Consumer Issues

Consumer RightsKnowing your contractual rights and how to enforce them

A good knowledge of the law of contract may not seem very important in day-to-day life, but an awareness of your rights can help you to save your hard-earned cash. In England and Wales, we are lucky to have a wide range of statutory consumer rights that can protect you from unscrupulous shops or traders. We have considered below a few of your key rights and how you can enforce them. We have also outlined a recent expansion of consumer protection from unfair trading practices that came into force on 26 May 2008.

Faulty goods

The law (in the form of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 as amended) states that goods must be of a satisfactory quality. To establish whether something that you have purchased meets this standard, you must consider what a “reasonable person” would consider satisfactory quality. This will take into account things such as the price you pay for goods; their appearance; the finish; freedom from minor defects; and whether goods are safe and durable.

Some examples of the way shops misunderstand their obligations where goods are not of satisfactory quality include:

Refusing a full refund - You do not have to accept a repair or replacement of unsatisfactory goods.

Writing a Report

In the last issue we looked at preparing to write a report. If you have been following all the tips in that issue, you are now ready to write your report! To write well, use plain English and adopt the ABC's of writing: be accurate, be brief and be clear. There is no point investing time and effort in your report only to have your readers lay it aside or ignore it because they find it full of jargon, difficult to read or badly laid out. So here are top ten tips for writing a report:

1. Be accurate by checking the spelling, grammar and punctuation. Also check all your facts and figures. For example, check that columns add up, or that your survey results haven’t been superseded by the time you come to compile your report.

2. Aim for an average sentence length of 15 to 20 words. Use about 10 words for impact. The aim is to have the reader read each sentence only once to get the full impact. The longer the sentence, the more chance there is that a reader will have to go back over the sentence to understand it.

3. Use shorter, more familiar words. Use “try” instead of “endeavour”; “help” instead of “assistance”. And avoid jargon that can confuse the reader.

To Sue or Not to Sue

Civil Litigation Procedure - Part 1Civil Litigation Procedure

The Rules of Civil Litigation

The law is fundamentally about knowing what the rules are. Every area of law will have particular rules that must be followed. In litigation it is important to be familiar with the correct rules because if you are not, then inevitably your opponent (or the court itself) will be all too happy to point out the error of your ways! Worse still, if you make a major mistake, you may be liable to pay your opponent’s legal costs or even lose a case entirely.

The procedure and rules for the civil courts are laid out in the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 (CPR). These rules were initiated by Lord Woolf’s report, Access to Justice, in the UK. The report made several hundred recommendations that attempted to deal with the concern that legal proceedings were slow and costly. Despite the fact that there have been over 40 updates to the rules in the 10 years since they were introduced, they are regarded for the most part as being a success. Some examples of key changes the CPR brought about include:

Court timetables - These imposed strict time limits so that cases did not drag on for years.

Moving Up or Moving On?

Changing jobsTips for your Career Success

Having worked in the recruitment industry for over a decade I have met many candidates who believe that moving to a new company will be the answer to their prayers. That new job, with more money, increased responsibility and additional training opportunities, is something that many aspire to. Before giving in to your desires and jumping ship, it’s worth double-checking to see if your needs can be met in your current company.

So how do you progress up the ladder and not get overlooked by your bosses?

I have listed some practical advice for managing your own career path. Promotions are earned, not given, and remember that you will sometimes need to go sideways to go up. The key to promotion is to promote yourself, create your own PR, get noticed for the right reasons and let the bosses know that you are willing to go that extra mile.

1. Be known and let the powers that be know of your accomplishments. Sell yourself and let it be known that you are seeking a promotion.

E-conveyancing

econveyancingA brave new world and what it means for you

People working in the property sector will now be familiar with the Land Registry's 'e-conveyancing' programme. Whether they know much about the specifics is another matter. The Land Registry's plan has been to phase in 'paperless conveyancing,' with 2008 and 2009 seeing the launch of a number of new features. A fully functional 'e-conveyance' system may not be available until 2010, but such a fundamental change to the process of buying and selling land was never going to happen overnight.

In the current climate of increased competition, decreasing profit margins and a general downturn in property sales, most firms are not complacent about e-conveyancing. Firms that have previously invested in case management software (CMS) and continue to follow developments in the world of e-commerce will be well positioned to take advantage of the benefits offered by the changes. To help you be successful in this rapidly changing environment, we have outlined below some of the key developments to look out for.

In brief, the Land Registry's aims with regard to e-conveyancing are to bring transparency to the purchase and sale of land. The changes should:

Citizen Trust Training Charity

Citizens TrustI was recently invited to attend a meeting to discuss training and employment opportunities with a private training charity called Citizen Trust. I was greeted there by a friendly and warm-hearted adviser named Jasmine, who told me about the services of Citizen Trust. The training covers how to apply for employment, tips on filling out application forms, role played in groups, being interviewed, and feedback given by the training to each customer client as a former student of Citizen Trust.

I found the training very useful. I learnt to be more assertive, to approach employers with my updated CV, and discovered skills I did not know I had, like networking. I developed essential business skills and now have my own network, which is essential for support advice in all areas of life.

I also discovered that Citizen Trust Charity is a division of the Disability Times Newspaper, which promotes the needs of people with special needs and of disadvantaged people in the community. The newspaper was formed in 1996 and provides advice to people with special needs, to recruit and train them. They have good connections with the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund. 

For more information regarding employment advice, support and training opportunities, please contact:

A Day in the Life of a Legal Secretary

dayinlife.png.460x277_q100.jpgI joined the firm Trowers & Hamlins in 1998 to assist a partner in setting up the Bahrain office. We started with two rented desks from Ernst & Young. This was my first time working with lawyers and it was a real eye-opener. I had been working for the management consulting arm of KPMG, so I was used to working on lengthy documents, but not so used to the exacting standards required in a law firm. I now try to assist new secretaries and trainees to come to terms with what, in the non-legal world, would be treated as being particularly pedantic. I appreciate how the insertion of a comma can change the emphasis of a point, or inserting the word “reasonable” will allow a clause to be accepted by all parties to the contract.

10 years on having seen the Bahrain branch grow from 2 to 36 staff has been greatly rewarding. No two days are the same and now being the only person in the office having been here from the start, everyone comes and asks me questions such as “Where on earth are boxes kept?” “Which restaurant does this client prefer?” “Is there a law governing…?” to being given difficult documents to mark up. We now have an excellent support staff team that brings with it a great wealth of talents that I rely on constantly.

Profile - Amanda Hamilton, Tutor

How did you become a tutor with the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs?Amanda Hamilton

I was teaching my own courses through my company, AH Paralegal Training, which was accredited by the National Association of Paralegals. The General Secretary of the association approached me in 1999 about the Legal Secretaries Diploma course which they had been conducting through distance learning and asked me if I would be interested in teaching it as a class attendance course.

Several years later, the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs took over the Legal Secretaries Diploma course and asked whether I would continue teaching for them.

Tell us about your legal experience

How far do you want to go? I come from a family of law practitioners: my father was a barrister who became a solicitor, my mother was a barrister who became a judge, and my grandfather was a barrister who became a law lecturer. Law is in my blood, whether I like it or not. I tried to fight against it, but in the end blood is thicker…etc.

Preparing to Write a Report

Everyone has to write a report at some stage in their career. A well written report canWriting a report further your career, since people see not only the content and well reasoned arguments or recommendations, but also the confidence and clarity with which it is written.

But preparation is key when writing a report: "If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail". So time spent at this stage will mean that your report is more focussed, it will be written with the reader in mind and it will be structured into a logical order, avoiding repetition. By preparing more thoroughly you will also be able to write your reports quicker and do fewer drafts – if you prepare really well you may only have to write it once. So here are the top ten tips to help with preparation.

1. Ask yourself “Why am I writing this report?” Are you writing it to persuade or to dissuade an action? Perhaps it is to inform, or to record a series of events. This will give you the purpose of your report and tell you what you are aiming to achieve. Keep this purpose in mind whilst planning.

Employment Law Update

Employment LawA Round Up of Recent Developments

With a new Employment Bill working it way through Parliament and expected to come into force in April 2009 we have focused on a few of the Bills main provisions. There have also been a number of recent developments in relation to protection from harassment at work.

The Employment Law Bill

Over the last decade the employment law landscape has changed beyond all recognition. The last major statute was the Employment Act 2002 and it would not be unfair to ask why another Employment Law Act is needed so soon. The simple answer is that the 2002 Act, which was intended to reduce litigation, resulted in more litigation and made the employment rules more complicated. Rather than disputes being settled internally parties were force to turn to the Courts (in the form of the Employment Tribunals) to decide whether statutory minimum procedures had been met.