2009

Inheritance or No Inheritance?

rule chaneAn update on the long-overdue review of the Intestacy Rules

On 29 October 2009 the Law Commission published a consultancy paper reviewing the law of intestacy. The report is the first step to the proposals being formed into a new Bill and then perhaps an Act of Parliament.

The Equality Bill: Not Before Time

The struggle for equality is something that women have faced throughout the centuries. In the early 20th century, for example, the suffragettes undertook the task of protesting in order that the British Government would give women the right to vote. Some feminists even burned their bras in protest during the 1960s in a bid to end repression and to gain the same rights that men have had through the centuries.

The Homicide Act 2012?

As the law stands at the moment, the act of murder means that a killer can literally get away with murder. With so many statutes, rules and policies in relation to murder, manslaughter and infanticide for example, it is not unusual to find an imbalance in the British justice system. The majority of the public are currently disheartened with the laws that rule our land in terms of criminals who intentionally set out to kill another human being.

The Distinguished Profession

The word ‘Secretary’ is derived from the Latin word secrenere meaning "to distinguish" or "to set apart" and the passive participle (secretum) meaning "having been set apart," with the eventual connotation of something private or confidential. Therefore, a Secretarius was a person overseeing business confidentially, usually for a powerful individual (a King, Pope, etc).

Citizen’s Arrest: Best to Leave Well Alone?

Under s.24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (as amended by the Serious Organised Crime Act 2005), it states that a member of the public may perform a citizen’s arrest on a person who is expected to be in the middle of committing an indictable offence, or when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person is about to commit such an offence, or when the person has already done so.

Managing Deadlines

Managing DeadlinesDeadlines are a common everyday occurrence in our busy lives. We’re either trying to meet them or chasing others to achieve theirs. And trying to work to too tight a deadline can affect the quality of your work or cause you to make errors. The following top ten tips will help you meet your deadlines and also help you manage others to meet theirs. Some tips apply to both!

Project Management

Project ManagementEverybody does projects: whether it’s simply going on holiday, developing a complicated new product or anywhere in between. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re particularly successful. Using some project management skills, tools and techniques can significantly increase your chances of not only achieving what you set out to achieve, but also making sure that it’s more likely to be beneficial in the long run.

What Next for the Lisbon Treaty?

Lisbon TreatyWe’ve been hearing about an official constitution for Europe for many years now. In fact, at one time Tony Blair promised the country a referendum on it when he was Prime Minister back in 2004; but when both France and the Netherlands voted against it, the national vote was cancelled.

The ILSPA Legal Secretary Jobs Board

Last month saw the launch of the ILSPA Legal Secretary Jobs Board, a niche jobs board that aims to provide the most comprehensive listing of Legal Secretary jobs in the UK. The board is feature packed and is open to both Members of the Institute as well as the general public. In its first weeks the board is already attracting many visitors and its usefulness will only grow as it becomes more widely known amongst job seekers and employers alike.

Here is a quick guide to some of the useful features available on the board:

Personal Profile and CV
 

Are ‘Retention of Title’ Clauses a Good Choice for Businesses?

Retention of TitleAs we are currently experiencing one of the worst recessions for many years, most companies are finding it hard to deal with the everyday decisions and financial hardship that seem to be part and package of these times. Much of the financial hardship appears to be as a result of other companies encountering difficulties over settling their bills, and this can even lead to the companies becoming insolvent.

ILSPA, Here I Come!

ILSPA here I come!I wish to start by commending The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs for setting up this high professional standard. The course is expertly structured and the materials intelligently written to encourage practical knowledge acquisition.

Make a Good Impression and Have a Successful Career

Good ImpressionWhether you have secured a new job or have been working at the same company for some time, understanding how you can make a good impression will be of great benefit to you.  Your new position could be the start of a fantastic new career, or if you have been feeling unenthusiastic in your current role, you still have the chance to change your perspective and impress your employers.  Your role affects the success of the company, so take the time to think about you

Useful Keyboard Shortcuts in Windows

Keyboard ShortcutsEvery regular windows user will be familiar with the combination of keys: CTRL+ALT+DEL. This magic combination is used to lock the screen, log in or more often than not force an unresponsive application to close. Other commonly used key combos are CTRL+C and CTRL+V for copying and pasting or F5 to refresh a page in your Internet browser.

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.

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.

Personal Injury Law: Since the Abolition of Legal Aid

Personal Injury LawIn 1998, a decision was made that was seen as very controversial at the time – to abolish the right to legal aid in personal injury law cases. This eventually came into effect in 2000. The main reason this cut-off was deemed necessary was because an average of 700,000 claimants a year in this area of law alone meant that the cost to the public purse was soaring out of control.

Proofreading Tips

Proof Reading for Legal SecretariesProofreading is the final, key, stage of writing.  You will have spent time planing, writing and re-writing your document so make sure you also invest he time in profreading.  A silly spelling eror or missing apostrophe could change the meaning of your message and it will definately give the wrong impression of you an you firm.  Use the ten tip’s blow to help you proof-read letters’, reports, documents and even emails to make sure you

The Evolving Role of Legal Secretaries

Evolving Role of a Legal SecretaryThe role of the Legal Secretary used to be seen as a humble position, and women were first employed in offices during the First World War when the men went off to fight.  It was then that people started to realise that women were capable of working efficiently and resourcefully within the secretarial role, and when the war finished, many women carried on in this line of work.  However, in those days it was rare for women to work until ret

Proud to be a Legal Secretary in the USA

Proud to be a Legal SecretaryA voice on the telephone recently asked me, "Are you his Secretary, or do you prefer to be called his Administrative Assistant?" I told him, "I am his Secretary and very proud of it." You could hear the relief in his voice as he replied, "Thank goodness I can deal with a real person, the one who really runs things and I don't have to deal with a prima donna who takes offence at the least little thing!" Now, I'm se

Clear the Paper Clutter

Clear up paper clutterIf you don’t hot-desk or have a clear-desk policy that works, the chances are your desk can sometimes (maybe frequently!) look like a bomb has hit it. So, before you lose another piece of paper or spend far too long looking for something that’s probably not there, here are the top ten tips to help you clear the paper clutter:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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:

A Career as a Virtual Assistant Might Be Just for You!

I have worked as a legal secretary for many years now, and have never been out of work since leaving school in 1983, apart from going on maternity break for a couple of years when the children were very small.  So when I was made redundant whilst working for DLA Piper in their Birmingham office in March of this year, it came as a huge shock to find myself suddenly jobless.

Who Rules the UK?

Courts Threaten Democracy legal Secretary

What role should the Courts have in maintaining our democracy?

The summer of 2009 may be remembered as the point in time when trust in Parliament reached an all-time low. The understandable anger at the endless revelations about MP’s expenses has seemed to threaten our entire system of government. What has made matters worse is the apparent lack of real accountability for MPs.

How to Mind Map

Mind Map for Legal SecretariesMind mapping is a very powerful technique for promoting creative thinking and improving memory.  Developed by Tony Buzan, it has become a very widely used tool, primarily because it is such a visual way of planning or remembering things.  So if you need to plan or remember something, here are the top ten tips for creating and using a mind map:

The Frustration of Living With Anti-Social Behaviour: What Can Be Done?

Anti Social BehaviourAnti-social behaviour appears to be a menace that is on the increase in today’s society. Of course, such problems have always existed to a certain extent, but there is a definite statistical rise in the number of incidents reported, and both police forces and local authorities are having to find additional resources to deal with such matters.

The UK Constitution: Time for a Change?

It is fair to say that there is a lot of disillusionment with our Parliament and with certain aspects of the UK constitution at the moment. There are many who feel that our system is weak, and that this has been proven over recent months as so many elected representatives to our Parliament have used their position for their own financial gain and, in some circumstances, to help out members of their own families.

Use Your Legal Secretary/PA Experience and Become a Virtual Assistant

Legal Virtual AssistantIn today’s working environment of never-ending advances in technology and the slow-burning fire of crucial green issues, more and more people and companies are looking to the alternatives, from working from home and remote working from the office to using independent workers or contractors to outsource work.

Useful Technology for VAs

TechnologyWorking from home as a Virtual Legal Assistant is a great way to freelance and find freedom in the way you work. As recently as ten years ago this sort of remote working, although not unheard of, was not really as practical as it is today. The technology just wasn’t affordable, and the legal world has been noted to be quite cautious when it comes to new technologies.

Thank You to the London Evening Class of May 2009

London Evening ClassMany thanks for the fantastic surprise on my birthday. The huge chocolate cake was a wonderful treat on the night. I also enjoyed reading my hand made “signed, sealed and delivered” birthday card.

It was a pleasure to teach such an enthusiastic and motivated group. The extra bonus is that you were all blessed with such a good sense of humour and curiosity, which will stand you in very good stead with your future careers. 

10 Things to Check Before Calling the IT Helpdesk

1. Is it plugged in and turned on? This may sound like an obvious thing to check, but you would be surprised how many ‘broken’ printers and ‘dead’ monitors were simply unplugged by the cleaning contractor the night before.

2. Have you tried Ctrl+Alt+Delete? If an application hangs, hold down these three keys and then end the application. Remember: Ctrl+Alt+Delete is your friend!

How to Pursue a Judicial Review

Judicial ReviewDealing with a public body can become a very awkward and frustrating process. Indeed, it often feels as though such an entity is a law unto itself. People can become confused as to whether or not they are able to pursue any official action against such an organisation when they believe that it has acted unlawfully in some way.

New Supreme Court

There have, in recent years, been mounting calls for the creation of a new free-standing Supreme Court. This court would separate the highest appeal court from the second house of Parliament (the House of Lords). On 12 June 2003 the Government announced its intention to do so, and eventually the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 was enacted. This Act paved the way for the creation of a new Supreme Court for the United Kingdom.

Defining Assaults

Defining AssultsWith so many different classifications of assaults, it can often be very confusing to determine the actual extent of an offence that may have occurred. To do so, it is necessary to consider a number of crucial aspects. These include the level and nature of any injuries sustained (i.e. the actus reus) and the offender’s intention to inflict these injuries in the first instance (i.e. the mens rea).

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:

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.

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.

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.

Realistic ‘To-Do’ Lists

Creating To Do ListsA ‘to-do’ list is a powerful way to organise yourself and to reduce stress.  Have you ever written one and never achieved what’s on it?  Or maybe you’ve written a to-do list but kept putting off the tasks to another day because something ‘more urgent’ cropped up?  If either of these sounds familiar, perhaps you need to consider whether you’re writing a to-do list or a ‘wish-to-do’ list.  Being r

The Changing Face of Media Distribution

New forms of media distribution.On 17 April 2009, four men were sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay fines to the sum of $905,000 each for the crime of piracy on the stormy seas of the Internet. This group, of course, are the infamous collaborators behind The Pirate Bay, a website dedicated to indexing music, movies, television programs, software and books that are being shared by users of BitTorrent all over the world. The same men are also the founding members of the first political party dedicated to copyright reform, aptly titled The Pirate Party.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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:

Developing a Positive Attitude

Positive AttitudeAttitude is a mind-set. It is the way you look at things mentally. When things are going well a positive attitude is easy to maintain. But we're all human and something will always happen to test our positive mind-set. So when that happens, here are the top 10 tips to help you bounce back and regain a positive outlook:

1.    Nurture your funny focus. While it's not appropriate to laugh away all serious problems, laughing can help you transfer your focus from the problem to possible solutions.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.