Minute Taking

How to take minutesMinutes are a factual, impartial and balanced record of the decisions and summary of a meeting. As such they should be an accurate, brief and clear snapshot of what was discussed, what was agreed, and what action is to be taken, by whom and by when. Unfortunately, many meeting minutes end up inaccurate, long and confusing, so people rarely want to read them, much less pick up any actions they are responsible for! So here are the top 10 tips for minute takers:

How to Deal With Local Authority Gatekeepers Concerning Homeless Persons’ Applications

Homelessness LawIf you were to ask any local authority about gatekeepers with regard to their acceptance of homeless person’s applications, you would likely be greeted with absolute denial. Regrettably, however, this is a practice that nearly all local authorities are guilty of, and if you are acting on behalf of a potentially desperate client, this added unlawful bureaucracy can be exceedingly frustrating.

This article will take a look at the methods which you may need to adopt to get past the gatekeepers and ensure that your client’s homeless person’s application is dealt with lawfully and as expeditiously as possible.

Employment Law Changes

New Discipline and Grievance Complaints Procedures

Employment law is about to undergo quite a radical change, with an amendment to the existing Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/752) which are currently in force. This law is in place to establish statutory procedures that must be followed if and when a grievance complaint is raised by an employee to an employer.

From 6 April 2009, the above statutory provisions are going to be repealed, to be replaced by a non-statutory ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) guide which will provide details on good practice advice when dealing with these types of situations. These amendments are being introduced through the Employment Act 2008. This will mean a huge shift of emphasis on what ACAS will be able to do in such circumstances. In readiness for this repeal and in an effort to prevent so many proceedings from reaching the employment tribunal stage, ACAS has prepared a number of documents that will help to keep people better informed of this amendment to the law, and explain specifically how ACAS will be able to assist in workplace disputes.

An Introduction to OpenOffice

OpenOfficeLast month I wrote about open source software and suggested a few open source applications that are worth trying out. This month I am going to continue the theme by going a bit deeper into the OpenOffice suite of applications.

OpenOffice is a free and open alternative to the MS Office suite of applications. Like MS Office it comes with a word processor, a spreadsheet application and an application for creating presentations, all of which are easy to use and produce a very high standard of document. In recent years OpenOffice has started to find its way into corporate environments as well as households. Increased compatibility with Microsoft file formats and rapidly decreasing corporate and personal budgets have put OpenOffice on the map for those wanting an affordable alternative office suite. The French police services have been migrating to OpenOffice since 2005 and have saved upwards of two million euros in the process.

Well Managed or Harassed?

Old law used to extend employee protection from the “office bully”

Bullying and harassment should not have to be tolerated by anyone. The law has developed significantly over the last 40 years to protect individuals at work from discrimination based on sex, race, disability, religion and, most recently, age. Further recent developments now mean that the days of the “office bully” are now numbered.

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 was enacted to stop stalking and other forms of criminal harassment. For nearly 10 years, the law was on the statute books but was ignored by employment and matrimonial lawyers. Following a series of high-profile cases, new life has been breathed into the act. The act can now be used to punish an office bully or even a “mother-in-law from hell!”

Under the Protection from Harassment Act, a person must not pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another and which he or she knows or ought to know amounts to harassment. Damages can be awarded for, among other things, anxiety caused.

Open Source – What is it?

Free Software Foundation LogoIf you have been living on planet Earth for the past few years, you have probably heard somebody mention the term “open source”. It could have been a geeky friend rabbiting on about how they use Linux now instead of Windows, or maybe it was the tech support guy mumbling something under his breath about Internet Explorer not being as good as Firefox. It doesn’t really matter where you heard it, but the chances are that you have.

So what is it?
Open source software is computer software that is completely free and open. I’m not talking about gimmicky freeware that lets you make a cartoon of yourself to put on Facebook while it’s busy installing nasty spyware on your computer. I am talking about computer software that is developed under an open source software license. This means that absolutely anybody can use the software for free, with no catches. It also means that the underlying code for the software is made open to the public for anybody to review or reuse and distribute.

Open source software is not just about getting something for free, it’s about freedom. The whole point is to share and share alike. The result of this attitude towards software development is better, more secure and much more innovative software that everybody can use.

Fears That Redundancy Law Changes May Lead to Increased Job Losses

Redundancy LawGiven the current financial climate, it may not have been the best time for the law to change regarding statutory payments for redundancy. With the economy already suffering an increasing number of job losses week on week, there are fears that this new increase to statutory redundancy payments may result in an even sharper rise in the number of people being made unemployed.

Redundancy pay is calculated on the basis of age and length of service. The number of weeks pay is multiplied by the current statutory rate. The law currently states that an employer is obliged to pay employees up to £330 per week if they are made redundant after two years of continuous service. There are further criteria that are taken into consideration which an employer has a statutory duty to be mindful of.

These are:

Employees under the age of 22

Staff members who are under the age of 22 at the time of redundancy will be entitled to 50 percent of the weekly wage that is given for each year of full service. For example, if they were to be made redundant after three years of continuous service, they would be entitled to a redundancy payment of £495, provided their weekly wage was £330 or more.

Employees aged 22 to 41

Assisted Suicide Law: Should It Be Changed?

Assisted SuicideNotwithstanding that criminal law specialist legal secretaries’ and PAs’ work diaries are hardly brimming with such enquiries from clients, this area of law still conjures up some of the strongest thoughts and opinions from all of us, no matter which side of the fence we choose to stand on over the issue. Indeed, it may be fair to state that this subject probably represents one of the most controversial issues that currently shrouds our legal system.

Following the broadcast of the programme “A short stay in Switzerland”, which showed the incredibly talented Julie Walters’s true-life portrayal of Dr. Anne Turner’s assisted suicide trip to the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland, there is absolutely no doubt that this exceptionally moving performance will have stirred up even more emotion. Those who have seen it would have to admit to having been taken to the deepest, darkest depths of their conscience as they watched this truly amazing story of a courageous woman choosing to end her life as a consequence of an aggressively degenerative disease.

How I Gained Employment as a Legal Administrator

Heather Jones, a Student Member, shares her success after completing the Legal Secretaries Diploma course.

We are all aware that the credit crunch is biting big time, and the perception is that there are no jobs out there, so just sit tight and wait for the ‘gloom and doom’ to pass. However, my recent experience proves that even in the current climate, having a positive attitude can help you achieve what you desire. I would like to share it with other students and advise you all to strive and ‘believe in yourself’.

Preparing a Court Bundle

Preparing a Court BundleA vital step when approaching trial

If ever the saying “time is money” were true, then it must be when you talk about lawyers. With the guideline hourly rate for a partner regularly exceeding £200 an hour, any steps which help to reduce the time spent on a case are worthwhile taking. 

As a case approaches a hearing in court, one method of reducing the time spent is by preparing a “court bundle”. Court bundles are usually required for any case that appears in court. The idea is that the judge will be able to pre-read all the relevant documents in the case. All the parties will also have all the evidence and copies of any precedents collected together in one place, making it easier to refer to information during the trial. In theory there is no reason why simply making copies of all the relevant documents in a case should be problematic, but it may not surprise you to learn that all kinds of problems happen in practice.