A City Law Firm | Leading London Entrepreneur Law Firm
A City Law Firm are your local London solicitors based in the heart of the City of London EC2A. We act for clients throughout London and the UK, as well as many overseas entities. We are all about customer service, because, to us, our clients are much more than mere numbers. We will ensure that you receive a high level of service which is personalised to your particular legal need.
Being party to a litigation dispute is not always simple. It is likely to be time consuming and it is almost always going to be costly. This is the case whether you are a claimant or defendant, a business or a litigant in person. It is particularly important for businesses to ensure that it does not cause any disruptions to the day to day running, or at least try to minimise disruptions as much as possible. Although, this is much easier said than done. It is useful to keep in mind the following if you, as a business, ever find yourself in such a position.
Do not make it a priority
As with any potential threats or disruptions to a business, your main focus should continue to be that of the business. It is important not to allow the strain and anxiety which comes hand in hand with legal proceedings to encroach on the day-to-day running of the business. This could have a knock-on effect on the business; if you subconsciously allow yourself to spend too much time and attention on the proceedings and not enough on business matters, this could affect any business decisions you need to make or you could prioritise your workload ineffectively. Whilst litigation is of course a serious matter, business owners should ensure that time and attention is directed to such matters only when it is fundamentally necessary. If you have a secretary or personal assistant, take advantage of their ability to filter your telephone calls or emails in case such correspondence can be dealt with by someone else. This leaves you free to handle business matters.
Check whether your company insurance policy covers legal expenses. Whether you revisit your policy documents or give them a quick call, it is always worthwhile to check not only from a financial perspective (by assisting with payment of your costs) but from a commercial perspective (by being able to recommend a panel of solicitors for you). It is common practice that legal expenses are covered up to a certain capped amount in insurance policies. It is therefore sensible to see whether this option is available to your business.
If legal expenses are covered, your policy should also have a panel of solicitors which they would recommend you use. Even if this is not the case, it would be a good idea, if you have the financial means to do so, to instruct a firm of solicitors to deal with this on your behalf. Instructing solicitors will take the weight off your shoulders. They will be able to respond to correspondence on your behalf, advise you on your available options and discuss tactics with you. It is their responsibility to take the lead, to advise you accordingly and to correspond with you only to update you and to take your instructions. Instructing solicitors is therefore an excellent way of ensuring that you can focus on doing your job and not letting external matters take priority.
Take stock and consider matters from a commercial perspective
In litigation disputes, some parties may become so engrossed in the proceedings that they begin to lose sight of the ever increasing costs. It would be a good idea, every so often or at certain junctures of the proceedings, to take stock and consider whether it is still commercially viable to continue with the litigation dispute. Claimant businesses will need to consider whether it is worth continuing to pursue their claim. Defendant businesses will need to consider whether it is still worth defending the claim.
In carrying out this balancing exercise, you will need to consider three things:
Your costs to date.
What the costs are likely to be going forward.
And the costs you are likely to recover at conclusion, if any.
With this information, you would be in a better position to consider whether the costs you may recover (if any) will outweigh the costs of litigation itself. If you have instructed solicitors, you should have a frank conversation with them about this to be advised accordingly. They can discuss with you whether it is worth pushing forward with the matter, or whether putting forward a settlement offer will actually garner a better result for you. Request that they send you costs estimates on a regular basis to stay on top of your finances and that you are completely informed at all stages.
It is important to remember that, in litigation, the usual position is that the losing party will be ordered by the court to pay the other party’s recoverable costs. This can include fees, expenses, disbursements and remuneration. This is another reason why parties should carefully consider how to progress with the claim. If you continue to pursue or defend the claim and are unsuccessful, a court may order that you pay an adverse costs order (the amount of which is beyond your control). However, if you choose to settle, these costs may be negotiated between the parties.
Minimise risks at the outset
Since prevention is better than cure, businesses should ensure that they do all that they can to minimise the risk of litigation in the first place. If you find yourself particularly anxious about minimising potential threats of litigation to your business, it would be advisable to instruct solicitors who will be able to conduct an audit on your business and advise accordingly. An audit will be able to tell you if there may be any potential risks to your business being involved in any litigation disputes. However, the below are some points you may want to consider yourself:
Make sure that all arrangements and relationships (whether it is with clients, employees or suppliers) are put in writing and are carefully and thoroughly recorded.
Obtain legal advice on your contracts to ensure that you completely understand all clauses in the contract, any restrictions that may apply to you, any time limits you should be aware of and the level of indemnity afforded to you.
Stay proactive, ensure that you act immediately as soon as a dispute or complaint arises in order to nip it in the bud and prevent it from potentially escalating further.
Keep up to date with the current legal issues and challenges in your industry so that you can adequately prepare for any potential problems.
Always provide an exceptional service, ensure that your clients or customers are happy and that your business operations or management structures are well-oiled, this would minimise the risk of any potential professional negligence claims.
Here Total Business hears from Karen Holden, the Founder of A City Law Firm, who discusses the steps in handling LGBT discrimination in the workplace.
The LGBT community are subjected to bullying and harassment in the workplace on a devasting scale. In a survey conducted by Stonewall, consisting of more than 5,000 LGBT people across the UK, it was revealed that more than a third of LGBT staff did not feel comfortable enough to reveal their sexuality for fear of bullying and discrimination. It was also found that, 18% of LGBT staff have been the target of negative comments or conduct in the last year due to their sexuality/gender orientation. In these instances, however, one in eight lesbian, gay and bi people wouldn’t feel confident reporting homophobic or bi-phobic bullying to their employer. For trans people this increases to 21 per cent for those that wouldn’t report transphobic bullying.
Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect at work. Bullying and harassment of any kind are in no-one’s interest and should not be tolerated in the workplace, but if you are being bullied or harassed it can be difficult to know what to do about it.
Bullying and harassment is behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended. Harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.
Bullying or harassment can happen in various forms, either in person, by letter, email or over the phone. Examples of bullying or harassing behaviour include:
spreading malicious rumours
picking on or regularly undermining someone
denying someone’s training or promotion opportunities
What the law says about bullying and harassment at work
Bullying itself is not against the law, however, harassment is. Harassment can be identified when the unwanted behaviour is related to one of the following factors:
marriage and civil partnership
pregnancy and maternity
religion or belief
If an employee is being bullied or harassed, they should first attempt to remedy the issue informally. However, if this does not work, or is not possible they should discuss the issue with their manager or if necessary, contact the human resources (HR) department or a trade union representative.
If the issue needs to be escalated further, they can make a formal complaint using their employer’s grievance procedure and if there is still an issue, legal action can be taken at an employee tribunal. They could also call the Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) helpline for advice.
What should an employer do to manage workplace discrimination for LGBT staff?
Employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment and are liable for any harassment suffered by their employees.
Workplace discrimination can be managed by ensuring the organisation has a strong ethos which is built on a diverse and accepting work force. A company can help to reduce homophobic, bi-phobic and transphobic bullying by creating and enforcing clear policies as well as expressly stating support for diversity amongst employees. Discrimination is an issue which must be tackled head on, therefore a company must clearly make known that they are diametrically opposed to any such behaviour from the outset. Positive reinforcement in the benefits of a diverse work force, combined with a firm stance against bullying, will help reinforce that any discriminatory behaviour will not be tolerated.
In order to reduce bullying and discrimination, employers need to have clear policies and staff handbooks addressing grievances, disciplinary and discrimination so it’s clear to all staff. Similarly, the company ethos of acceptance should be demonstrated by senior staff setting positive examples and addressing any negative or discriminatory behaviour immediately. In addition, LGBT staff networks and visible LGBT role models and allies in leadership positions will help to demonstrate that companies are championing a diverse workforce.
This equality should be demonstrated to all staff, regardless of race, religion, sexuality, gender identity or perceived sexual orientation. Everyone deserves to be treated equally and with respect.
Bitcoin is known as the “gold standard” of cryptocurrency. Chances are you’ve heard of it but may not really understand its importance and growing relevance. In recent years, however, banks, governments and crucially divorce lawyers are beginning to take a much more forensic interest. And if you own bitcoin or have a spouse that does and you’re heading to the divorce courts, it’s essential that your lawyers not only understand this very new type of asset but are familiar with tracing it and valuing it.
So, what is Cryptocurrency?
Essentially cryptocurrency is a virtual currency which has no physical form as it exists only in the online network, that network is completely decentralised so there is no third party bank or government that the currency has to go through, instead, the technology allows users to send bitcoin directly to another person (this allows users to be pseudo-anonymous as details that a bank would usually want to verify identity are not required). The details of the transaction are encrypted, and the transactions are then bundled into and recorded on a “blockchain” the details of which cannot then be changed by anything or anyone and are based purely on a mathematical algorithm.
Why do divorcing couples and lawyers need to know about it?
Just as with cash in the bank or property, cryptocurrency is an asset which the court will have the power to distribute within the divorce case. It follows, therefore, that a holding must be disclosed within the proceedings as both parties are under a duty to provide full and frank disclosure of all their assets at the outset of the case and ongoing. However, for as long as there have been divorces, there have been parties who try to hide assets.
The courts are certainly used to this kind of bad behaviour and have a number of powers at its disposal to deal with offenders. However, bitcoin is a very new type of technology, established only in 2009 and, therefore, is only recently starting to appear in divorce proceedings. Divorce lawyers and the courts are having to learn a whole new language for dealing with this new technology.
The first most important step is to establish that cryptocurrency exists. If it is disclosed by the owner, then all well and good. However, cryptocurrency, by its very nature, is pseudo-anonymous and, because it is unregulated, it is much harder to trace. It is, therefore, much easier for a spouse to either hide the existence of cryptocurrency or the value of their holding than with other kinds of asset.
In order to establish the existence or ownership of cryptocurrency, a search needs to be made of money entering the digital arena. It is much easier to trace cryptocurrencies that are traded via an online exchange and bought with funds from a bank account as that initial transaction can be relatively easily identified. If found that would give a party a strong basis to argue that their spouse owns cryptocurrency and that further investigations should be ordered by the court.
However, once within the digital arena it is much more difficult to trace where the money goes next, or if the initial purchase was made directly. If then moved offline, for example if a person transfers their digital wallet containing their holding onto a USB stick, tracing becomes virtually impossible.
A digital forensics expert will almost certainly be necessary. They can be instructed to search the alleged holder’s computer and email to try and find the relevant purchase transactions and trace the wallet where the cryptocurrency is held. A court order giving permission for this will be necessary and would likely be ordered if there is sufficient evidence (in the form of the initial transaction) or perhaps reasonable suspicion that cryptocurrency exists.
A word of warning however. Care should be taken not to spend more money on hiring professionals to search for the cryptocurrency than what it is worth. Of course, one will not necessarily know how much a holding might be worth until they find it, a very difficult catch 22 situation but one that needs to be considered regularly. A good divorce lawyer will be able to guide a client on this.
What is cryptocurrency worth?
This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer. As with stocks and shares, the valuation can change throughout the divorce process, but with cryptocurrency the market is much more volatile. The value of cryptocurrency is liable to change drastically throughout the divorce proceedings; a spouse with a substantial bitcoin holding at the start of the divorce process might have diminished considerably by the time of final hearing or settlement. It will be imperative, therefore, to obtain a valuation at every stage of the process and prior to any settlement negotiations so that the parties know what they are dealing with
Dr Stephen Castell, commented:
‘Given the high volatility of cryptocurrency prices, and the possibility of compromise, and even theft, if the holding in question is retained only within a centralized exchange (there have been several high-profile instances of compromised cryptocurrency exchanges, and/or such exchanges going bust), the divorce lawyer may decide to seek from the court an order to sell the cryptocurrency at an early point in the proceedings, or, alternatively, to do this, as a matter of prudent protection of asset value, by mutual agreement between the parties. This could remove uncertainty and volatility and fix and secure the value of a cryptocurrency holding in more reliable, more liquid, currencies, such as USD or GBP, to be placed in an escrow bank account pending resolution of the divorce proceedings.’
However, whilst the courtsretain their discretionary powers to redistribute assets on divorce in accordance with the section 25 factors it is unclear what powers the court will have to actually redistribute cryptocurrency holdings themselvesif theyexist only in the network and if there are difficulties with realising their value. As this is new technology and as yet there are no reported cases dealing with these assets giving practitioners guidance on how to advise clients, it is clear we are entering a brave new world. Added to that the fact that there is no regulation it raises questions as to how any Order for Transfer or Sale could be enforced.
Nonetheless, cryptocurrency is here to stay, and the author predicts that this type of asset will become more prevalent as time moves on and the language that lawyers use, and the powers of the courts, will evolve with it.
A City Law Firm recognise digital assets are a valuable commodity that needs addressing in Wills; business transfers and as discussed during divorces. We understand not every divorce financial arrangement is clear cut, so we do get to understand the issues in detail as the landscape changes we are there to move with it
A properly planned restructure can save a company. Karen Holden, founder of A City Law Firm, looks at the different options available to business owners and advises on the most suitable route to take.
What does it mean to restructure your business?
Typically, when referring to restructuring a business people mean carving up the different parts of the business. It can take many guises including selling off assets, creating subsidiaries, transferring ownership rights as well as reorganising staffing, debts and sometimes the underlying business model itself.
Most of the time this is done when a company is in (or about to become in) financial dire straits. If this is the case directors have to tread carefully to ensure that the restructuring is in the interests of the shareholders or creditors (depending on whether the company is solvent or not) and ensure everything is carefully considered to ensure the directors do not fall foul of a raft of insolvency legislation.
Unfortunately, businesses often leave the restructuring too late but proper restructuring or, ideally, properly planned structuring from the outset can save (and even safeguard) your business.
Consolidation and hiving off, up or across
When restructuring a business, you might consider either consolidating the business or hiving off part of the business depending on how this has been set up.
In certain circumstances, you might need to consolidate different aspects of the business, especially if the corporate structure has become unnecessarily complex or to enable the business to access specific lenders or funding.
Hiving off parts of the business (or sometimes called a demerger) is typically done by way of creating subsidiaries and moving parts of the operations into different corporate entities. You also have hive up’s where assets are moved up to a top co or across taken to mean moved to a third party.
During this process parts of the business (or subsidiaries) may also be sold. This enables a business to sell off the loss-making or underperforming parts of the operation to someone who may be better equipped in the market or to sell part of the business which is under-utilised or simply not supported by the business.
Often when a company is in financial distress it will look to explore a period of corporate turnaround with its creditors.
This is a detailed analysis of the financial position of the company during which the company will look to try, with the support of the creditors, to reorganise the debts of the company. For this to work there has to be a viable business (be that a part of the business/ products / intellectual property) worth saving.
It is essential that there is a coherent agreement between the company and its creditors to allow the company a period of time to turn around the business without the risk of the creditors enforcing their debts and forcing insolvency proceedings. Creditors may prefer the turnaround to be placed on a statutory footing with the company either going into administration or entering into a company voluntary arrangement (CVA).
Most of the time a director owes a duty to act in the best interests of its shareholder, these are usually aligned to those of its creditors, however during periods of financial difficulties this may not be the case and its important they directors act in a transparent manner with the best interests of their creditors in mind.
A director has to also be mindful that as part of any corporate restructure he is not transferring the asset at an undervalue nor setting up a position where there is a preference afforded to a creditor as a result of the company going insolvent.
In both circumstances, there is a risk that upon insolvency the asset will be clawed back by the insolvency practitioner. We would always encourage a business owner to work with a licensed and experienced insolvency practitioner to ensure you were fully aware of all the risks associated with any corporate restructure necessitated due to financial difficulties.
Restructuring a prosperous business
All businesses should be alert to the need to adapt and evolve to an ever-changing market place.
The best time to restructure a business is during a time of prosperity. It gives you time to properly reflect on which parts of your business are driving your profits, which expose your business to the most risks (financial, legally and commercially) and which parts are potentially weighing you down.
From a legal perspective, it is a beneficial exercise to examine whether your operations should be separated out into various subsidiaries, with an overall group structure for your business. Whilst there are administrative costs associated with this, the benefits afforded by limited liability will often outweigh this.
Practical ways to restructure
Depending on the size of the business and it’s financial circumstances there are a number of ways a company may consider restructuring.
Regardless of the route taken and the reasons behind it, it is usually a very constructive exercise for business owners to closely examine its finances, legal structure and commerciality.
Ways of possible practical restructuring might include:
Considering staffing levels and making redundancies
Moving and/or selling assets
Considering ways to maximise your revenue streams
Realigning the operational risks and costs including considering franchising, licensing, appointing a distributor or agent
Most businesses only approach a restructure during times of financial difficulties, but business owners can restructure the business at any time. Regardless of the circumstances, it is usually a beneficial exercise, allowing a period of reflection on the business.
If it is during a period of financial difficulties it is important to proceed with caution and take the advice of qualified professionals who can help navigate through the many potential pitfalls.
A City Law Firm can assist in planning much of the above and work closely with you to address many of these issues.
We have used A City Law Firm for the last 12 months and have been hugely impressed with their professionalism, attention to detail, ability to deliver to a brief and work in a timely manner - and all at a reasonable cost. In a fast moving market we need lawyers who can deliver and act with complete integrity at all times. Karen Holden and her team of dedicated lawyers have proved beyond any doubt that they are that class act. We would not hesitate to recommend them to our own clients and we look forward to working with A City Law Firm for the long term.
A City Law Firm, our UK legal partner, has been supporting LocalBini since the beginning. From advice to vital corporate contracts, their assistance has been invaluable. Special thanks to Jacqueline for supporting our startup.
Being CEO of a start-up is incredibly challenging and stressful. The Legal, Financial and HR “to-do” list of duties is enormous and daunting, even if you have 20 years of City experience. Jacqueline Watts at A City Law Firm has consistently provided an exceptional level of service and delivered documentation at an affordable rate. Our requirements have included a diverse range of topics such as company formation, shareholder agreements, employment initiatives/contracts/handbook, intellectual property rights and several supplier legals. Jacqueline has always been a quick phone call away from providing sound legal advice. She is friendly, supportive and a good listener. I would highly recommend Jacqueline for her expert knowledge, great advice and her effective organisation skills.
Having never been a business owner before I was so grateful when I came across Karen Holden and A City Law Firm. We instantly clicked and she ‘got’ what we were all about. Karen and her team really work hard to understand your business and treat you as a person, not just a number- so refreshing . I can’t thank Karen enough for putting us back on track, teaching us the basics and expertly formulating our shareholders agreement and applying swiftly and professionally for our IP. Karen’s understanding of start-ups and funding options is second to none. I foresee that A City Law Firm will be holding our hand and being part of our journey for many years to come.
I found the service provided professional, informative and friendly. I particularly appreciated how speedily you dealt with everything and your succinct emails and letters, free from unnecessary legal verbiage. You also provided just the right amount of sympathy whilst remaining appropriately business-like. The whole process was made incredibly easy thanks to the service you provided.
Functional Foods Co Ltd. Founder Alessandra Bester