Breaking Down Misconceptions of Speaking to a Solicitor

Ask someone to name the first things that come to mind when they think of lawyers, they probably think: stuffy, unapproachable, and too expensive. Whilst we are not all like that (I promise!), it is understandably daunting to speak to a solicitor. Especially if it is the first time you need to.

The legal profession has made strides in recent years to shed this image of the stuffy Oxbridge-type lawyer. However, misconceptions remain. Rebecca May, Solicitor at CJCH breaks down these common misconceptions. If you have a legal matter or need legal advice, speak to a solicitor. We are experts in our field, will always try to get the best outcome for our client and we don’t bite – well, most of us don’t!

What are the main misconceptions you think clients have about speaking to a solicitor?

Many clients are understandably intimidated when approaching a solicitor. Usually for fear of not understanding the legal jargon that is often used.

Historically Solicitors were portrayed as unapproachable and pompous. Furthermore, it was often thought that their only intention was to charge extortionate fees for their works.

How do you make sure clients find you approachable?

Speaking to clients in plain English is key! I explain legal terminology as simplistically as possible. This helps ensure that the client understands the legal principles most pertinent to their matter.

Our friendly approach makes our client feel at ease and able to ask anything that they may otherwise think is a “stupid” question. To reinforce this point – there is no such thing as a stupid question!

What advice would you give to a client who wanted to pursue a case which you didn’t think they needed to?

The best advice is to think with your head and not with your heart to establish what the desired outcome is. Unfortunately, it is easy to let your emotions cloud your judgement.

The client will always receive an honest assessment of the viability of the case. Additionally, the client will receive a realistic indication of the cost and timescale so they can make a rational decision.

How does specialist advice from a solicitor provide value for money?

Paying for something intangible oftentimes seems difficult to understand. Important to remember, when paying a solicitor, you pay for the time and professional advice that is provided to you.

We endeavour to keep our charges as competitive as possible whilst ensuring that the best service is given to the client.

Many people think they can deal with their legal issues alone, what pitfalls can clients fall into without professional legal advice?

While it can seem attractive to carry out the work yourself this is inadvisable. Overlooked legal intricacies by someone unqualified can cause unnecessary costs down the line. For example, you would see a dentist if you had a toothache and would rely on their professional knowledge & expertise – the same standard applies to legal matters, too.

Moreover, many people increasingly look to the internet to answer legal questions. Whilst that is helpful to get a preliminary understanding of an issue, it is not an adequate substitution for any professional service you may require.

How we can help:

CJCH is an award-winning firm with over 35 years’ experience in personal and business legal matters. For more information, get in touch with a qualified member of our team today.

Telephone: 0333 231 6405


Purchasing a Property at Auction – The Process Explained

Joanne LerwillPurchasing a property at auction is not something that just exists on ‘Homes under the Hammer’ – it’s an exciting process to buy property! Whether purchasing a buy-to-let or as a project to do-up, it’s important to be aware of the issues that can arise in this process.

Joanne Lerwill, an experienced Licenced Conveyancer at CJCH, discusses five areas of importance when considering purchasing a property at auction.

Know the process for purchasing a property at auction

The process of purchasing a property at auction is different from the usual process of buying a property. It is vital that you do your research beforehand and arrange a viewing to inspect the property.

It is important to understand the difference between the guide and the reserve price. The guide price is the starting price at which the bid will commence. Whereas the reserve price is the minimum figure the buyer will accept. The reserve price is not disclosed to the bidders but is usually 10% higher than the guide price.

If successful in your bid, you are bound by the terms and conditions when the gavel falls! You must sign the contract and pay the deposit on the spot, so make sure your finances are in place.

The main difference from purchasing a property at auction and buying through an agent is timescale. An auction works on a fixed timescale for exchange and completion. It provides speed and certainty for the buyer and seller. Whereas purchasing through an agent has no fixed timescale for exchange or completion.

Understanding the legal pack

A legal pack is the set of documents prepared by the seller’s solicitor/licenced conveyancer. Fortunately, a copy is available in the auction room and will be available to download via the property details page. The pack includes:

  • Official copies of Title held at the Land Registry
  • A local search/any other searches
  • Special conditions of sale
  • Property information form
  • Management information, leases and tenancy agreements if the property is a leasehold

The purchaser should look through the pack and seek advice from a solicitor that specialises in auction properties. Especially important if there is anything onerous in the pack for the buyer.

Key issues that arise when purchasing a property at auction

The most common issue is a short window of time to arrange a survey for your solicitor to check the legal pack. Worryingly, it is easy to get carried away ad go over budget! Make sure all of your financial arrangements are in order. No turning back after the gavel falls!

Top tips for purchasing a property at auction

Imperative you research the property, arrange viewings, ask questions and obtain a copy of the auction particulars.

Just be prepared! Stick to your budget! Check the small print!

Importance of seeking legal advice

Taking a DIY approach might seem attractive to cut costs – but don’t be fooled! Without knowing the process, you could incur costs down the line. A solicitor or licenced conveyancer will use their legal training and study the conditions of the legal pack. Do not take the risk!

How can we help

The CJCH conveyancing team has 35 years’ experience in property matters. Our reasonable fees, friendly service and expert advice gives you peace of mind. So you don’t have to worry. Why not get in touch with a member of our team today?

Get in touch:

Telephone: 0333 231 6405


Mental Health in the Workplace – Supporting Employees

The government’s Department of Health estimates that one in four will experience mental ill-health at some point in our lives. Importantly, awareness surrounding this issue has increased in the last few years.

Therefore, it is important to make sure that employers support those experiencing mental ill-health whilst promoting positive mental health.

Max Wootton, employment solicitor at CJCH examines the law around mental health discrimination in the workplace. Additionally, he takes a look at how employers can make sure they are acting within the law.

What rights do employees have in the workplace when it comes to their mental health?

Employees have a right not to be discriminated against or dismissed due to a disability. The mental health may be covered as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Employees that fall under this category are entitled to make reasonable adjustments at work that may assist them.

What counts as discrimination? Is this impacted by employment status?

All employees, workers and self-employed persons have the right not to be discriminated against. Furthermore, the Equality Act 2010 explicitly states that it is against the law to treat any person unfairly or less favourably than someone else because of a protected characteristic.

Discrimination is defined in several different forms under the Equality Act; direct or indirect, failure to make reasonable adjustments, harassment, victimisation & discrimination arising from a disability.

What can you do if you feel you’ve been discriminated against because of a mental health issue?

Firstly, you can talk to or confide in a fellow employee for support to discuss your situation. If that is not satisfactory, you can raise a formal grievance regarding the discrimination (important to check the staff handbook for your company’s policies & procedures, first).

Act as swiftly as possible, given there is usually a 3month time limit to bring an Employment claim, from the date of the last act of discrimination.

However, if you are unable to raise the issue with your employer, you can contact ACAS, Citizens Advice, or bring a claim in an employment tribunal.

Can employers ask about a potential employee’s mental health before employing them?

Employers can ask about this but proceed with caution. However, if the mental health turns out to be a disability and the employer does not employ the employee due to the disability, it will be discrimination. The employer will only be able to ask questions in the context of finding out how they can take actions to assist the employee.

What can employers do to ensure they’re acting responsibly and within the law when it comes to mental health?

Firstly, employers should ensure that employees are provided with a forum where they can be open and transparent about any issues they face.

Secondly, the staff handbook should contain policies where staff can confide in their employers and share their problems. If necessary, the employer should make reasonable adjustments for employees who have a mental health disability.

Finally, provide training for employers to ensure they are aware of what constitutes discrimination towards fellow employees.

How can we help?

Our qualified team of solicitors is here to assist with your employment problems. If you would like to discuss an employment problem or questions over your employment contract, then contact a member of our team today.

Telephone: 0333 231 6405


Supporting Clients Through A Relationship Breakdown

A relationship breakdown is an emotional and worrying time for a family. For a solicitor, it is not only important to understand the legal issues a client faces, but also take the time to understand the client’s wider situation. Sally Perrett, Family & Childcare solicitor at CJCH, discusses how she supports clients experiencing a relationship breakdown.

As a solicitor how do you ease stress for clients throughout a relationship breakdown?

The end of a relationship is an extremely difficult situation. Personal trauma and financial issues can cause stress & there needs to be a focus on protecting children from the impact of the relationship breakdown.

With so many stressful issues, it is important the client receives practical advice that reassures them about the factors to consider. This will hopefully alleviate the pressure felt by the client, knowing their matter is handled sensitively

Why is it important to build trust with clients facing a relationship breakdown?

Often, when a client is facing a breakup, they are emotional, feel let down and very worried about what the future holds. A client needs reassurance and generally someone they can rely on to approach their case with sensitivity and discretion.

Do you find that there’s an element of providing emotional support as well as legal advice when it comes to family law matters?

Of course, there will be an element of emotional support required during such a traumatic time in a person’s life. Often clients find it difficult to separate practical matters from personal issues. Therefore, these need to be dealt with empathetically

What advice would you give to someone facing a relationship breakdown?

We would advise the client to take their time & not make big decisions too quickly under stress. Take a measured approach towards practical matters & the implications of the relationship breakdown.

Importantly, no two cases are the same, one client may want to protect their assets whilst another seeks the most favourable arrangements with respect to their children. It is important clients make measured decisions based on the practical advice they receive

How do you feel your advice brings value to clients during a relationship breakdown?

It is vital that a client feels they can rely on their solicitor for a realistic, sensible approach. The client should feel in ‘safe hands’ at their vulnerable time. Finally, it is imperative solicitor’s advice alleviates pressure the client is facing.

How we can help:

Our team has extensive experience in supporting clients in what can be a difficult and confusing time. The breakdown of a relationship brings with it distressing repercussions and our team is here to help you in a compassionate and nurturing way. Get in touch with a member of our team today.

Telephone: 0333 231 6405


Supporting SMEs with Legal Issues

Running a business is in equal parts exciting and daunting. It involves complex legal issues which are overwhelming without the proper legal advice. CJCH’s commercial solicitor, Gareth Thompson, discusses the most common issues faced by SMEs and the value a commercial solicitor brings to a business.

How do you support businesses that are just getting started?

It is important to ensure incipient businesses have all the relevant documents in place to begin trading. This will vary from business to business but will usually include employment contracts, insurance, due diligence and risk assessment. Finally, it is crucial that the business takes steps to protect its intellectual property, which may not be at the forefront of the owner’s mind.

How can a business solicitor help an SME choose the right business structure?

This will depend on the needs of the business owner. Each business structure has its own strength, seeking legal advice will help you choose the right one. The most commonly chosen business structures are as follows:

  • Sole Trader
  • Partnership
  • Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)
  • Limited Liability Company (Ltd)

What are the most common legal issues SMEs face and how can solicitors help business owners avoid them?

The initial issues faced by SMEs usually revolve around setting up employment contracts and drafting articles of association. Whilst it might be attractive to business owners to use standard templates for these documents, there is a real risk that they do not suitably protect your business interests. This might lead to costs for the business later. Consulting a solicitor in the first instance mitigates this risk.

How can SMEs ensure that they are GDPR compliant? Why is this important?

Ensure that staff are appropriately trained and appoint someone as GDPR liaison within the company. Compliance is crucial as the Information Commissioners Office can issue large fines for companies in breach.

What are your top tips for someone looking to start their own business?

Get contracts written! Get insurance! Protect your Intellectual Property! Continue to seek legal advice from a commercial solicitor as the business matures.

How can we help?

The CJCH commercial team’s services span the full spectrum of corporate and commercial requirements. From startups to SMEs & large organisations, we provide legal support and advice to leverage opportunities and minimise risks to your business.

Get in touch via:

Telephone: 0333 231 6405


Leaving a Gift to a Charity in Your Will


Today is International Charity Day. It is an opportunity to reflect and contribute to the incredible work that charities do around the world. Leaving a gift to a charity in your will is a great way to leave a legacy that benefits the most vulnerable in society. In addition, it benefits the beneficiaries of your will.

Alexis Thomas, a Chartered Legal Executive in CJCH’s Wills & Probate team, outlines the benefits of leaving a gift to a charity in your will, how to ensure the gift is not legally challenged and how to ensure the gift you leave is used in a way that aligns with your wishes.

Benefits of leaving a gift to a charity

Leaving a gift to a charity in your will is an excellent way of supporting a cause dear to you. Most charities will rely on donations to carry out their work so this is a great way of contributing to your charity’s long-term vitality. In addition, a gift in your will to a charity will not count towards the total value of the estate and the gift will pass tax-free. If the value of the gift is 10%, or more, of the total taxable estate, this gift will also reduce the amount of IHT payable from 40% to 36%.

The different types of gift you can leave

You can leave any type of gift to a charity. This ranges from a specific sum of money, items of personal value such as jewellery or even a % of your estate. You do not have to contact the charity in your lifetime, your executor will inform the charity that you have left them a gift in your will.

Specifying how the charity uses the gift

You can express in a wish how you expect the money to be used. However, the testator should discuss their wishes with the charity first, as the charity may refuse the gift if it cannot comply with the testator’s wishes. The wish is not binding, but charities will usually seek to carry out the specified request.

If your gift is challenged and how to avoid it

Firstly, always seek legal advice! This is so important. The courts place more weight on a moral obligation to a family, which outweighs any commitment to charities. If the gift is successfully challenged, then the gift could fail. Regular communication from the solicitor goes a long way in ensuring that this does not happen.

Donating outside of the UK

Donations outside of the UK are different than domestic donations. Exemptions from inheritance tax only apply to gifts to charities in the UK, EU member states (plus Norway, Lichtenstein, Iceland). Of course, this may change due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Furthermore, donations outside of the UK do not benefit from Gift Aid as Gift Aid enables the charities to reclaim an extra 25% in tax on each donation made by a UK taxpayer.

How can a solicitor help you leave a gift to a charity in your will?

A solicitor ensures your Will is written correctly. This gives you the peace of mind the gift will succeed. The full details of the charity (charity number etc) are included so that the charity receives the gift. Incorrect information may cause the gift to fail.

How can we help:

It is never too late or too early to start thinking about your future. For more information on writing your will and leaving a gift to charity, speak to an experienced member of our team today.

Contact us:


Telephone: 0333 231 6405

Supporting Clients Through Expert Legal Advice

Let’s face it. Legal issues are complicated and confusing. Unfortunately, whether you are buying or selling property, making a Will or trying to set up a business these complicated issues follow us around. Facing these issues can feel daunting.

Fortunately, solicitors are experts in their field and can effectively support their clients through sound legal advice. Ultimately, this helps reduce the stress the client will face throughout the process. Our trainee solicitor, Amy Palin lays out how she supports clients, providing them peace of mind that their matter is being dealt with promptly, professionally and with the client at the forefront.

As a solicitor, explain to us how you help your clients on a day-to-day basis.

Solicitors provide a service based on instructions received.  And it is important to remain alert to issues surrounding the primary reason a client is coming to you for advice. There may be wider considerations, or other services we can offer, of which the client may not have been aware. It is also important to provide a high level of client care, particularly if there are complex legal issues involved, to ensure the client fully understands their matter.

How do you work to build trust with your clients? Why is this important?

It is vital to be open with clients from the outset! Especially in relation to timescale, costs and the practical issues surrounding their matter. Maintaining good communication is the most effective way to build trust. Sometimes there may be an unforeseen issue or delay beyond immediate control. However, I usually find that as long as I communicate the issue promptly or assure the client I am still actively working on their matter, this maintains a positive relationship with the client.

In terms of solving legal issues, how do you support your clients throughout the process?

As above, communication is key! It is important to cut out legal jargon and explain legal issues in plain language. I always encourage questions, as this is the best way to not only make sure the clients understand everything, but also to help me improve the way I serve clients in future.

Do you ever find yourself providing support and advice on wider issues related to your client’s case?

All of the time! Asking open questions is a great way to get a fuller understanding of the client’s needs. There are other matters that arise once a client finishes a case. For example, if a client is purchasing a property, they might benefit from creating or updating their will to reflect this. Of course, this might not be something at the forefront of their minds. It’s the solicitor’s responsibility to be proactive in providing advice in these situations.

What do you enjoy most about working with and supporting your clients?

The opportunity to work closely with people and develop relationships with them is incredibly rewarding. Especially in the moments when the work itself is a grind. Additionally, I find their experiences can often provide me with context to the issues on which I am advising. It can be easy to focus only on the legal rules and principles, so real examples of these in practice can remind me of the practical benefits and importance of the advice we provide, as well as help me to help clients more effectively in future.

How can we help

CJCH has experienced professionals offering advice in wide areas of personal and business law. We provide bespoke legal service and high-quality advice. Get in touch with a member of our team today.

Get in touch via:


Telephone: +44 (0) 29 2048 3181

Cohabiting Couples & the Law – Protect Your Rights!

The number of cohabiting couples continues to rise to over 6 million in 2018. This coincides with a decline in marriage rates, which have fallen since their peak in the early 1970s. With this in mind, what does it mean for couples that are choosing to forgo tying the knot?

It is often overlooked that unmarried couples do not enjoy the same rights as married couples. It is therefore important that married couples are aware of this difference so that their rights are protected. Our solicitor in Family Law, Sarah Perkins, discusses the rights of married and unmarried couples and dispels some myths surrounding ‘common law marriage’.

What does ‘common law marriage’ mean when people refer to cohabiting couples? Is it a myth?

Common law marriage in the UK is a myth.  The term refers to couples who choose to live together unmarried.  Worryingly, many people in the UK believe “common law marriage” exists and that unmarried couples enjoy the same legal rights as married couples.  This is not the case.

How do the rights of married and unmarried couples differ?

The rights of married and unmarried couples differ in several ways. For example, when an unmarried partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not inherit anything.  Unless, however, the couple jointly owns property and assets. A married partner would automatically inherit all or some of the estate under the rules of intestacy.

Additionally, cohabiting partners cannot access their partner’s bank account if they die. Whereas married couples may be allowed to withdraw the balance providing the amount is small. Cohabiting partners are not legally considered to be next of kin.

Following separation, an unmarried partner who has stayed at home during the relationship to care for children cannot make any claims in their own right for property, maintenance or pension sharing. It is irrelevant if the decision to care for children was to the detriment of the person’s earning capacity and regardless of how long they lived together.

There is no legal obligation on unmarried couples to support each other financially. Whereas married partners have a legal duty to support each other.

Furthermore, if an unmarried couple lives in rented accommodation and the tenancy is in only one partner’s name, the other has no legal right to stay in and occupy the accommodation.  When married, each partner has the right to live in the matrimonial home.

What legal considerations do you think unmarried parents should be aware of?

An unmarried father does not have automatic parental responsibility for a child. Parental Responsibility is acquired by an unmarried Father when named on the Birth Certificate or an Order of the Court.

If an unmarried parent dies without leaving a will, the other parent will not inherit anything unless it is jointly owned.  If the child is the deceased parents’ next of kin, then the child will inherit all or part of the estate. The estate If the child is a minor, the estate will be held on trust. It is therefore of utmost importance that unmarried parents have up to date wills reflecting their wishes.

Tell us what a cohabitation agreement is and how it could help unmarried couples.

A Cohabitation Agreement is a written document which sets out the parties’ intentions concerning property and other assets. It provides certainty regarding property division in the event of a relationship breakdown.  Agreements can include the following information:

  • who will be responsible for payment of rent or mortgage and various household bills;
  • ownership of personal belongings and furniture;
  • ownership and shares of jointly owned property;
  • detail the living and contact arrangements for children following the breakdown of the relationship.

Provided the agreement is drafted correctly it is legally enforceable.

Are there any other measures cohabiting couples can put in place to protect themselves if they split up or one of them dies?

If properties are purchased jointly but with unequal contributions to the purchase price, unequal contributions to mortgage payments and other expenses related to the property, the property should be held as Tenants in Common and a Deed of Trust drawn up upon purchase reflecting the arrangement.

Cohabiting couples should ensure that they have up to date Wills reflecting ho should inherit their assets and belongings in the event of death.

How can we help:

Get in touch with an experienced member of our team today. Contact us via:

Telephone: 0333 231 6405


Solicitors and the Conveyancing Process

Whether you are buying or selling property, the experience can be a stressful time. Property law is complicated, convoluted and confusing. It is important to ensure that the conveyancing process is handled effectively. This ensures that the property transaction is legally sound and protects you financially.

Our specialist solicitor, Myles Thomas, looks at the conveyancing process and the benefits of a solicitor/conveyancer handling the matter for you, rather than a DIY approach.

For more information, get in touch with a member of our team today.

What is conveyancing and what is the process that is usually followed?

Conveyancing is the transfer of the legal title of a property from one person to another. As solicitors, we are responsible for ensuring our client has a good and marketable title to a property. We check the title, and if buying, request searches (Local Authority, Water & Drainage and Environmental), raise and respond to any pre-contract enquiries, arrange the signature of documents and deal with the transfer of funds upon exchange/completion.

Exchange is the point at which the contract becomes legally binding. Finally, completion is when you get the keys to your new home!

As a solicitor, what are your main responsibilities and duties during conveyancing?

Our obligation is to affect the completion of the sale or purchase for our client, ensuring they obtain a good title and their interests are protected throughout.

What value does a solicitor bring to the conveyancing process as opposed to an alternative service or a DIY approach?

Experience and qualified knowledge enable us to provide expert, proactive advice. This allows the matter to run smoothly. It is possible to do your own conveyancing, however, this is not a good idea as the process is complicated and time-consuming.

What issues can arise both in the short term and the long term if someone takes a DIY approach to conveyancing?

From our experience, the lack of professionalism caused by unqualified conveyancers almost always incurs cost on the client. When the matter is dealt with by professionals, the chain delays and additional expense is avoided.

Buying property is one of the most expensive purchases we make, so why leave anything to chance?

How do you support your clients through the conveyancing process?

Communication is key to what is traditionally a stressful and expensive time. We keep our clients proactively updated throughout the transaction and readily available to answer enquiries they may have to relieve stress and assure them that they are in safe hands.

How can we help?

CJCH is committed to providing high quality, friendly advice. Our team has over 35 years’ experience in dealing with these matters. Get in touch with a member of our team today.

Get in touch via:

Telephone: 0333 231 6405