parties, such as pressure groups that may be campaigning on issues such as education or housing, or professional bodies such as the law society. The Government will set out its proposals in what is called a Green Paper. This is a discussion document designed to produce feedback and comments. The Government will then set out its definite proposals in a White Paper, which is then presented to the House of Commons. This is usually called a Public Bill.

Holiday Accrual During Sick Leave May Have a Devastating Financial Impact

A recent decision by the House of Lords to overturn an earlier Court of Appeal ruling on holiday accrual during sick leave has left the business world and employment law solicitors wincing. On appeal, Keith Ainsworth won his case for the entitlement to holiday pay while he was on sick leave from his employment with HM Revenue and Customs.

Since this ruling was made by the Law lords on 10 June 2009 many people have voiced very strong opinions over the possible consequences. The primary concern would appear to be that the potential financial implications involved here could be the final nail in the coffin for some already struggling employers.

Effectively, the ruling permits the employee to continue being entitled to holiday pay whilst he or she is on long-term sickness. Previously, the opposite was the case and the Court of Appeal originally upheld this widely accepted view. However, not only can an employee now accumulate holiday pay entitlement whilst sick, but he or she can also choose to roll over that entitlement towards the next year’s allocation or opt to take the relevant payment in lieu.