Need to recover debt from an individual or sole trader? New protocol in place from October 2017.

By Nerys Thomas – Solicitor (Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution)

From 1st October 2017 a new Pre-Action Protocol will be introduced which sets out the steps needed to be taken when looking to pursue a debt claim (The Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims). 

All businesses (including public bodies and sole traders) seeking to recover a debt from an individual will need to comply with the Protocol.   

The Protocol will not apply to business-to-business debts unless the Potential Defendant/debtor is a sole trader. 

As is the case with all Protocols, the intention is for the procedure to provide a way of filtering through potential claims, possibly facilitating a resolution where possible, or if the matter could not be resolved the parties will hopefully be in a position where the issues have been narrowed and/or a clearer understanding of the issues in dispute will be known.    

It is the intention that the Protocol will complement any regulatory regime to which the Potential Claimant/creditor is subject and should any conflict arise between the regulatory obligation and the Protocol, the former will take precedence.   

The likely impact upon the Potential Claimant/creditor in complying with the Protocol is the cost of preparing the required correspondence and responding to queries, should any be raised. 

Furthermore, the Protocol specifies deadlines, of mostly 30 days, which become relevant at various stages of the procedure, hindering the Potential Claimant/creditor from being able to issue the claim at their own discretion.

From a Potential Defendant/debtor’s perspective, a Letter of Claim requires a Reply Form being completed and possibly, depending upon the response being given in the Reply Form, a Standard Financial Statement which requests a great deal of personal information surrounding the person’s/sole trader’s finances, something a great deal of people/sole traders are likely to be uncomfortable with due to the imbalance this presents between parties.  

As with all Protocols, unless there is a justified reason for not using it, there may be cost consequences for failing to comply with the process.

Should you have any queries in relation to the above or any other dispute matters, please contact Nerys Thomas and the rest of the Commercial Law team on commercial@cjch.co.uk

#SortYourLifeOut – A mantra of taking control

At CJCH Solicitors, we aim to put our clients first and to support the communities in which we operate. With four offices spanning across South Wales, and two satellite offices in England, we have the ability, expertise and resources to offer our clients a wide range of services in several locations.

Our Family, Matrimonial and Children Law and Private Client departments recently launched a new ad campaign to reach out to people who may have questions and need support in difficult times. We hope to help guide them and ease the stress associated with situations such as planning a will, dealing with the probate of an estate, or considering all elements involved in a separation or divorce. There are many instances when people could benefit from the advice and guidance of an experienced and approachable solicitor, and we at CJCH have made it our mission to improve access to legal support and deliver personalised service.

Our new campaign is called #SortYourLifeOut, which is positioned as a helpful and uplifting slogan rather than the joking and judgemental tone it is often said with.

Take charge of your life. Put your plans in place. Be the victor, not a victim. Sort your life out.

Our campaign focuses on the fact that in every situation we face in life, no matter how testing or difficult, the choice to proactively plan, react and prosper is our choice to make. No one enters a marriage with the dream of it ending, and no one has children with their partner with the plan to raise them in separation, but should these things happen, our team is here to help you take the right steps towards making the most out of it and planning for a positive outcome.

#SortYourLifeOut is an uplifting mantra, of possibility, opportunity and silver linings.

At CJCH, we can help you #SortYourLifeOut.

To get in touch with us and see how we can assist you, click here for our contact details.

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Reflection on Mental Health Awareness Week with a look to the future.

By Keith James, Solicitor/Partner

Last week, 8 to 14 May 2017, marked UK Mental Health Awareness week for 2017. The purpose of this annual event is to ‘prompt a national conversation about what we can do as communities, schools, families and individuals ‘to move from surviving to thriving’ (The Mental health foundation).

There is little doubt that in recent months awareness of the wide variety of mental health conditions and of the impact of mental health problems has grown and now appears to be rising up the political agenda.

High profile individuals who have experienced the impact of issues such as depression, including prominent figures in the football world, have helped to shine a light on how mental health problems can impact on the lives of everyday people – Mental Health issues do not discriminate.

Also in the news have been many stories from prominent individuals of how bereavement can impact on families and how help can be provided to families to talk through these issues.

Of particular current interest is how the result of the general election will impact on Mental Health Law and the provision of Mental Health Services. Already suggestions have been made of manifesto commitments to increase provision of community mental health staff and services but also a suggestion that the Mental Health Act should be replaced. This perhaps is the most intriguing suggestion.

The Mental Health Charity, Mind, has called for a review of the Mental health Act but there is a suggestion this could go further to avoid ‘unnecessary detentions’. It will certainly be interesting, during the General Election campaign, to see if this forms part of a manifesto commitment. Of particular interest will be what alternative proposals are suggested.

There is little doubt that Mental Health issues have risen up the political agenda, and for CJCH will continue to be an important part of our focus and drive to support our community.

For any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact our Mental Health and Mental Capacity Law team at mentalhealth@cjch.co.uk or call on +44 333 231 6405 (24 hour emergency line: +44 7967 305949)

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Industry update – SRA announces confirmation of the Solicitors Qualifying Examinations

The days of legal qualifying programs such as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the Legal Practice Course (LPC) are numbered as the Solicitors Regulatory Authority this week announced the confirmation of the long debated centralised qualifying exam for would-be lawyers – the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).

The merits of the new independent assessment are generating extensive discussion with the SRA positioning the SQE as an opportunity to offer a more inclusive and accessible route into the Legal Profession, while popular online legal commentators at Legal Cheek raise points for consideration concerning the reality of the cost and access benefits.

With aspiring lawyers in 2017 facing LPC fees of over £15,000 in some cases, the need to review the accessibility and inclusive nature of legal training is welcome, but only time will tell if this new assessment meets the needs of the market once it is rolled out, currently planned for 2020.

Paul Philips, CEO of the SRA, was quoted in their press release saying that the SQE will allow for assurance that new entrants to the legal profession consistently meet the high standard required for the profession. He further mentioned that it could help with recruitment of talent for law firms.

At CJCH Solicitors, we are constantly assessing ways to diversify and innovate within the legal profession. We welcome the opportunity to consider a new approach to legal training, and we look forward to seeing how this initiative will roll-out and how we can support young aspiring solicitors in entering the marketplace and developing their skills.

We asked a selection of CJCH Solicitors’ team members for their opinions on the new developments and encouraged consideration for both sides of the debate. Here are some of the thoughts they shared:

Rosa Fernandez – CJCH Head of Employment and HR Services

Having completed the LPC in 1998-1999, I would have welcomed combining practical experience with theory; whilst called the Legal Practice Course, most of it is not practical at all. I also think it is right to make all entrants to the profession sit the same finals to ensure standards and consistency.

If these changes serve to improve public trust and confidence, then they can only be positive for the profession.”

Gareth Thompson – CJCH Head of Commercial Law

“In my view anything has to be welcomed which:
mitigates the “training contract lottery” risk and exorbitant GDL & LPC course fees; 
makes it easier for aspiring lawyers to qualify as they grow in technical competence and experience and also get paid sensibly for their services; 
encourages firms with substantial paralegal workforces to reciprocate their investment of time, loyalty, and effort by facilitating qualification; and
maximise the prospects for lawyers hitting the ground running both professionally and in revenue contribution by the time they qualify.

Nerys Thomas – CJCH Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution

Ensuring excellence within the profession will be favoured by all involved, but the concern with the new proposed procedure is that exams are not necessarily the best method of filtering “excellence” and may deter some students of high calibre who struggle with time-pressured assessments, especially ones which may determine their future career.  No information has been received in relation to what the costs will be for the new procedure.  Current fees for the LPC are eye watering, especially when this has followed a standard three-year degree.  It will be interesting to see whether the fees will be set at a more reasonable rate and how funding will be made available to pay for the new process.”

Stephen Clarke – CEO and Senior Partner

“We are facing an exciting time in the legal profession. Change is inevitable and it is the way in which we embrace change that defines our growth. There are strong arguments on both sides of this topic but as a firm CJCH supports equality, diversity and development. We are excited by the possibility of a dynamic industry which removes barriers to entry and allows for all to get involved. There are teething issues with all new initiatives, but we look forward to embracing the SRA’s SQE and including it in our planning for future employee development programs.”

There is much food for thought as the introduction of the SQE unfolds. As can be seen from the discussion above, many factors need to be considered, including balancing the ability to standardise assessment while also considering individuals learning and assessment styles. For now, you can review the documents relating to the consultation and discussions held by the SRA on the matter, here.

Planning for tomorrow – Introduction to Lasting Power of Attorney

By John Moore, Solicitor

We live in a time of better healthcare and advances in science where we are able to enjoy life for longer than previous generations.  We never know what is around the corner, however, with many people experiencing challenges with their mental health in their later years or are incapacitated through accident, injury or illness.

Here at CJCH, we regularly meet people of all ages who come to us for advice and who are concerned about safeguarding their personal affairs in the future.  Where appropriate, we try and assist by arranging a Lasting Power of Attorney for our clients in respect of their property and financial affairs.

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document which allows individuals to appoint someone of their choosing to act on their behalf (as their attorney) if they are no longer able to manage things themselves for whatever reason. An attorney would be able to access a person’s property and finances to help pay bills, manage investments and pay care home fees. An attorney is legally under a duty, however, to act in the person’s best interest at all times.

Sadly, however, many people that we meet have loved ones who have not set up a Lasting Power of Attorney and no longer have the mental capacity, whether by illness or accident, to be able to do so.  We often find that family members hit a brick wall when dealing with banks and buildings societies who will of course only deal with the account holder themselves.  As there is no one legally able to act for the person it means that there are often situations where bills and care fees cannot be paid. This causes a great deal of stress for everyone involved because a person’s finances cannot be accessed or their property cannot be managed or sold.

In order to resolve this our team of experienced lawyers represent families in making applications to the Court of Protection so that family members can be appointed as Deputies to manage a person’s property and financial affairs.  Once the Court has approved an application the family members who have applied will be able to access a person’s finances and manage the sale of a property under a Court Order.  The Majority of applications to the Court are straightforward and dealt with on paper and do not require any attendance at Court.

If you would like to speak with us for a free consultation on better preparing for your future to ensure those things that are so important to you can be managed property should you no longer be able to do so yourself, you can contact Mr John Moore (solicitor) in our Private Clients department:

Telephone number0333 231 6405, or email privateclients@cjch.co.uk.

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