New Rules for HIPs: Introduced at the Worst Time!

HipsIt may be fair to say that Home Information Packs (HIPs) have not exactly been the most popular move of our Labour government in recent years. In fact, many estate agents, who have been questioned about these, have stipulated that HIPs are of no real benefit to buyers at the moment. Furthermore, they are an additional expense that people looking to sell their home can ill afford as the country enters an increasingly deepening recession.

As of 6 April 2009, complex new rules came into force regarding HIPs, and these mainly tended to emphasise the fact that these packs were to be prepared at a much earlier stage than before. Previously, a property could be placed onto the market if a HIP had been merely ordered. However, from 6 April, the vast majority of relevant documentation was to be completed before sellers could be entitled to place a ’for sale’ board in their front garden. Failure to comply with these new rules may well lead to a £200 fine, and it is thought that these penalties may well be quite widely enforced.

New Powers for HMRC Inspectors

HM Revenue and CustomsAs of 1 April 2009, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) inspectors will have more powers to help them to deal with corporation and income tax evaders. In fact, inspectors will have the same right of entry to business premises or even home offices as is currently relevant in relation to VAT tax investigations.

These new powers are contained within Schedule 36 of The Finance Act 2008 and have been introduced as one of a number of changes which have been proposed since Customs and Excise and Inland Revenue merged to become the HMRC. Some critics of these new measures believe that the law had not been clarified as well as it should have been before coming into force. One of the biggest concerns is the fact that there are no clearly defined rights of appeal for a tax payer to rely on against a proposed inspection. Generally speaking, critics believe that these new powers are ‘over the top’ and that they go too far.

Help Your Firm by Attending Court

Attending CourtThink what might happen if you were more proactive at work. If you show more willingness to advance your skills and take on increased responsibility, you will be able to make the most of your role. This will have a mutually beneficial effect, both for you and for the firm you work for.

Say, for example, you were able to take over some of the less involved work from a fee-earner and save them an average of an hour’s billable time per day, enabling them to cost that half hour out elsewhere; you could increase the firm’s gross profit. If a fee earner costs their time out to clients at, say, £200 per hour, this would mean that your firm would gain an additional gross profit of 5 x £200 per week, or £1000. This would amount to £52,000 per annum, minus time for holidays.

In addition, you would have more job satisfaction and, therefore, be much happier in your work. Happier staff = a happier firm = happier clients.

There are areas in all departments of law firms where fee earners can delegate. It makes no sense for fee earners to be doing routine work when they could be more profitably engaged in something that cannot so readily be delegated.

From Secretary to Judge

From Secretary to JudgeAchieving Your Full Potential

With the right training and attitude, you really can achieve anything. Consider the example of Britain’s longest serving judge - Lady Butler-Sloss. She took a secretarial course and then worked her way up to the top of the judiciary becoming the first woman justice of the Court of Appeal. This is not the usual path to legal eminence but shows what can be achieved if you are determined enough.

Lady Butler-Sloss was Britain’s longest serving judge at her retirement in 2005. When she was called to the bar in 1955, she was one of only 60 women among 2,000 barristers. Not only was she able to tackle the very male dominated legal profession of the 1960s, but she did this while raising her three children.

Although the Institute is not aware of any members rising to the rank of a high court judge, it is not for want of ability or determination. The Institute comes across many students who would not only excel as legal secretaries, but also as fee earners in their own right.

Developing Proactivity

Be ProactiveProactivity means not waiting to be asked, but having an ability to think ahead and anticipate needs, difficulties and different ways of achieving a necessary outcome.  Proactivity also means being able to identify and solve problems by making decisions.  To do all this requires knowledge, which needs constant updating plus a conscious effort to seek it out.  So here are the top ten tips to help you develop proactivity in your role:

1.    Seize the opportunity for training.  No matter that you think you’ve been doing your job for years - you can always pick up one new bit of knowledge and so turn it to your advantage.  Training is also an opportunity to network.  Sometimes it isn’t only about what you know, but who you know.

2.    Do something different!  Give yourself a challenge and help others in the process, perhaps by offering to share your knowledge with them, or by volunteering to join a project group.

3.    Don’t sit and whinge when things aren’t right, or aren’t happening: do something about it.  Proactive people are positive, realistic and animated.  Aim to nurture more of these qualities!

Steps to Being a Successful Legal Secretary

Wanted: Great Legal Secretary

‘A well-known law firm is looking to recruit a highly motivated and skilled legal secretary. Work 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for a competitive salary and the opportunity to develop your own professional skills in a challenging and fast-paced environment.’

Does this advert look familiar? If you have been job hunting for any length of time, you will have seen dozens of adverts similar to the one above. You might get a few more details, like these:

  • A very high-caliber, polished candidate needed
  • Solid CV a must
  • Experience is an advantage

In the best adverts you might be lucky enough to be told such things as:

Should Unfair Commercial Practices be Subject to Direct Criminal Proceedings?

Commercial PracticesWe should all be aware of the civil proceedings that may be brought against a business for certain types of unfair commercial practices. There are a number of statutes which aim to protect consumers in this regard and entitle them to seek compensation, mainly through the County Court. Much of the power to bring more serious charges and sanctions against such businesses rests at present with official government bodies. People would need to approach departments such as the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) or their Local Authority Trading Standards Service to see the unlawful business become subject to any criminal proceedings.

Pannone LLP: A Great Place to Work

Law FirmHaving a job in the legal profession is looking good, as Pannone LLP was No. 3 on The Sunday Times’ list of the top 100 companies to work for in 2009. More than 200,000 employees took part in the newspaper’s survey, which asked questions about general well-being, opportunities for professional development and fair pay.

Pannone is a legal practice based in Manchester, with 768 staff members at an average age of 35. The company displays a good work ethic, seeing positive results even during an economic downturn. Pannone has deservedly received a lifetime achievement award to mark five years as one of the top 10 companies to work for in the UK.

Employees at Pannone feel as though they are valued, which leads to mutual respect and good working relationships. They understand the importance of working hard when there is a job to be done and are rewarded with early finishes when they exceed their targets. Informal times are enjoyed with dress-down Fridays and successes are celebrated in the office.

There is a good family atmosphere within the firm, and in fact 10 percent of staff members are related. Pannone recruits on family recommendations, as the company is aware of the solid working environment this creates.

My Interest in Law

My interest in LawThe subject of law fascinates me extensively. I am intrigued by developments in the legal system and the way that it adapts to an ever-changing society.

As a child, I had a broad interest in many subjects and always pondered my career for the future. The thought of engaging in law never crossed my mind until I was given the opportunity to work in a legal environment. My current employment has given me valuable insight into work in the legal domain and immediately I knew that a career in the legal environment was one which I would indulge myself in and which would enable me to expand on my interest in law.