2016

ILSPA Graduate Wins Legal PA of the Year 2016 Award

We would like to share some exciting news with you. ILSPA graduate Georgie Theobald won the Legal PA of the Year Award with Secsinthecity last month.  

The PA of the Year awards were founded by Secsinthecity to provide recognition for the hard work and professionalism performed by PAs. The awards have been running for 5 years and each year the organisation receives nominations for dedicated PAs throughout the country. This year, Secsinthecity received over 400 entries with categories such as Legal PA of the Year, Social Media PA of the Year, PA of the Year as well as an Outstanding Achievement category.

Georgie gained ILSPA’s Legal Secretaries Diploma in 2015 and has found the course to be of great benefit to her in her career. We spoke to Georgie Theobald about her achievement and it was wonderful to hear what she had to say about her award and her studies with ILSPA.

Why were you nominated for the Legal PA of the Year award?

Legal Secretary Vacancies December 2016

Here is a selection of vacancies from our Legal Secretary Jobs Board this month:

Legal Secretaries – Girlings
Location: East Kent 
Salary: c. £19,000

Girlings, a leading East Kent firm with offices in Canterbury, Ashford and Herne Bay, is currently seeking competent Legal Secretaries with experience in Private Client, Family and Residential Conveyancing.

View the full job description here: 
https://www.institutelegalsecretaries.com/jobs/candidate/job/64879/ 

Part-Time Conveyancing Secretary/PA – Rosenberg & Co
Location: Hampstead
Salary: £18,000 - £22,000 depending on experience 

Rosenberg & Co, a small, friendly niche law firm based in Hampstead, specialising in residential conveyancing, is seeking to recruit an enthusiastic, conscientious and efficient Part-Time Conveyancing Legal Secretary/PA to join their busy practice.

View the full job description here: 
https://www.institutelegalsecretaries.com/jobs/candidate/job/67651/   

Opportunities for Bilingual Secretaries

I once worked as a secretary for a large law firm which had offices in many countries, and on six of the seven continents. There were quite a few secretaries in the London office who were working their way around the world – just for this one firm! It was a great way to finance their adventures and must have been a massive boost to their CVs when they got home. They illustrated the point that one of the best aspects of secretarial skills is that they are “transferable” – valid in any industry and anywhere in the world.

Some of these secretaries were working in London to improve their English so that they could go back home and work as bilingual secretaries there. One of the things that mystified them – whether they were French, German, Russian or Japanese – was why British secretaries didn’t seem to do the same. They pointed out that the demand for bilingual secretaries seemed to be very high in London and that good salaries were offered, so British secretaries weren’t being put off by a lack of opportunity. 

If you have good speaking and writing skills in a second language, or even if you’re just very determined to acquire them, secretarial work presents wonderful opportunities for developing your skills – and possibly also for travelling while you do so. 

SecsintheCity Announces PA of the Year Awards 2016 Winners

Amy Marsden, EA to the CEO at WorldRemit, was announced as PA of the Year 2016, at an awards ceremony hosted by SecsintheCity, the UK’s #1 job site for PAs and Executive Assistants. 

The awards ceremony was held at The Ivy Restaurant on Thursday 10th November. 

The winners of the PA of the Year Awards 2016 are: 

-    PA of the Year – Amy Marsden, World Remit
-    Social Media PA of the Year – Janice Parker, Odgers Berndtson 
-    Legal PA of the Year – Georgie Theobald, Facebook
-    Outstanding Achievement Award – Sue Fletcher, Department of Health 

Amy Marsden is EA to the CEO at WorldRemit, an online money transfer provider – a role she was headhunted into in September. Following the announcement, Amy said: “I’m overwhelmed to have won SecsintheCity’s PA of the Year Award 2016. 

“PAs don’t always get the recognition they deserve, but SecsintheCity do so much to showcase our talents with these awards, I would strongly advise any PA to put themselves forward when this comes around again next year.”

Along with her PA of the Year 2016 title, Amy will also enjoy a stay in a track-facing suite at Brooklands Hotel Surrey, including dinner and spa treatments. 

The Importance of Currie v. Misa in Contract Law

If you are studying ILSPA’s Legal Secretaries Diploma course, you will be familiar with the elements of offer, acceptance and intention in regards to contracts. Whilst these elements of the law of contract should make perfect sense to you, the elements of consideration might be a little trickier to understand.

For many centuries, the English legal system struggled to produce a clear definition for the contractual element of consideration. However, towards the end of the nineteenth century, the case of Currie v. Misa (1875) LR 10 Ex 153 came along and allowed Lush J to define consideration in the following way:

“A valuable consideration, in the sense of the law, may consist either of some right, interest, profit or benefit accruing to the one party, or some forbearance, detriment loss or responsibility, given, suffered or undertaken by the other”. 

So Currie v. Misa basically asserted the “benefit gained and detriment suffered” principle in consideration and this case precedent remains extremely important in the law of contract to this day. 

Top 10 Tips to Be the Best Distance Learner

The idea of being able to study a complete course from the comfort of your own home certainly sounds like an attractive proposition for many people. It allows you to enrol for courses that do not offer classes in your area, study at your own pace and fit your work around your existing commitments, to name but a few of the benefits. However, this style of learning may require many students to rethink their study methods and mind-set, especially if they are new to the concept. This is why we have produced a list of 10 top tips to help you with your distance learning and hopefully achieve a good grade. 

1.    Set enough time aside to study

There is nothing worse than cramming your studies into a few minutes that you have managed to grab in your busy schedule. Be sensible here and allocate a sufficient amount of time for studying each week.

2.    Don’t study for too long a period

On the other end of the spectrum from the problem above, don’t study for hours and hours simply to plough through the necessary course materials. Study periods of 30 to 45 minutes at a time with short breaks in between are often ideal, and just a few study blocks like this in one day will be best to help you retain information. 

Do You Have Employability?

Your first question might be – what is “employability”? Employability has been defined by the Confederation of Business and Industry as “a set of attributes, skills and knowledge that all employees should possess to ensure they have the capability of being effective in the workplace – to the benefit of themselves, their employer and the wider economy.”  Put in simple terms, employability boils down to the knowledge, personal qualities, attitudes and behaviours you need to get a job, stay in that job and be successful in your work.

So how do you show you have employability skills needed for a legal career? Well, the first thing to consider is that there are many transferable skills that you may already have from previous training and experience. What you need to be able to do is combine these skills, knowledge and personal qualities with those you have developed while studying ILSPA’s Legal Secretaries Diploma. Look at the following list of 10 key skills identified as most desired by employers:   

Helpful Studying Tips for Four Classifications of Learners

Which category do you fall under?

Do you find yourself struggling to realise the study technique that works best for you? Do you feel you’re not making the best use of your study time? Different types of learners need to use different methods to make the most of their strengths. What works for one may not work for others. Here is our advice on the best study techniques for each of the four classifications of learners. 

Visual learners

Visual learners are those who prefer to have all of the information presented to them in the form of charts, diagrams and graphs. They love plenty of colour, and this enables them to retain information in their brain consistently. Visual learners will benefit from the following techniques:

Legal Secretary Vacancies November 2016

Here is a selection of vacancies from our Legal Secretary Jobs Board this month:

Legal Secretaries – Girlings
Location: East Kent 
Salary: c. £19,000

Girlings, a leading East Kent firm with offices in Canterbury, Ashford and Herne Bay, are currently seeking competent Legal Secretaries with experience in Private Client, Family and Residential Conveyancing.

View the full job description here: 
https://www.institutelegalsecretaries.com/jobs/candidate/job/64879/ 

Junior Secretary – Gregsons Solicitors
Location: Wimbledon
Salary: up to £20K depending on experience 

Gregsons Solicitors is seeking an enthusiastic Junior Legal Secretary to join their team.

The ideal candidate will have excellent communication, organisational and typing skills. 

Taking a Step Up

Moving from Secretary to PA is challenging – but rewarding

More and more these days, law firms are depending on the efforts of their highly skilled support staff to get the job done. Gone are the days when the business revolved entirely around the fee earners. This represents a great opportunity for those Legal Secretaries who are thinking about becoming PAs.

PAs form part of the new “super-support” staff in law firms large and small. Positioned between support staff and fee earners, these staff members bring crucial skills to the mix, which enable the firm to work efficiently and profitably. They often take on management and organisation responsibilities so that fee earners can concentrate on practising law. This makes them valuable to law firms: a good PA’s services will be well rewarded with salary and benefits, because they are extremely difficult for a law firm to replace. 

The increasing coverage given to the Legal PA of the Year Award shows that the legal profession as a whole recognises that the PA is now an essential role; a good PA is the vital difference between a tempestuous and a smooth project. If you are thinking about moving into this area of work, what skills should you be practising and refining?

Legal Secretary Networking

Off the top of your head, what’s the best thing about the internet? Is it that you’re able to see as well as talk to friends and family members on the other side of the world? Is it that you can listen at any time of the day or night to practically any music track you can think of? Or is it simply that you’re never more than a minute away from a really cute cat video? 

All of these things are great. But I think that the best thing about the internet is the ability to connect with people you might otherwise never have come across, and to pool your knowledge and resources together: in other words, to network. 

It’s never been easier to make connections with people who have the same interests and the same agenda as you. You probably already do this through Facebook and Twitter, supporting charities and joining clubs. Why not take it one step further and organise a professional network for Legal Secretaries and PAs in your city, town or county? 

Legal Secretaries and PAs are already great at organising networking events for their bosses, but they need to take it a step further and organise networking events for themselves. The benefits are just the same for Secretaries as they are for fee earners, and the activity is just as important.

Working Within Our Diverse Legal Industry

Before you commenced your studies through The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs, it is likely you had a good idea of the area of law in which you would like to work.  However, if this is not the case and you are still pondering exactly what you should do after your course, hopefully this article will provide you with some inspiration and show you that the legal industry is indeed a very diverse one.

The diversity of this industry derives mainly from the multifaceted nature of our legal system itself. When people first consider studying towards any legal qualification, their minds are usually drawn to criminal law. Due to myriad television programmes and films constantly portraying and even glamourizing this pillar of the law, it goes without saying that this seems a very exciting and appealing area to work in.

Areas of law

As the student studies various different areas of law such as tort, contract, litigation and land law, to name but a few, this is when they discover the truly diverse nature of our legal system and often opt to pursue a career in an area of law other than criminal.  There are many interesting areas of law which can appeal to you, for example, family law where you can deal with divorce cases and learn about the causes of a breakdown of a marriage.

Land Law

ILSPA's New Online Test System

We are delighted to announce that our new online test system has been released.  Students can now complete the achievement tests for their courses through our website and no longer need to email them to our Course Assessor.  

The online test system is a great facility for our Students.  They are now able to complete their coursework with greater ease due to having everything in one place.  Students have the benefit of receiving their test results instantly after submission and our system is able to show them their correct answers, whilst helping them to learn which questions they got wrong. 

ILSPA's Chief Executive, Emma Stacey, expressed:

'It is wonderful to see our Students benefit from our new online test system after many years of discussion and many months of development.  We continually aim to improve our courses for our Students so that they have the best learning experience possible.  The new test facility is a fantastic accomplishment for ILSPA and our IT team.'

Thinking of Becoming a Legal Secretary? A Record Number of Law Firms Are Opening in the UK!

If you have been at all concerned about the number of job vacancies that are potentially available to you upon successful completion of your Legal Secretaries Diploma course with us, or are just leaving school or have been considering a change of career, you should certainly find more than a soupçon of inspiration in this article. Whatever your reason for seeking out job information, if you like the idea of a career in law, then you might be interested to know that a record number of law firms have been opening in the United Kingdom lately. 

Increased demand for legal professionals

We are set to have 1,000 new law offices opening in the UK this year! That’s a fantastic 30% increase from 2015, according to the official statistics as reported by the Law Gazette. In fact, 612 new law firms already opened between 1 January and 31 July 2016, according to the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority. By comparison, in 2015 only 815 new law firms opened all year and in 2014 just 807.

Happily, the numbers are up across all types of legal offices, and there is even a 40% increase in the number of sole legal practitioners. Openings also far exceed the number of closures, which is positive news for a profession that has experienced significant ups and downs in recent years.  

Advance Your Career With Social Media

Do you consider yourself to be a bit of a social media whizz? Loads of Twitter followers, constantly posting on Instagram, reaching out on Facebook? Have you considered that this skill might be something that can advance your career?

Last month we looked at the learning opportunities that are out there which can help you extend your CV and get promotion. One of these is developing a talent for social media, which is increasingly important for law firms, but which not all law firms are confident about. 

Law firms these days rely more and more on non-lawyer members of staff to drive the business forward. Schillings, for example, a London firm widely regarded as extremely progressive and adventurous, has announced that by the end of 2017, half of the firm’s fee-earners will be non-lawyers. Part of this kind of thinking, which is becoming much more widespread, is putting the firm out into the market via its PR and advertising. That of course includes posts on Twitter, Instagram photographs and YouTube videos, among other things. 

ILSPA Profile – Laura Jenkinson, Administrator

Laura Jenkinson has been working for ILSPA as an Administrator since the beginning of the year.  She is a great asset of the team, being very dedicated to her work.

Laura has answered some questions about her background and told us about her experience with ILSPA so far:

What attracted you to work for ILSPA?

I have always been interested in education and was drawn to the fact that ILSPA were really helping people to improve their professional prospects through the courses and Membership benefits which they provide. I felt that combined with my existing administrative skills, the role would be a rewarding step forward in my career, so I was over the moon when I was asked to interview. I then had the opportunity to meet the team here, and I knew there and then that this was the perfect fit for me. I have no formal experience of working within law, however when I was asked to sit as a juror last year, it was my first real experience of the legal world, and despite not being required to sit on a case, I found the process fascinating. 

What experience or qualifications do you have which made you suitable for the role?

Legal Secretary Vacancies October 2016

Here is a selection of vacancies from our Legal Secretary Jobs Board this month:

Junior Secretary – Gregsons Solicitors
Location: Wimbledon
Salary: up to 20K depending on experience 

Gregsons Solicitors is seeking an enthusiastic Junior Legal Secretary to join their team.

The ideal candidate will have excellent communication, organisational and typing skills. 

The main responsibilities of the successful candidate will be typing correspondence and documents through audio typing and word processing, preparing legal forms as required, reviewing and proofreading letters and documents, and establishing and maintaining client files. They will also make appointments, arrange meetings and maintain an up-to-date diary. 

The successful candidate will also provide support to other departments as required, ensure the confidentiality of the firm’s and clients’ documentation and information, assist generally, and undertake such other duties as may be required, including reception.

View the full job description here: 
https://www.institutelegalsecretaries.com/jobs/candidate/job/62565/ 

Recent Changes to CON29 Forms: How Do They Affect You?

As of July 2016, the old CON29R form was replaced by the new CON29. But what is the difference between the two forms, and what does it mean for those who are using them? There is certainly a wealth of information that anyone working with the CON29R should be familiar with – especially when considering there are thirty more questions on the new form! 

Not to fear, however; by being aware of the changes and what the update includes, Legal Secretaries and Conveyancers can make themselves ready to inform their clients appropriately.

What the goal of the change is

According to The Law Society, with these changes it is hoped that the quality and consistency of the information provided by local authorities will be vastly improved – specifically, the information given to people and businesses who intend to buy or lease properties. 

With the change from the old CON29R to the new CON29 and CON290 forms, the information given to people and businesses will apparently be easier to understand. The new system will also make things quite a bit simpler for those who are lending money to property buyers or lessees for their investment. 

What the update includes

What’s in a Title? Uniquely Named Legal Positions

It has recently been announced that Sir Terence Etherton will become Master of the Rolls this month, and that got me thinking: how have we acquired these uniquely titled legal positions? Of course, answering this question took a little delving back into history, but the results highlighted long-held traditions and even ancient practices. 

Master of the Rolls

The person who holds this title is no less than the second most senior judge in England and Wales, after only the Lord Chief Justice. He or she who holds the title today serves as both the presiding officer of the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal and Head of Civil Justice. But how did the name come about?

The position dates back to at least 1286, although some historians believe the office probably existed in some capacity even before the 13th century. Originally, the gentleman who held the office was responsible for keeping the "rolls", also known as the records of the Court of Chancery. While they were originally titled the Keeper of the Rolls of Chancery, the position evolved over time. 

Historically, one of the most well-known people to hold this position was a certain Thomas Cromwell, who acted as Master of the Rolls during the reign of King Henry VIII. 

Lord Chancellor

From PA to VA: My Journey

Having originally worked as a PA and Office Manager, I’ve been a freelance Virtual Assistant (VA) for just over three years now and I absolutely love it. Whether you are a PA in the legal sector or elsewhere, there are huge opportunities if you’re thinking of going freelance.

I’ve met tons of PAs, Secretaries and others recently who are thinking of going “virtual”, or are just interested in how the transition from PA to Virtual Assistant works – so here’s my story!

I’d been a Bookkeeper and Office Manager for a number of years before becoming a PA in the accountancy sector in 2001. Seven years later, due to a merger, both myself and my boss were made redundant. When he asked me if I wanted to join his new business venture, I didn’t hesitate. Although he made me a junior partner, in practice I was essentially still in a PA role.

Fast forward to 2012, and as things hadn’t worked out between us, I decided to leave. January 2013 was a new year with new prospects on the horizon. I decided I’d spent too much time working and commuting and wanted to see more of my daughter before she grew up. I wanted a part-time job with the good rates of pay I was used to as a PA, and ideally with not too far to travel!

Can A Contract Be Amended By An Oral Agreement?

If the vast majority of people were asked whether or not a formal contract could be amended simply by way of an oral agreement, they would probably reply with an emphatic “no”. After all, most people who do not claim to hold any legal knowledge will have heard that an oral contract is not worth the paper it’s written on. However, those of us who understand the basics of this law of obligation may well come to a different conclusion.

It is fair to state that it is wise to put any formal agreement into a proper, written contract. The courts will always prefer this, and a written contract will enable all concerned to apprehend their contractual duties at all times and without ambiguity. However, there will be times where an oral agreement could amend a contract, as transpired in MWB Business Exchange Centres Ltd v Rock Advertising Ltd [2016] EWCA Civ 553. 

Rock Advertising Ltd was leasing premises from MWB Business Exchange Centres Ltd and fell into arrears. When MWB Business Exchange Centres attempted to terminate the agreement, Rock Advertising asserted that an oral agreement was in place to cover a new schedule of payments that would eventually pay off the arrears Rock Advertising had accrued, and that this was agreed between the Managing Director of Rock Advertising and the Credit Controller of MWB. 

Making Time for Studying Whilst Working

Have you been inspired by any of the ideas in our article about useful training courses, but think that you can’t manage to fit another commitment into your life? Don’t be discouraged! Continuing professional development is worth it. Here are some practical tips and ideas that will help you study as well as work.

Taking on a course of study while you hold down a full-time job is a big commitment, but remember it’s a commitment that plenty of people before you have managed to make. First of all, therefore, don’t be daunted and don’t start out with the belief that it’s impossible. What’s required is some determination, some fairly ruthless organisation, and good communication with your family, your friends and your employer.

The people around you need to understand and accept that studying for your course is going to take up some of your time, and it’s worthwhile explaining this in advance and that some aspects of your routine may change as a result. If you live alone or with flatmates, this isn’t such a big deal, but if you’re living with other family members – especially children – it can become a much bumpier ride. 

How to Develop Good Study Skills

Developing good study skills is part of what the Institute tries to help every student learn when completing ILSPA’s Legal Secretaries Diploma course. Law students know that being able to study effectively is the only way to get the best possible results. In addition, if you can master good study skills you will be more efficient in the workplace and, of course, you will have more free time to pursue other activities. Legal study skills do not normally come naturally. For the vast majority of students, it takes time and experience to become fully competent. Here are a few practical tips to help you enhance your study of the law. 

The crucial skills

Studying the Diploma is an achievable task and, as with any study of law, you need to develop a range of skills. One of the most important skills is being able to read and assimilate large amounts of information. As a Diploma student, you are given extensive key resources that you have to read and decipher. Every unit of the course comes with detailed online notes. To obtain the best results in the achievement tests, it is crucial that you not only read these notes but refer back to them when completing your tests. 

How To Gain Audio Typing Skills

An Audio Typist is a professional who specialises in transcribing documents from an audio source which they listen to. Audio typing is a valued ability to gain for those wishing to improve their professional skills as a Legal Secretary. There are a number of jobs which list audio typing as a stipulation, and although it not a skill that is always required, it will enable you to welcome better job prospects. 

The key skills that a competent Audio Typist requires are the ability to type fast and accurately, the ability to touch type without referring to the keyboard, an excellent command of spelling and grammar, and a high level of concentration. An Audio Typist must also be flexible in regard to learning how to use his or her employer’s specific audio transcription system, as each firm and legal department varies. With practice, audio typing is an easily achievable and worthwhile skill to obtain.

ILSPA Profile – Seamus Ryan, Tutor

Seamus Ryan started teaching after he finished law school, over 20 years ago. He specialises in legal training and is a qualified Solicitor, a member of the Institute for Learning and a Law Society accredited Lexcel consultant. Seamus is very popular with our Students due to his friendly and helpful teaching approach. Students often impress Seamus with their level of commitment and enthusiasm for learning.

Seamus has answered some questions about his background and told us about his experience with ILSPA:

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

Legal Secretary Vacancies September 2016

Here is a selection of vacancies from our Legal Secretary Jobs Board this month:

Conveyancing Legal Secretary – James O’Neill Solicitor
Location: Morden 
Salary: TBA 

James O'Neill Solicitor is looking for a new Conveyancing Legal Secretary to join their team 3 days a week.

The candidate needs to be proficient in Microsoft Office software and able to assemble data to complete legal forms. Audio skills will be required and knowledge of Land Registry and Stamp Duty Procedures would be useful but not essential.

View the full job description here: 
https://www.institutelegalsecretaries.com/jobs/candidate/job/59369/

Evening Legal Secretary – King & Wood Mallesons
Location: London
Salary: Competitive 

King & Wood Mallesons have a vacancy for an Evening Secretary to provide full secretarial and administrative support to their Corporate, Funds & Finance division. 

The successful candidate will have 3+ years of Legal Secretary experience including previous and relevant secretarial experience at Associate/Partner or equivalent level in a client oriented organisation. 

Sharpen Or Lift – What’s The Right Course For You?

September is the beginning of the new academic year, and you may have been helping relatives or friends prepare for it. Whether it’s the first day at reception class in a spick and span new uniform, or packing up the car to travel to a far-off university, there’s a feeling of excitement and anticipation in the air. Why not get some of that excitement and anticipation for yourself, by starting a new course that will help strengthen your CV and increase your earning potential? 

More than ever before, Legal Secretaries and PAs are not restricted by conventional job descriptions. The legal world is changing, and if you look around you, you should be able to see many opportunities to expand your role in the firm or simply to make your contributions more valuable – to the firm and to yourself!  

Loud and Clear: Telephone Court Hearings

If you’re the Secretary or PA of a litigation lawyer, you’ll know all about telephone hearings. Since the early 2000s, they’ve been the standard way of dealing with short applications in the courts – in fact, lawyers now have to give reasons why an application should not be heard by telephone, rather than the other way around. For others, though, the idea of having to fix a telephone hearing or conference can still be a bit daunting. Here’s a short summary of the things you need to know. 

Providers
For telephone conferences that don’t involve the court, you essentially have a free hand in choosing your provider, though your firm may have an agreed provider already set up. For court hearings, though, you have to set the conference up with one of the approved providers. At the time of writing, these are BT, LegalConnect, Kidatu and Arkadin. The list, and contact details, can be found at https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/telephone-hearings, where you will also find the basic general requirements of the court. 

Be aware that if your firm does not already have an account with one of these providers, it will probably have to set one up in order to book the hearing. 

Legal Secretary Vacancies August 2016

Here is a selection of vacancies from our Legal Secretary Jobs Board this month:

Conveyancing Secretary – Rosenberg & Co.
Location: London
Salary: Competitive 

Rosenberg & Co, a small niche firm based in north-west London, specialising in all areas of residential conveyancing, is looking to recruit a part-time Conveyancing Legal Secretary. 

Previous experience within a conveyancing department/practice would be advantageous. 

The successful applicant must be highly organised with good administrative and interpersonal skills. They must also have the ability to use initiative and have attention to detail.

View the full job description here: 
https://www.institutelegalsecretaries.com/jobs/candidate/job/56369/

Receptionist/Junior Administrator – Dewar Hogan
Location: London
Salary: TBC 

Dewar Hogan is a niche property litigation firm based in the City, looking for a full-time Receptionist/Junior Administrator to assist their office manager and fee earners. This is a permanent position, starting in late August.

Family Law: When Should Maintenance Payments Stop?

This month we will be considering the highly publicised case of Wright v Wright [2015] EWCA Civ 2015. Controversial comments made by Lord Justice Pitchford in the case suggested that the court’s approach would now favour, more than ever, the granting of temporary maintenance orders rather than orders that give an income for life. Before we look at the Wright case in detail we will first review the principles of maintenance and clean break orders.

Conflicts of Interest within the Legal Industry

As you embark on your career within the legal industry as a Legal Secretary or PA, you will very soon realise just how tight-knit this community really is and how easy it can be for a “conflict of interest” to arise. This is especially the case within barrister chambers when you consider the fact that there aren’t actually that many such firms providing this type of service in some parts of the country.

Indeed, even in London, conflicts of interest can and do arise within legal firms where representatives may well be advising parties on both sides of a legal case. This was certainly the case in W Ltd v M SDN BHD [2016] EWHC 422, where the sole arbitrator in an international tribunal was accused of bias by the other side as a consequence of a conflict of interest. The claimant in this case maintained that there were “serious irregularities” as provided for under s.68(2) of the Arbitration Act 1996. This provision states that a serious irregularity may come about which the court considers has caused or will cause substantial injustice to the applicant.

Career Legal’s Salary and Market Survey 2016

Career Legal say that 2016 may already be a year in which only the brave can confidently predict an outcome with certainty – but they can review the past 12 months with clarity and offer you a snapshot of our current market salaries with precision and authority.

 

Candidate Survey

For the second year running, Career Legal have conducted a survey with their candidates covering:
•    Salary and Bonus
•    Benefits

Over 1,500 candidates completed the questionnaire as part of their registration process and the data was compiled in-house. The questions were answered as follows:

                                                                                                  Yes      No      No Answer
Was your salary reviewed last year?                                 49%    51%    
Did you receive a bonus last year?                                    38%    62%    
Can you work from home?                                                   32%    56%    12%
Would you like to work from home?                                   39%    23%    12%
Do you have a flexible benefits package?                        30%    61%    9%
Would you like a flexible benefits package?                     59%    38%    3%

What is your holiday entitlement?                          Average answer 25 days

Be A Great Team Player

“Must be a good team player”. How often have you seen that in job descriptions and advertisements? And how often have you wondered what, exactly, the writer means? 

After all, there are all sorts of players in every team. Among others, there are the star strikers, and the motivators, and the organisers; there are the backroom boys and girls who make sure that the team’s task gets delivered. Which of these is the writer looking for – or is s/he looking for something else entirely? 

It can help to flip the phrase over: when someone is described as “not a team player”, it tends to mean that s/he puts personal considerations before the objectives of the team, or that s/he creates a certain amount of strife within the team one way or another: basically, that person creates obstacles in the team’s path. So, to flip the phrase back over the other way again, a good team player will put the team’s objectives before his/her personal goals of, for example, showing everyone how clever s/he is, or refusing to do work which doesn’t advance their own personal agenda, and will also work well with other people. 

So, if a good team player puts the team’s objectives before their own and can work well with others, how do Legal Secretaries and PAs demonstrate their team credentials? 

A Legal PA Achieves Job Satisfaction

I began my career as a Legal Secretary after finishing college, where I studied a two-year Business Administration and Secretarial course. After working for two different solicitor’s firms over the course of three years, I left the profession to work as an Administrator organising events at a local university. I had enjoyed working as a Legal Secretary, but I made the decision to change career due to the increase in salary, and I also liked the idea of gaining experience in events management. 

I worked at the university, in a number of different departments, for eleven years. Even though I enjoyed putting my organisational abilities to use organising and managing a variety of events, I became frustrated by the lack of satisfaction from my job, and I found myself moving from role to role in a number of departments around the university over the next few years. My workload also decreased in the summer months due to many students leaving campus, which only added to the frustration I was feeling.

I often looked back on how much I enjoyed working as a Legal Secretary, but I was concerned about changing careers due to the long break I had taken from the profession and also the inevitable reduction in salary. 

The Numbers Game, and Why It Costs - Get the page numbers right on trial bundles  

Earlier this month, a judgment by Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart in the Technology and Construction Court attracted a lot of attention because of the learned judge’s comments about what he saw as the poor preparation of the trial bundles. In fact, he considered that the problems of the bundles were so acute that he adjourned two parts of a three-part application, and ordered that the costs of the adjournment as well as the costs of repaginating the defective bundle should be paid by the firm which had originally submitted it. In other words, it was a fairly expensive mistake. 

The problem was the page numbering, or pagination, of the bundle. Those of you who are involved in the preparation of bundles will probably recognise the difficulty: it is the ‘Russian doll’ effect of putting already paginated documents into a bigger bundle, and the confusion that can arise.

The bundle contained a witness statement — made, as it happened, by a Mr Dean — which had a very large number of exhibits: the entire document, including the exhibits, ran to about 750 pages. This witness statement was essential to the second and third applications. 

The witness statement had originally been prepared with its own page numbers, but then it had been engrossed into the trial bundle. At that point, the original page numbers had been removed and new bundle page numbers had been substituted. 

Act of God or Force Majeure: Interesting Outcomes

You’ve likely heard the expression ‘act of God’, usually in reference to insurance claims. But what’s the difference between it and force majeure, and under what circumstances does either apply? 

Acts of God

Acts of God are usually referred to with regard to insurance and typically include natural phenomena such as floods, lightning strikes, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. Any large-scale, freak weather occurrence falls under this category.

The term is used by insurers and legal professionals to describe events that can’t be predicted or prevented by reasonable measures, and is often used to protect insurance companies from the large payouts associated with such events. As insurance rates are based on calculated risks, and as acts of God don’t tend to be calculable, they aren’t considered a standard risk. When it comes to insurance policies, act of God clauses are applied in extreme circumstances. 

Anyone who’s buying an insurance policy should ask for clarification on what it covers in this regard, as the definition can differ amongst insurance companies. Therefore, you must be aware of what is considered an act of God under your particular policy, particularly in circumstances such as owning a home that’s on a flood plain.

Force Majeure

Conveyancing: The Importance of Accuracy

A recent case in Manchester has highlighted the importance of paying attention to detail when it comes to conveyancing. An assistant solicitor has been fined £5,000 after forgetting to register a Notice of Interest in a property. His oversight was much dearer, however, for his client. As a result of the mistake, an investor didn’t receive £40,400 due when the property was sold! 

Losing the Plot

This recent oversight made headlines in legal publications for obvious reasons. It has brought up the fact that too many conveyancers in the UK are making simple errors, which end up both inconveniencing and costing their clients. 

The Legal Ombudsman issued a publication back in 2014 which grasped the attention of many solicitors. It focused on common conveyancing complaints, their causes and what should be done about them. While many oversights are small and can be easily rectified, a few extreme cases have resulted in situations that put clients through unnecessary stress.

A Home Horror Story

Take, for example, the case of Miss F, as presented by the Legal Ombudsman. Sometime after buying her flat, she discovered that the leasehold didn’t include a converted attic room she’d been making use of. It turns out her lawyer failed to mention the lease was at odds with the details of the sale. 

‘Getting Married’ — time for a change?

This month we will be considering the Law Commission’s scoping paper ‘Getting Married’, a review of marriage law that was done at the request of the Government. The key conclusion of the Commission’s paper was that the law was badly in need of reform. Marriage law should provide a fair and coherent legal framework for people to marry, but sadly the Commission identified that the existing marriage law is unnecessarily restrictive and outdated. 

The current law can be divided into three stages: firstly, what people must do before marriage (the ‘preliminaries’); secondly, the rules as to how and where a marriage can take place; and finally, the rules on how a marriage must be registered with the state.

Legal Secretary Vacancies July 2016

Here is a selection of vacancies from our Legal Secretary Jobs Board this month:

Legal Secretary – Bude Nathan Iwanier
Location: Temple Fortune
Salary: Competitive 

Personable and experienced Conveyancing Secretary/PA required for busy practice. Must have the ability to use initiative, pay attention to detail and prioritise. Familiarity with all Land Registry, SDLT, and common landlord and tenant forms (both online and using in-house software) is essential. Experience in Leasehold Reform and Enfranchisement would be useful.

View the full job description here: 
https://www.institutelegalsecretaries.com/jobs/candidate/job/51784/

Receptionist/Junior Administrator – Dewar Hogan
Location: London
Salary: TBC 

Dewar Hogan is a niche property litigation firm based in the City, looking for a full-time Receptionist/Junior Administrator to assist their office manager and fee earners. This is a permanent position, starting in late August.

Duties will include general reception duties, filing, photocopying, dealing with post, managing diaries and booking events.

SecsintheCity Summer Networking Event

SecsintheCity, the UK’s #1 job site for PAs and EAs, hosted their first Summer Networking Event last Thursday 9th June at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, London - The City. 

The Summer Networking Event provided 70 PAs with an opportunity for peer-to-peer networking over wine and canapés, as well as the chance to sample an array of food, beauty, health and lifestyle products from some of the best brands in the corporate sector.

Sponsored by secretarial recruitment specialists KMK Recruitment, the evening was host to a variety of pop-up boutiques, including:

•    Hemingway Tailors
•    The Headshot Guy
•    Return to Glory
•    Moores of London
•    Little Ondine
•    Chococo

The exclusive event also offered attendees one-to-one CV and career advice, as well as a training workshop from Mark Doyle — co-founder of The Method — who tackled ‘Handling difficult situations in the workplace’, which included practical activity scenarios.

Keynote speaker Mark Doyle of The Method said, “I was really excited to be speaking at SecsintheCity’s Summer Networking Event last night and really enjoyed sharing our innovative approach for tackling the difficult moments and challenges that PAs and EAs face on a daily basis.”

What to Do When You’re Falling Behind

When I was a kid, it took me longer than I would have liked to learn how to ride a bike. I kept using a bike with training wheels and I didn’t practice much, so of course I didn’t learn how to balance.

One day I observed that my sister (younger than me by two and a half years) was getting close to figuring out how to ride a bike. She wasn’t quite there yet, but she was clearly much closer to balancing than I was. I couldn’t let her beat me to it!

So I grabbed my bike, pushed it out to the street and decided that I was going to learn how to ride it then and there. I hopped on — sans training wheels — and swerved all over the place like an out-of-control maniac. When I could muster some degree of control, I tried to stay near the grass so when I fell, I’d hopefully crash onto the lawn instead of the street or sidewalk.

After many short-lived attempts, I finally learned how to balance. Then I was off and riding. I rode my bike a lot that summer and have had the skill ever since.

Up until that point, I’d been making a big deal out of the whole process. It seemed scary and daunting. I was afraid of falling. But once I confronted the fear and mustered the courage to risk getting hurt, I quickly emerged on the other side with a whole new skill. From the moment of decision to the time I emerged with the basic skill, probably less than an hour passed.

A Day in the Life with Vicki Lister, Secretarial Manager, Reed Smith

Vicki Lister is the Secretarial, Catering and Reception Services Manager for Reed Smith, a global law firm based in London.

Vicki has worked her way up to her current management position after initially starting her career as a nanny. She then made the change to law and took on a secretarial role at a Magic Circle firm and has since progressed through promotion to her current role.

Vicki joins us to share her experience and what a typical day is like for her…

How I start my day… I start my day at 6.30 a.m. and get into the office around 8.45. I check my emails on my train journey to ensure any urgent absences can be dealt with early and so that when I get into the office I can get straight on with other work or urgent emails or attend any meetings. I have breakfast and a strong coffee at my desk, much needed!

I’m responsible for… around 100 secretaries and approximately 30 Reception, Catering and Hospitality staff who manage the service contractually for Reed Smith.

How Changes to Data Protection Laws May Affect Law Firms

New data protection laws are coming into effect across the EU this spring, and they’re set to be some of the most stringent in the world.

Here in the UK, prior to the new EU Data Protection Regulation there was no actual legal obligation for organisations to report personal data breaches to anyone, merely a recommendation that the Information Commissioner’s Office be made aware of serious breaches. 

This seemingly lackadaisical approach stems from the Data Protection Act of 1998, prior to the days of mass Internet usage. The new EU regulation will reportedly be much more in tune with the age of smartphones and cloud storage.

New Obligations in the EU

Now, data controllers must notify the appropriate supervisory authorities of any breaches with the potential to cause accidental or unlawful destruction of data, or the loss, alteration, or improper disclosure of or access to personal data that’s transmitted, stored or otherwise processed by data controllers. 

Not only do data controllers now have an obligation to report breaches, but they must do so within 72 hours, which critics say may be an extremely hard target to meet for many businesses. Should the 72-hour restriction be unmet, the company that experienced the breach must provide an explanation of why they couldn’t meet the supervisory authority’s deadline.

Long-serving Legal Secretary Recognised For Her Outstanding Work

A member of Hethertons Solicitors team has been awarded a lifetime Membership of the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs (ILSPA) for her outstanding work at the leading firm.
 
Karen Chirnside has received Fellowship Membership from the organisation having satisfied the strict requirements of the Institute, which include at least six years of experience as a Legal Secretary.
 
Speaking after receiving the award, Karen said: ‘I am absolutely delighted to be admitted as a lifetime fellow of ILSPA. It is nice to receive recognition for the work and commitment put in to my role at Hethertons.’
 
Karen works within Hethertons’ Private Client department, where she provides support to the practice’s team of experienced solicitors.
 
Barbara Stephens, Head of the York-based firm’s Private Client department, said: ‘I would like to congratulate Karen on receiving her Fellowship Membership from ILSPA. This recognition is well deserved and demonstrates the level of hard work our staff put in within the firm.’

 

SecsintheCity Launches a Summer Networking Event for Personal and Executive Assistants

SecsintheCity, the UK’s #1 job site for PAs and EAs, has announced a new event for PAs and EAs – the Summer Networking Event – which will take place on 9 June 2016 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel London - The City.

The event offers PAs and EAs an opportunity to speed-network with high-profile PAs and EAs, including:
-          Jules Clark, PA to the CEO at Eversheds LLP
-          Alison Boler, PA to the SVP of Legal at Sony Music

Mark Doyle, a training expert from The Method will present a workshop on ‘Handling Difficult Situations in the Workplace’.

In addition, the event offers one-to-one CV and career advice and will include pop-up boutiques such as:
-          Jo Malone
-          Chococo
-          Moores of London
-          Little Ondine
-          Return to Glory
-          The Headshot Guy

Sown and Grown, a delicious new cereal brand, will also supply goodies for the event bags.

Mark Doyle said: ‘We know that PAs and EAs have to deal with all sorts of challenges and difficult situations on a daily basis – and that part of the job is having the confidence to deal with whatever is thrown at you. I am really looking forward to sharing an innovative approach to help tackle some of those really difficult moments – and to meeting you all at the event.’

See You in Court! Part 2: At Court

Last month, we looked at the etiquette involved in accompanying your boss to court. This month, we’ll have a look at what happens when you get there, what you can expect to happen and how you can help. 

Whether you’re attending court on a criminal or a civil case, one of the first things that will happen when you arrive is that your boss will have a conference with the client. In this article, however, I’m going to concentrate on what happens in civil cases, including family cases.

The pre-trial conference will normally take place in one of the meeting rooms in the court building. Usually, your boss has quite a lot to update the clients about, and vice versa. The days just before a trial tend to be ones of intense activity, as both sides explore the possibility of settling the case and thus avoiding part or all of the costs of the trial. It may well be that the negotiations are still going on, and the clients will need to hear from your boss about the most recent developments as soon as they arrive. 

In most family and civil cases, there will be a final attempt to agree to a settlement at what is called ‘the door of the court’. This is an interesting and absorbing process, and though you may be asked to stay with the clients rather than following your boss through the negotiating procedure, you will still see how the process works at first hand. 

Legal Secretary Vacancies June 2016

Here is a selection of vacancies from our Legal Secretary Jobs Board this month:

Corporate Legal Secretary – Howard Kennedy 
Location: London
Salary: Competitive 

Howard Kennedy is looking for a new Legal Secretary to join their Corporate Department. The successful candidate will be expected to provide first class professional secretarial and administrative support for five fee earners.

Experience of working as a Secretary within a corporate department (both contentious and non-contentious) is essential.

View the full job description here: 
https://www.institutelegalsecretaries.com/jobs/candidate/job/48685/

Commercial Property Secretary – Freedmans Law
Location: Bond Street Tube Station
Salary: Dependent on experience 

Freedmans Law, in the West End, is looking for a Commercial Property Secretary to join their busy and growing team. For this role you will need some experience of working in a fast-paced commercial law firm environment, and have first class IT skills, an eye for detail, excellent organisation skills and the ability to work to tight deadlines.

Increase in Tax for Owners of Second Homes and Buy-to-let Properties

Following changes to the stamp duty land transaction tax (SDLT) from 1 April 2016, higher rates of SDLT will apply to the purchase of additional residential properties (such as second homes and buy-to-let properties). The changes followed a surprise announcement by the Chancellor at the last budget and were passed in the Finance (No. 2) Bill 2015-16.

If at the end of a purchase a buyer owns two or more residential properties, they may be liable for a higher rate of SDLT. One of the key factors in whether extra tax is due is whether they are replacing their main residence. If the buyer has disposed of a previous main residence within 36 months of the day of the transaction, the buyer will be considered to be replacing a main residence and no extra tax will be due. 

Legal Secretary Vacancies May 2016

Here is a selection of vacancies from our Legal Secretary Jobs Board this month:

Legal PA – Morgan Spencer 
Location: Central London
Salary: £32,000 - £38,000 

Morgan Spencer is looking for a Legal PA to fill a fantastic opportunity that has become available with a prestigious London law firm. The candidate must have previous experience working within a legal environment. They will also need to show that they have worked in a PA or team support role at a senior level.

60 wpm typing speed, advanced knowledge of Microsoft programs and impeccable attention to detail are also essential.

View the full job description here: 
https://www.institutelegalsecretaries.com/jobs/candidate/job/47235/

Part-time Employment Legal Secretary – Gregsons
Location: Wimbledon
Salary: Competitive 

Gregsons Solicitors, a long-established firm in Wimbledon, is seeking an enthusiastic part-time Legal Secretary to work Thursday and Friday mornings within its Employment Department. The ideal candidate will be an experienced Legal Secretary with excellent communication, organisational and typing skills.

Pursuing Your Legal Career Outside London

If you’ve just choked on your coffee after reading the headline to this article, scoffing at the very idea of pursuing a legal career away from the big smoke of the capital, set a little time aside to consider the bigger picture here. 

Okay, so whilst an estimated one-third of the country’s solicitors are said to be working in London, this still means there are another 67% of these legal professionals in other parts of the United Kingdom. In turn, this means plenty of Legal Secretary and PA jobs for you to consider in all parts of the nation.

Indeed, over recent years, the large regional centres in the country have seen more and more office space being dedicated to legal firms. Surprisingly, Bristol has now reached the second spot outside London for legal firms, and it is estimated that more than 875,000 sq. ft. of the city’s office space is now devoted to law firms. The country’s second city of Birmingham was actually beaten down into third place by Bristol, followed by Manchester in fourth. 

See You in Court! Part 1: Getting the Etiquette Right

Keep the focus on the client

“I need you to come down to court with me tomorrow.” When you hear these words from your boss, do you feel pleasant anticipation or hear the knell of doom? Although accompanying your boss or another member of the firm to court can be one of the most interesting aspects of your job, many secretaries don’t make the most of the experience because they are not sure what’s required of them, either in terms of general etiquette or in terms of the tasks they are being asked to do. Here’s a quick introductory guide to both.

The most important thing is to get clear in your own mind what your boss wants you to do. Very often s/he will ask you to come down to court purely so that you can observe the process, and see how what you are doing on a day-to-day basis is used out there in the wide world. 

This is a really valuable opportunity, so make the most of it. Read up on the facts of the case before you go, if you can. If you are travelling to the hearing with your boss, you may well be able to ask some questions about the case and about what is going to happen at court that day. Do remember, however, that if you are travelling on public transport your boss will not be able to discuss the case in great detail because of client confidentiality. 

The Online ‘Digital’ Divorce Is Coming

Aside from the death of a loved one, divorce can be, and often is, one of the most stressful of all life’s events. It is rarely amicable, and one partner is usually hurting more than the other one. One of the biggest upsets with divorce can be the one-to-one confrontations in solicitors’ offices. These formal-type meetings tend to do more harm than good in a lot of cases. Well, what if you could cut out all those unpleasant face-to-face appointments with the future ex. Imagine if you could settle your divorce online with just a few clicks. The good news is that this will be a real option in the not-too-distant future. The online ‘digital’ divorce could become a reality as early as 2017. Legal experts expect this to be a preferred method among many divorcing couples, though not everyone welcomes the idea. 

Legal opponents to the online divorce system disagree with the digital breakup. They think divorce is something that necessitates time, reflection and deliberate intent. They believe that the speed and casual ease of a ‘virtual’ split will cause too many problems and regrets later on. These are valid concerns if a couple rushes through with an online divorce without too much conscious thought. But in the case of an uncontested split, why put themselves through the pain, time and cost of a conventional dissolution? It just doesn’t make any sense at all.

Vicarious Liability – What You Need to Know

Vicarious simply means ‘in place of’. Vicarious liability is a legal term that refers to a kind of secondary accountability. In other words, Person A is responsible for the wrongdoings of Person B, even though Person A had no direct involvement in the offence. 

Vicarious liability is a doctrine (a belief or set of beliefs) of English tort law. In simple terms, a tort is a civil wrongdoing. It occurs when someone unjustly causes another person to suffer harm or loss. The person who commits the tortious act is the tortfeasor. 

We can use a hypothetical situation in the workplace to illustrate how this works. 

Hypothetical Case Study

Let’s say, for example, that Bob gets into a debate with Tom on the factory floor. Let’s also assume that things get a little heated and out of control, so much so that Tom does something fundamentally wrong and ends up injuring Bob. Because of the vicarious liability law, the employer can be liable for Tom’s injury on Bob. The argument could be that the company failed to supply a safe working environment for its more ‘stable’ employees. Or there could be any number of other conditions that might apply. In many situations this is a common sense ruling, but it also has its critics.

Who Goes There?

Password security is vital security

Last month’s huge data breach at the Panamanian law firm of Mossack Fonseca – to give you an idea of its size, it was hundreds of times bigger than the material released by Wikileaks in 2010 – is an example of just how much damage a data security leak can cause. The private affairs of the firm’s clients became public property overnight, allowing the press to trace money across continents and into tax havens. 

Although the leak uncovered some pretty questionable, and possibly illegal, behaviour on the part of some of the firm’s clients, many other clients who were not doing anything wrong had their most private financial affairs opened up for the world to see. 

Most people would prefer not to have their case files made public, and it’s a reminder that law firms hold extremely sensitive information on individuals, about which they have to take very great care. Mossack Fonseca had a particular reputation for discretion and privacy; that reputation has now been critically damaged, if not destroyed.

The cause of the Mossack Fonseca leak is not known yet; it could have been a sophisticated hacking operation, or it could have been a whistle-blower. Law firms can’t do very much about whistle-blowers, but we can all use this opportunity to review data security – and data security starts with the secretarial team. 

Asking for Feedback

Do you know what your boss thinks about your performance at work?

Some readers will be able to answer “yes” to this question without much thought because they go through evaluations at least once a year, and those evaluations are built into their work calendars. These meetings are a great opportunity not only to get feedback from their bosses, but also to give feedback about how their own job is working out for them – and to consider that all-important question of salary. 

In some less-organised medium-sized firms, though, and in many smaller firms, evaluations either do not happen at all or happen on an irregular timescale. If you are working in a firm like this, you might wonder whether proactively asking for feedback about your performance may be asking for trouble. Some people will warn you that if you invite feedback about how well you’re doing, you are actually inviting your boss – and management generally – to be critical about you. Certainly, you are going to hear some negative remarks if you ask for general feedback. Isn’t it much safer, they will ask, to let sleeping dogs lie?

Dealing with Difficult Clients

Remember that you are the public face of the firm

Every firm has them. The clients whom we politely call “demanding”. The clients who ring up and must speak to your boss right now about their latest difficulty; the clients who turn up at reception shouting the odds; the clients who angrily dispute their bills with you and claim that your boss didn’t actually do the work; the clients who threaten to – and frequently do – take their grievances to the Legal Ombudsman, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and the press. 

They are among the most challenging aspects of our job. Working out in advance your own strategy for dealing with them can be a godsend when they do turn up – because it is in the nature of things that the difficult client can appear out of the blue, often at the least convenient moment, and can transform a routine encounter into a confrontation within the blink of an eye. 

It always helps to put yourself in the client’s shoes and understand why it is that they are being so demanding. They are almost certainly paying your firm and your boss a significant sum of money to sort out a problem which is very important to them, which may have a very tight deadline and which may be upsetting by its very nature. 

Defamation – Developments in the Law on Reputation

What do Psychic Sally, Cameron Diaz and McDonald’s all have in common? Each has had a brush with the UK laws on defamation. We will consider the merits of each of their cases below and review whether the law on defamation is useful to the ordinary person or just a tool used by the wealthy to suppress free speech. We will also review the effect of the recent changes to the law made by the Defamation Act 2013, which came into force in England and Wales on 1 January 2014. 

What is defamation? Defamation is a false statement made by one individual about another. This statement attempts to discredit that person’s character, reputation or creditworthiness. In order to be defamatory, such a statement must be communicated to at least one other person. If such a statement is spoken, then it is described as slander. If it is written, broadcast or shown in a film, it is described as libel. In line with the changing ways that people communicate, statements will include things said in emails, on the web, or through online forums, social media or blogging sites. 

Something is defamatory if it: 

•    Lowers someone in the estimation of right-thinking members of the public; and/or
•    Causes a person to be shunned or avoided; and/or
•    Disparages them in their office, trade or profession; and/or
•    Exposes them to hatred, ridicule or contempt.

Should Judges Ever Rule against People’s Wills?

Does the very concept of a judge being able to rule against a dead person’s last will and testament seem completely unacceptable to you? Perhaps you feel that this really is the final straw when it comes to our judiciary asserting their rulings in an area that really ought not to be touched? Upon first glance at this issue, I would have to admit to having felt very similar feelings myself; however, as with everything in life, especially law, things are never that straightforward, and there could well be circumstances at play that might just change your mind.

Take the case of Llott v. Mitson [2015] EWCA Civ 797 as an excellent example of circumstances that might just persuade you into sympathy for the judges in our top courts.

The claimant in this case was an early-middle-aged woman who had three children and was living on state benefits in modest means and circumstances. Her mother, from whom she had become estranged some 26 years earlier due to her choice in boyfriends, must have lived a much more fortunate and affluent life, as when she passed, she left an estate worth no less than £486,000. 

Six Things that Will Renew Your Enthusiasm and Motivation at Work

Even if you love your job and your career, there are bound to be some weeks when it feels like the “same old, same old” routine, sometimes when you hit a plateau or a dip in the road. That doesn’t mean you need to change jobs or careers – or that you should resign yourself to feeling stagnant.

Here are six paths to renewal:

1. Variety: A routine can become a rut too easily. Even small changes add up to reignite your enthusiasm. Try working from a different place once a week. Hold meetings someplace new. Eat lunch with people in other departments.  Find two routine tasks that you can complete in a different way.

2. Reinforcement:  Very few of us get enough consistent feedback, praise, or appreciation. Provide motivating reinforcement and rewards yourself. For example, the “to do” list:  Don’t cross things off your list. Write “DONE!” next to completed tasks and projects. Review at the end of every week so you get a better sense of how much you do.

3. New perspectives: Innovation and inspiration are often found when we look outside our own territory. Read widely; expose yourself to new ideas. Cross-train within your company and practice seeing the organization from others’ viewpoints.

The English Legal System – An English Bill of Rights?

Since 2010 there have been serious discussions in Parliament about the possibility of creating a British Bill of Rights. The topic of constitutional law does not often become something of popular discussion, but following the Scottish referendum of 2014 and the current EU renegotiations by David Cameron, potential reforms are currently at the centre of British politics. 

In this article we will concentrate on the possibility of a British Bill of Rights, but it is worth noting that there are many other elements of our English legal and political system that are currently under review. Examples of other contentious constitutional issues include:

•    The separation of power between the government and the courts. This relationship has been affected by EU law taking priority over UK law, and it has created a more politically “active” Supreme Court. 

•     The role of the House of Lords in the UK law-making system. As you will have studied in the Diploma course, laws in the UK usually require the approval of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Reform of the House of Lords is another significant change that the current government is keen to deal with.

From the Human Rights Act to a Bill of Rights?

Legal Secretary Vacancies April 2016

Here is a selection of vacancies from our Legal Secretary Jobs Board this month:

Legal Secretary x 3 – Debenhams Ottaway
Location: St Albans
Salary: £23,000 

Debenhams Ottaway are looking for two Legal Secretaries to join their Private Client team and one Legal Secretary to join their Dispute Resolution team. Their duties will be to provide secretarial and administrative assistance to a minimum of 2 Partners and Lawyers.

Applicants must have excellent computer skills and a minimum typing speed of 50wpm. Previous secretarial experience in a law firm is desirable.  

View the full job description here: 
https://www.institutelegalsecretaries.com/jobs/candidate/job/44256/

Legal Secretary - Personal Injury - Withy King
Location: Oxford
Salary: Competitive 

A Very Surprising Cohabitee Case in Probate Law

Anyone familiar with the intricacies of probate law was probably watching Joy Williams’ recent case for a half share in her deceased partner’s property with a rather sympathetic smirk stretching across their face. Little could they have known what the eventual outcome would be, especially when it turned out to be a ruling that was utterly unexpected by all.

Nevertheless, it would seem that Joy Williams, 69, has managed to achieve the impossible by securing a ruling in her case that many probate legal experts would say actually goes against the current law to quite a large extent. Ms Williams had been cohabiting with Norman Martin for some 18 years; however, the property was actually in the name of his estranged wife, to whom the estate went upon Mr Martin’s death back in 2012.

This effectively meant that Ms Williams would be made homeless by such an arbitrary ruling. Even though she contested that she had shared a loving home with Mr Martin for nearly two full decades, such are (or should we say were!) the laws regarding cohabitees that it looked almost certain Ms Williams was going to lose her home.

However, Judge Nigel Gerald finally found in Ms Williams’ interest, stating that it was a “fair and reasonable result” that Joy should retain “an absolute interest” in the property where they had both enjoyed a “loving and committed relationship” together.  

ILSPA’s Scholarship Scheme 2016

ILSPA’s Scholarship Scheme enables one Student each year to study our Legal Secretaries Diploma course for free. ILSPA would like to offer financial support to someone who may not be able to fund the course themselves, enabling him or her to have a successful Legal Secretary career.  

The application process for our Scholarship Scheme is open until 31 March 2016, and the successful applicant will be informed on 11 April 2016. If you are interested in applying for our Scholarship Scheme, or if you know anyone who would benefit from it, you can request an application form by emailing us at info@institutelegalsecretaries.com.

Occasionally we receive enquiries from people who want to better themselves and have a good career by studying the Legal Secretaries Diploma course, but they are unable to afford the course fees. Through the Scholarship Scheme, we are able to give someone the opportunity to enrol for our course without the worry of the financial commitment.  

Former Executive Assistant to Oprah Winfrey Appears at office* 2016

The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs is very pleased to support *office with their valuable event this year.  There will be a wealth of excellent seminars and exhibitors available to assist you in your working life.

With visitor registration now open, office* – the award-winning business event for executive office support professionals, taking place at the new venue of ExCeL London on 11-12 May, has announced Libby Moore, former EA/chief of staff to Oprah Winfrey, as its first Keynote speaker for 2016.

Renowned for attracting a host of ‘inspirational’ big names from around the world, former headline Keynote speakers include Karren Brady, Deborah Meaden, Zelda La Grange, former PA to Nelson Mandela, Judith Croasdell, former PA to Professor Stephen Hawking, Freda Kelly, former secretary to The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, Margaret Mountford, Michelle Mone and Jacqueline Gold.

This year, it’s Ms. Moore’s turn to draw in the crowds.  An executive coach, inspirational speaker, and self-confessed ‘adventurer’, Ms. Moore will share her personal and professional journey – which includes 11 years working with Oprah Winfrey – to illustrate how “letting go, and getting into the flow” has led her to extraordinary life experiences.

Mentoring: A Practical Way to Pay It Forward

Recognise those who supported you by supporting your junior colleagues

When you look back at your first few years of working as a Secretary, do you recall the times when you felt that you had really learned something? Those times when you mastered a skill or dealt with a person in a way that spelled out to you (and often to others as well) that you were making progress and becoming more professional? Think back to how you acquired that crucial knowledge. Was it something that you learned by being taught in a traditional way – or did you acquire it by getting advice from one of your colleagues?
 
Most Secretaries can look back to someone in the office – maybe someone at the same grade as themselves but more experienced, or someone at a higher grade but willing to pass on knowledge – who was a crucial part of their professional development. Nowadays that relationship is often spoken of formally as a “mentoring” relationship, but how it’s labelled matters less than how it works for the two people involved in it.
 
Could you now fill that advisory and assisting role for someone in the office who is junior to you?

Legal Secretary Vacancies - March 2016

Here is a selection of vacancies from our Legal Secretary Jobs Board this month:

Conveyancing Legal Secretary/Receptionist - Verbatim Property Lawyers
Location: Ilford
Salary: £17,000 - £20,000 
Closing Date: 31/05/16

Verbatim Property Lawyers are URGENTLY looking for an experienced member of staff to assist with an expanding conveyancing practice in Woodford Green. The applicant should have a minimum of 6 months’ practical experience.

View the full job description here: 
https://www.institutelegalsecretaries.com/jobs/candidate/job/40106/

Legal Secretary - Real Estate - Winckworth Sherwood
Location: Camberwell
Salary: Competitive
Closing Date: 31/03/16

Legal Secretary required with prior experience to a senior level and with excellent property experience in a good law firm. Advanced Word 2010 skills, intermediate PowerPoint and some Excel experience are essential.

View the full job description here: 
https://www.institutelegalsecretaries.com/jobs/candidate/job/37438/

The Professional Paralegal Register Conference

           The Professional Paralegal
               Register Conference
                            on 
                      21 April 2016
                             at 
      Wybston Lakes Executive Centre
          Great North Road, Wybston
                        MK44 3AL
 

The Professional Paralegal Register (PPR) is delighted to invite ILSPA members to attend the first-ever Paralegal Conference to have been organised in England and Wales. A special rate of £40 per ticket is available for ILSPA members.

Legal Secretaries who perform any kind of legal work are, by definition, Paralegals. The PPR recognises that many Legal Secretaries undertake substantial legal work and could benefit from further professional recognition as a PPR member.

The conference has an expert panel of speakers, chaired by Derek Wood, CBE, QC, as follows: Steve Green (Chair of the Office of Legal Complaints); Elisabeth Davies (Chair of Legal Services Consumer Panel); Espe Fuentes (Head of Legal Operations, Which? Legal); Becky Huxley-Binns (Vice Provost at the University of Law); Lindsy McGowan (Specialist Paralegal Recruiter); and Chris White (Founder of Aspiring Solicitors).

The conference will also offer eight workshops, an exhibition and the chance to network.

Rita Leat (Managing Director of the PPR) commented:

Spare the Spellcheck

Be self-reliant when proofreading your documents

“Halo, I’m sorry to trouble you, I know your busty, but you sued us recently for some tiepin work and I wandered if you wood car to rate our services on a scale of wan to ten. …”

Apart from the fact that someone is unintentionally paying you a rather risqué compliment, what’s the other striking thing about this sentence? Full marks to those of you who spotted the fact that it would pass most spellcheck programs. It’s an illustration of the fact that simply running a document through the spellchecker is not an adequate way to proofread it. A spellchecker cannot tell that “wan” makes no sense in the sentence but “one” does, nor does it know the author meant to write “used” but typed “sued” (always a bad typo in a legal context). Some spellcheckers will pick up “tiepin” when rendered as one word, but not all of them will, and none of them will pick up that the writer meant “typing”. 

How Sorry Are You Really?

A New App Aims to Make You Less Apologetic

Here’s an interesting game to play if you monitor your boss’s emails. How many of the incoming emails start off by apologising (“I’m sorry to bother you, but ...”) or by minimising the subject (“I just need a quick word with you about ...”)? And of those, how many have been written by women? I’ll say this next bit in a whisper: are you even a bit guilty of doing this yourself?

The thinking behind Just Not Sorry, a new app for Gmail, is that women in particular (though not just women!) are prone to sabotaging the content of their emails by using certain words. The app works by highlighting the “weasel words” in your emails and giving you the opportunity to substitute them with something less, well, apologetic.

One apparently minor change with a big impact is to consider writing “thank you” where you would normally have written “sorry”. “Thanks for your feedback so far, which has given me a lot to think about” sounds quite a lot better than “Sorry not to have been in touch with you again before now”. Other favourites for substitution include the words “just”, “actually”, “I think” and “I’m no expert, but”.

Legal Secretary Vacancies February 2016

Here is a selection of vacancies from our Legal Secretary Jobs Board this month:

 

Property/Conveyancing Secretary – Quality Solicitors Rose & Rose

Location: Kingston Upon Thames

Salary: £18,000 - £23,000 dependant on experience and credentials

Closing Date: 31/12/16

Property/conveyancing secretary with experience required to join the team at Quality Solicitors Rose & Rose based in Kingston Upon Thames.

View the full job description here:

https://www.institutelegalsecretaries.com/jobs/candidate/job/28440/

 

Residential Property Secretary – Howell-Jones LLP

Location: Cheam

Salary: Competitive

Closing Date: 29/02/16

Howell-Jones LLP has a vacancy for a full-time, experienced Residential Property Legal Secretary to provide full secretarial support to their Residential Property Lawyer at their office in Cheam.

View the full job description here:

https://www.institutelegalsecretaries.com/jobs/candidate/job/32074/

 

The Legal Secretarial Job Market in 2016

Knowledge is power, and knowledge of the market for your own job is always empowering, even if you’re not thinking of moving in the foreseeable future. That knowledge can help protect you against shocks to your earning power or even your job security.

With that in mind, I asked Angela Mortimer, CEO of Angela Mortimer plc, and Kam Vara, Director of the Angela Mortimer Group’s Property, Legal and Commercial Division, what has been happening in the Legal Secretarial and PA market recently. The Angela Mortimer Group has been recruiting Legal Secretaries and PAs for four decades – in fact, the company celebrates its 40th anniversary this year – and both Angela and Kam told me that there have been profound changes within the Legal Secretarial and PA job market within the past two years. These changes have, in Angela’s words, “swept the market” in bigger UK cities, they demand your attention, whether or not you are thinking of moving jobs at the moment.

Overcoming Procrastination

Procrastination, the habit of putting tasks off to the last possible minute, can be a major problem in both your career and your personal life. Side effects include missed opportunities, frenzied work hours, stress, overwhelmedness, resentment and guilt. This article will explore the root causes of procrastination and give you several practical tools for overcoming it.

The behaviour pattern of procrastination can be triggered in many different ways, so you won’t always procrastinate for the same reason. Sometimes you’ll procrastinate because you’re overwhelmed with too much on your plate, and procrastination gives you an escape. Other times you’ll feel tired and lazy, and you just can’t get going.

Let’s now address these various causes of procrastination and consider intelligent ways to respond.

1. Stress

When you feel stressed, worried or anxious, it’s hard to work productively. In certain situations procrastination works as a coping mechanism to keep your stress levels under control. A wise solution is to reduce the amount of stress in your life when possible, such that you can spend more time working because you want to, not because you have to. One of the simplest ways to reduce stress is to take more time for play.

Some Much-Needed Inspiration During Your Studies

Deciding to pursue a course in law really can prove to be a challenge at times. Every now and again you might feel distracted when your family needs you or your friends are enjoying active social lives. At these times, a question that may spring to mind is “Why am I doing this?”

The Benefits of Study

You might be studying a course because either you want a change in career or you want to advance your current career. As you progress through your course with the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs, apart from working towards gaining a valuable qualification, you will also find that a myriad of other perks will derive from your studies, including an increased sense of confidence, the ability to be more focused, a marked improvement in your word processing skills, an understanding of how law affects our everyday lives and the essential organisation skills that originate from juggling a home life with a good number of study hours.

33-Year-Old Appointed as Crown Court Judge

The Rule in Pigot’s Case (1614) and Its Effect in Contract Law

As I am currently in the middle of an in-depth course that deals with the law of obligations, I have to admit to feeling a little ashamed of myself for never having heard of Pigot’s Case – especially the rule and the impact it currently has on English contract law. I have gone through every last textbook connected to the course with a fine-tooth comb, and there is not a single mention of this case anywhere.

So, would this lack of knowledge about and coverage of the case of Winchcombe v. Pigot [1558-1774] All E.R. Rep. 50 mean that the rule established in this case is no longer applicable in our common law?

First and foremost, it is necessary to acquaint ourselves with the case and the rule that was established. A Mr Henry Pigot was indebted to a Mr Benedict Winchcombe. A bond was executed in relation to this debt on 2 March 1611. Sometime later Mr Winchcombe became the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, and then an unknown stranger actually amended the bond that existed between Pigot and Winchcombe by inserting the words Vicecomiti Comitatus Oxon (Sheriff of the County of Oxford) immediately after the words Benedict Winchcombe, Esq., and before the amount that was due on the bond.

Wills and Probate Update

This month we will be looking at recent developments in the world of Wills and Probate.

Funeral Wishes

In the autumn of 2015 an unusual legal dispute arose in the High Court on the point of where and how a loved one should be buried. The deceased, Iris Freud, was survived by her two children, Susanna and David. Susanna believed that her late mother would have wanted a traditional Church of England funeral. David on the other hand believed that their mother would want a funeral that followed the Jewish rites, in line with the faith of their late father. In this particular case, following the judge’s urgings that the parties should try to agree on the issue, a settlement was reached, but no doubt what was already an emotionally difficult time was made harder because of this uncertainty. It is worth noting that the issue that helped the parties to agree on where and how to bury their mother was allowing the 1916 pop song “If You Were the Only Girl in the World” to be played at the funeral. It is rare for this type of dispute to reach the Courts; generally, in a well-drafted Will, the deceased includes his or her funeral wishes.

New £1 Million Inheritance Tax Breaks

Civil Litigation : Practice in focus - Advocacy and McKenzie Friends

In recent months we have written about the major changes to how litigation clients are paying for legal advice. Legal services are now being unbundled so clients can “pick and mix” when they want to pay for legal advice and when they will do it themselves. This month we will consider how unbundled legal advice fits in with representation at court hearings. This type of representation is commonly called advocacy, and traditionally it is a service that has been provided by barristers or solicitors on behalf of their clients. Following changes to the scope of legal aid funding in April 2013, there has been widespread concern that individuals will be forced to represent themselves in court (known as litigants in person). Evidence already exists that such litigants are becoming more of the norm rather than the exception, and this article considers how the courts and legal profession are adapting to a changing legal environment. 

The Rise of the McKenzie Friend

New Year Resolutions

Be honest, now. On the final day of the Christmas hols, when you were tidying the last of the festive debris from your handbag or pockets and thinking about your first day back at work, did your heart lighten – or sink? Or was it somewhere in the middle? 

There are exceptions to every rule, but it’s not generally a good sign if you are either ecstatic or profoundly depressed to be back in the office. Even if you are somewhere in the middle, it’s worth taking some time as you start the new year to decide where you are on the spectrum, and to consider whether making one or more work-related resolutions for the new year might help.

If the prospect of returning to the office after the Christmas break made you depressed – or even worse, partly spoilt your holiday – then you have to consider very seriously whether you are in the wrong job. It may not be the nature of the work that’s the problem, but a boss with whom you just can’t get on, or a manager with unrealistic expectations. You may simply have been doing the same job for too long, and it’s become stale and boring. Everybody needs a new challenge once in a while. 

Recent Changes to Family Law: Decree nisi and Statement to Support Divorce

In light of a Family Justice Review that was undertaken, HM Courts and Tribunals Service have decided to create a new single Family Court in England and Wales. Effectively, this will pull this area of law away from the county courts and should mean that this division of the legal system is able to deal with relevant cases far more expeditiously and cost-effectively. 

Specifically, when it comes to applications for divorce in the future, applicants should find that this process will be far easier; especially when a decree nisi is not being contested by the other party. Instead of being sent to your local county court, you will now be required to forward an application for a decree nisi and statement to support the divorce to one of 11 regional centres that will be set up across England and Wales.

Looking Into 2016: The Near Future

The Robots Are Coming

The fresh, shiny new year has arrived, and I hope that you are also feeling fresh and shiny after the holiday break. What will 2016 hold for you, jobwise?

Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance, but one major development during 2015 that is likely to have some impact on your firm (and therefore on you) in the next year is the fast-moving field of artificial intelligence (AI) and the law.

Some big claims are being made for recent developments: there has been talk of “the demise of lawyers”, and of 2016 being a watershed moment in legal business. Reports that lawyers are going to be obliterated have been much exaggerated, but it is likely that within the next couple of years, AI is going to start affecting your work – in good ways and in bad.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Has your boss been looking a bit more harassed recently? This may be because he has been told (by technology companies, mainly) that he may shortly be replaced by a computer. Obviously, technology has been making inroads into the secretary’s job for decades, but now it is the turn of the lawyers themselves to be told that much of their work can be done better, and cheaper, by a smart machine.

The Increased Use of Video Links in Court

Ever since the early 1990s, when the heinous murder of James Bulger was heard in Preston Crown Court, the English judicial system has slowly realised that there are plenty of occasions when certain defendants and trial witnesses need to be protected from the hugely intimidating environment of a courtroom.

Whilst the entire country was in uproar back in 1993 when the 10-year-old Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were tried for the murder of James Bulger, in their determination and haste to bring these boys to justice at that time, our country’s legal system broke just about every rule in the book. This was to the extent that the English legal system was later criticised severely by the European Court of Human Rights in 1999 for failing to give Thompson and Venables a fair trial.

This was all down to the fact that Thompson and Venables were both forced to face an adult trial at the age of 10. They were subjected to all of the usual courtroom pomp and ceremony – which many people are known to find extremely intimidating – and there was certainly no hint of the option to present their defence by way of video link to the court.

30 Days to Success

A powerful personal growth tool is the 30-day trial. This is a concept I borrowed from the shareware industry, where you can download a trial version of a piece of software and try it out risk-free for 30 days before you’re required to buy the full version. It’s also a great way to develop new habits, and best of all, it’s brain-dead simple.

Let’s say you want to start a new habit such as an exercise programme or quit a bad habit such as sucking on cancer sticks. We all know that getting started and sticking with this change in behaviour for a few weeks is the hard part. Once you’ve overcome inertia, it’s much easier to keep going.

Yet we often psyche ourselves out of getting started by mentally thinking about the change as something permanent — before we’ve even begun. It seems too overwhelming to think about making a big change and sticking with it every day for the rest of your life when you’re used to doing the opposite. The more you think about the change as something permanent, the more you stay put.

But what if you thought about making the change only temporarily — say for 30 days — and then you’re free to go back to your old habit? That doesn’t seem so hard anymore. Exercise daily for just 30 days, then quit. Maintain a neatly organized desk for 30 days, then slack off. Read for an hour a day for 30 days, then go back to watching TV.

The Benefits of Being Part of a Professional Organisation

Joining a professional organisation is the best thing you can do for your career. It enables you to advance your skills, develop yourself professionally, show that you are committed to your career, and be recognised for the value work that you do. ILSPA provides its Members with many benefits, which are sought by those wanting support in their careers and law firms that want their staff to excel in their roles.

Journals

Professional organisations produce journals to share news and provide advice and guidance to their Members. ILSPA Members have access to a wealth of interesting articles through our online Legal Secretary Journal, which is specifically written to help them in various areas of their work and studies. We provide legal updates, legal news, career advice, personal development encouragement, IT tips and Student resources. Not only do Members receive new content on a monthly basis, but they can browse through a large archive of articles that includes valuable information about the Legal Secretary world. 

Professional Development