Friday, 4 August 2017

Nuptial Agreements

By Adam Manning LL.B., LL.M., Senior Solicitor

Many of us have some familiarity with the idea of pre-nuptial agreements from American films and TV shows but for some years these have been becoming more important in our jurisdiction as well.

These are agreements that the two parties to a civil partnership or marriage enter into either before or after their wedding or the celebration of the civil partnership takes place. While we often hear of pre-nuptial agreements, agreements entered into after the wedding, called post-nuptial agreements, are becoming more common as well and may have some advantages over pre-nuptials.

Nuptial agreements centre on the property and assets that the parties own and what is to happen to these if regrettably the marriage or civil partnership comes to an end. The purpose of these agreements is normally where one of the parties has assets that are more substantial than the other and wants to protect them if there is a dissolution or divorce.

During a divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership, the financial aspects of the situation are often resolved and the assets divided between the parties. A nuptial agreement will seek to restrict the ability of one or both of the parties to make claims on the assets of the other if such proceedings take place.  For example, let us say one of the parties has a substantial shareholding in a profitable business.  Prior to getting married, they could enter into a pre-nuptial agreement which would state that their partner agrees not to make any claim on that asset if their relationship should come to an end.

Another example would be where the agreement lists the assets of each of the parties in Schedules and states that if the relationship breaks down, both parties agree not to make any claim on the others’ assets as set out in the Schedules. Any additional property or assets the couple gain during the civil partnership or marriage could, in this example, be considered to be their joint assets and if the relationship comes to an end, the parties would be entitled to make claims with regard to them in the normal way.

Previously, the Courts were reluctant to give nuptial agreements recognition when considering the division of marital assets during a divorce.  Life has moved on though and in recent years they have become a more important factor in considering how the financial aspects of a divorce or dissolution are dealt with. Yet they are still some way from being comprehensively binding on the parties in all circumstances, as the Courts are likely to take account of other factors as well.

At present, an agreement like this will be taken seriously by a Court when considering how the assets of a civil partnership or marriage should be resolved, but they will not be the sole criteria at play.  Perhaps one of the most significant points that would lead to a Court not strictly following a nuptial agreement is the needs of the parties.  If one of the spouses or partners finds themselves in very difficult financial circumstances at the time of the breakdown of the relationship, the Court may move away from following the strict wording of a nuptial agreement to ensure they receive more of the marital assets.

A recent case reiterated this point and made it especially clear in cases where the family included young children. The Court stated that the terms of a nuptial agreement cannot be allowed to prejudice the reasonable requirements of the children of a family.


If a lot of time has passed since the agreement was entered into, the Court may conclude that the parties’ situation is now very different from the date of the agreement and so, while the agreement is of interest, other factors may be taken into account as well.

A Court may also look into the circumstances surrounding how the agreement was drawn up and executed by the partners or spouses. In particular if there is any suspicion that one of the parties was pressured into entering into the agreement, the Court may put the agreement to one side or lessen its influence on how the marital assets should be divided.

An inference of this sort of pressure can arise if the agreement was entered into shortly before the celebration of the civil partnership or wedding took place.  This is the reason why post-nuptial agreements may become more popular. In the build up to a wedding or the celebration of a civil partnership, the pre-nuptial agreement can become overlooked or rushed. Often the parties have more time to consider their situation once the big day has been and gone.  Post-nuptial agreements are not as likely to be drawn up in a hurry as pre-nuptial ones and so might be less likely to be challenged.

For a nuptial agreement to be as binding as possible, both parties must have independent legal advice before entering into it.  Clearly a solicitor ought not to advise both parties on the same agreement as there will be a conflict of interest.  Solicitors are often expected to complete a section at the end of the nuptial agreement to provide evidence that the parties had the benefit of legal advice before executing the document.

Nuptial agreements are increasingly important and people are becoming more familiar with the concept.  At present, if the parties have an agreement of this sort it is likely to play an important role in considering how the marital assets are divided but it may not be the only one and solicitors have to advise their clients of the uncertainty that persists as a result.
The Law Commission has recommended reforms that, if enacted, would help nuptial agreements become a more effective means for the parties to take control of their situation.  If a nuptial agreement fulfils certain criteria it can be considered to be binding on the parties. These are that

there was no undue influence on either party,
each party received independent legal advice,
full disclosure of all assets took place beforehand and
the agreement came into effect at least 28 days prior to the wedding or celebration of the civil partnership.

If the agreement satisfies all this, then according to the recommendations it should be binding on the parties. It remains to be seen if these proposals come into force; reforming divorce laws is often a controversial issue. Even so, greater certainty must be a welcome development for those who are considering entering into this type of agreement.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

12 Points about Visitors in Business Networking

by Adam Manning

Visitors, it is often said, are the lifeblood of a business networking group such as BNI, the world’s largest business networking organisation. The following are 12 points to consider about why this is so true and how you can get more visitors to your group.

1. Statistics have shown time and time again that visitors are often the highest source of referrals for members of a business networking group.  This is true both in the number of referrals they give and also the amount of money people earn that those referrals lead to.  People generally join a business networking group to make more contacts in the hope that these lead to us earning more money for their businesses and these statistics show visitors to the group, whether they join or not, are the best source for this.

2. Almost as importantly, visitors are hugely important in growing a networking group. Quite simply, you can’t grow your group without more visitors.  The more visitors there are, the more will apply to join and the larger the group will grow.  The larger the group, the greater the number of referrals and the greater number of referrals, the more money the members make.

3. When a networking group has visitors in the room, it’s clear that they will have better meetings. Everyone is just that bit better behaved – more professional and more business like.  The members feel more motivated and the atmosphere is more positive. If there are no visitors, meetings seem to have less interest and less point to them. Fresh faces mean fresh interest and sometimes, fresh jokes!

4. In BNI, as a baseline, Charlie Lawson, a national BNI director, recommends that each week a BNI group should have at least two eligible visitors at a meeting.

5. It’s important to remember what a visitor is, in terms of BNI. They have to be someone where there is no conflict with an existing member.  Also, they cannot be a member of a business networking group that competes with BNI.   We are perfectly happy to have visitors from groups that don’t compete; in fact that is great as they are likely to have more contacts.  If you have any concerns about these points, please check with your group’s leaders or your regional Director.



6. In short, they have to be eligible to apply to become members of BNI.  But this doesn’t mean that you should only be thinking of inviting people to visit who are interested in becoming members of our group – far from it in fact. We want visitors to see us, regardless of whether they may or may not be interested in joining.  As stated before, visitors are a great source of referrals for the Chapter and that is what we really want – lots of referrals.  In terms of inviting people to apply to join, visiting us and enjoying our meetings is really the best way to do that. So, don’t even think about who may or may not want to join when seeking to invite people to visit us.

7. So, visitors are of the utmost importance to a chapter that wants to be successful – but how do we go about inviting them? Firstly you will need to find details of visitors. You can do so from google searching the type of business you are interested in inviting. The Checkatrade website is a good source of information about this as well. Also, have a look for vans or cars with details of businesses on and think about inviting them.  Local magazines may have details of businesses that are advertising – they might be interested as well.

8. Now, how do you invite visitors? As a basic step, send out invitations. These can be letters in the post or by email.  In BNI branded postcards are available which you can send as well – new members should have some in their new membership pack. I like to send a postcard with my invitation letter.

9. You can also invite people using social media. Over the years I’ve been with my BNI group, we’ve had people come along to visit through spreading the word on Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn.  They do work, so keep going. As well as messages and posts, also think in terms of Liking other members posts – these do get spotted.

10. Attending other networking meetings is a great way to meet potential visitors. Please think of your group as your core network but for your business’ sake as well, as the group, we should all be out there doing more networking. There are lots of the other networks and groups to visit, some more formal than others.  There are the curry nights that meet regularly and other groups that do not compete with our group.

11. Also, why not create your own event? Some businesses have open days or evenings to invite new clients, customers or contacts in. This could be a great way to meet potential visitors.

12. Finally, get out there and network generally. We are social creatures and all the people in a networking group should be interested in meeting new people – otherwise why would you be here? Get out there and meet new people, whether it be charity or cultural events, community groups, barbecues, dinner parties, sporting events – you name it, there’s always an opportunity to meet new people. So, go get lots of visitors in and take your business networking group to the next level of growth and success!


Friday, 28 July 2017

Employment Tribunal Fees are unlawful, Supreme Court rules

In one of the most striking decisions concerning employment law for some time, the Supreme Court has ruled that the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced tribunal fees in July 2013.

Employment Tribunals deal with a broad range of claims, including those for unfair dismissal and discrimination. Prior to the introduction of fees, the criticism had been that there was little stopping claimants bringing claims that were groundless or malicious in intent, with a view perhaps to obtaining a payment from a former employer to stop the case going ahead. The introduction of fees was, in part, a means to prevent these types of vexatious and baseless claims from going ahead.

Yet the introduction of fees, especially at the rates laid down by the rules, was controversial right from the start. The fees are payable at different stages of the case and can be up to £1,200 if a matter proceeds all the way to a hearing. Exemptions from paying fees are available, but as with the Legal Aid, these are restrictive in nature and are not applicable to most claimants.

Those seeking justice through the Employment Tribunal are often in a difficult position financially, especially if they have recently lost their job. This is especially so when the time period to bring an employment claim is so short. Gambling such fees, which to most of us are significant sums of money, will put many people off.




I know from personal experience of people with good cases, where the injustice is there for all to see, who have not gone ahead after deciding they are not in a position to pay the fees involved. Fees have, in short, lead to a substantial decline in the number of people exercising their rights. If this is so, the next question has to be, are the rights worth having in the first place if people are unable in practice to access them?

Interestingly, even the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) voiced its concerns about the high level of fees. Rob Wall, the CBI’s head of employment policy, has stated that while supporting the principle of fees to prevent vexatious claims, “we have never called for the level of fees the Government has introduced.” If even an organisation representing employers takes this position, something must be seriously wrong.

The decision of the Supreme Court has lead to the government stating it will immediately cease requiring the payment of fees and will go further and refund the payment of fees to those who have paid them previously. We will see if the number of claims at the Employment Tribunal recovers and yet there are two rather interesting points that follow. Firstly, there will have been many people who have been denied justice since July 2013 following the requirement to pay a fee to bring a claim. Secondly, it is notable that the government managed to take this unlawful decision despite all the criticism and controversy at the time. Perhaps this case will dissuade the government from continuing its apparent campaign to increase Court and tribunal fees whenever possible, especially as it has been demonstrated that unlawfully introducing or increasing them directly impedes the pursuit of justice.

The full Judgement can be found here: https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2015-0233-judgment.pdf

Friday, 19 February 2016

Whittling at the spearhead of justice.

The torrent of legal reform in personal injury rages on, seemingly never able to rest even for a moment.  Now, the way for the reform that many lawyers feared most has been prepared. Chancellor George Osborne announced late last year that the small claims limit for personal injury would increase from £1,000 to £5,000.  Although no date has been set, it cannot be long until this comes to pass. Yet the Chancellor did not stop there as he went onto announce another, unheralded and more novel alteration to personal injury law.  He proposes that claims for general damages (that is pain, suffering and loss of amenity) are to be abolished for people with minor soft tissue injuries.

Both these changes are very significant for injured people. By and large, if a personal injury claim is in the small claims track of the County Court, the rules are that the Claimant will not be awarded their Solicitors’ fees even if they are successful against the Defendant (and vice versa).  Normally if you win a case at Court, your opponent must pay your lawyer’s fees but these cases are deemed to be too small to warrant the use of a Solicitor.  As using a Solicitor would be considered disproportionate to the size of the case, you cannot normally claim your Solicitor’s fees.

For example, in a debt case of say £2,000, if you win your case a Judge will not normally award you your lawyer’s fees in addition to the claim for £2,000.  This acts as a practical restraint on people obtaining legal advice from Solicitors.  If you cannot claim your Solicitor’s fees even if you win, it does n’t make sense to spend lots on legal advice and assistance as you won’t be able to recover it.  Clients often seek a limited amount of advice in such cases if they are unsure of the merits of their case or the procedure involved and may be happy to risk say £100 or so for some limited advice.

In cases without a personal injury element, the limit for small claims at the County Court was changed in April 2013 from £5,000 to £10,000.  This means that in debt cases, contract claims and so forth, if the amount you seek to recover is less than £10,000 it is very likely your case will be assigned to the small claims track.  As a result claims of less than £10,000 are now less likely to involve legal advice and assistance from a Solicitor.  Many people and businesses may consider that claims between £5,000 to £10,000 are sufficiently serious and complex enough to warrant obtaining legal advice but the law now does not allow them to claim the fees if they are successful from the opposing party.

In the run up to these changes in April 2013 it was widely speculated that the government would change the small claims limits as they applied to personal injury claims as well.  After backing away from this change in April 2013, the government has signalled that this change is now definitely going to take place. It is just a question of when.

The limit for these cases has for a long time been £1,000 for the injury claim. In a personal injury claim, a value known as general damages is given to the injury element; the more serious the injury, the higher the amount.  These rules mean that if the injury element of a personal injury claim is valued at £1,000 or less than your claim is in the small claims track and, as above, you will not recover any money spent on Solicitors from your opponent if your case is successful.  Again the idea is that these cases are too small to warrant the involvement of a Solicitor.

A claim of £1,000 for personal injury normally involves, for example, a claim for a whiplash injury that lasts around a week or so.  It could also be a very minor case of scarring that clears up completely in a short time, damage to a single tooth or injuries or wounds of a similar nature. No one who suffers an injury, particularly due to the negligence of someone else, ought to be belittled. Anyone who suffers in this way goes through a terrible time with all sorts of pain, frustration, distress and inconvenience.  Yet setting the small claims limit for personal injury claims at this level seems to be intuitively right.

The reforms proposed by Osborne increase this limit fivefold and this changes the range of injuries that will fall into the small claims track dramatically.  An injury valued at £5,000 can be very serious and many people suffering in this way would find it a traumatic experience.  The severity of such injuries means that they are likely to be cases involving substantial claims for loss of earnings, medical expenses or care (that is assistance from someone during recovery).

Injuries at £5,000 or so can involve fractures of an arm or leg, or a fractured jaw or clavicle (that is a bone in the shoulder).  It might also be the loss of your two front teeth.  It might involve a significant scar to the hand or back. In cases involve a whiplash injury suffered in a road traffic accident, it can include cases of suffering that last for a prolonged period of up to two years.  The point is that increasing the small claims limit to £5,000 suddenly includes injuries that are clearly not trivial, transient or minor.

Injured people making claims for compensation of this sort may be reluctant to obtain legal advice as they are unlikely to recover these fees from the opponent and so any fees they pay will effectively be a deduction from their compensation.  As a result, they are likely to deal with the case themselves and will to some extent be reliant upon the opponent, who is almost always represented by an insurance company, being fair with them.

Is that likely, given that the motivation for all these reforms comes from the insurance companies and their long term quest to cut down the legal fees and compensation they have to pay for claims?

The majority of personal injury claims involve injuries of less than £5,000 and so these reforms will be of great significance to many people and how they claim compensation in the future.

The insurance companies are often quoted as saying how outrageous it is that on average, the premium for every motor insurance policy includes £90 to go towards the expense of paying whiplash claims. This begs the question of what, exactly, is the point of motor insurance if it is not to pay people when they have suffered loss or damage.

The other even more dramatic reform is to abolish claims for general damages involving minor soft tissue injuries.  If you suffer one of these through someone else’s negligence you will simply not be able to claim compensation for your injury.  No further refinement of what is meant by a minor soft tissue injury has been provided. Guidance can however be obtained from a publication called, “Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages” from the Judicial Studies Board. This is an important reference for personal injury lawyers in valuing claims.

Interestingly, the Guidelines refer to cases of whiplash involving neck and back injuries as being “minor soft tissue” or “soft tissue injuries” and this includes cases where the injured person has suffered up to two years after the accident.  At a stroke, the Chancellor wishes to prevent people suffering these potentially very serious injuries from claiming compensation for the injury, a potent weapon in his armoury of legal reforms to assist the insurance industry.

It is all too easy to be sceptical about lawyers and their interests when legal reforms are mooted.  Are we only thinking of ourselves and our ability to earn an income? I wonder how teachers, the clergy, Doctors or indeed anyone else would respond to such large scale changes in how their professions or businesses operate.  Given a government presumably philosophically attached to free market principles, it is odd that there have been such regulatory intermeddling.

Many people maybe tired of endless adverts on day time television for no win no fee injury lawyers.  Maybe there are fraudulent claims; but then it is the job of the insurance industry and its highly talented legal advisers to spot them. Yet these changes surely go beyond mere lawyers’ self interest.  They go too far.  Abolishing a large category of claimants as these reforms propose is a huge change and is not proportionate to the problems presented.

Whittle the spearhead of justice too far and you blunt the rule of law.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Court fees reforms - what do we pay our taxes for?

The Ministry of Justice has been inviting responses to proposed changes to the fees in civil and family litigation.  This consultation has already been ongoing for sometime and the Ministry has already released its response to Part 2 of the consultation and provided further proposals for reforms.

The new issue fee

The changes to the issue fee for claims worth over £10,000, especially if they are also over £20,000 or so, are eye watering.

This is, I understand, expected to come in for 2015/2016. The government has decided to press ahead with this and no more consultation is needed on these changes.

Claims worth less than £10,000 will remain unchanged.  At £10,000 or more a new way of calculating the fee is to be introduced. In these cases, the fee is going to be 5% of the size of the claim, up to a top limit of a fee of £10,000.

To get a feel for the new issue fees, I looked at a range of five cases from £11,000 in size to £180,000.  At around £20,000 the new issue fee really starts accelerating away from the values we have at present on the scale set down by HMCTS.

Amount of claim   Issue fee now   Issue fee now online    New issue fee

11,000                     455                    410                               550

17,500                     610                    550                               875

40,000                     610                    550                               2,000

75,000                     910                    815                               3,750

180,000                  1,315                  N/A                               9,000

For a claim of £180,000 the new fee is nearly SEVEN times the value at present!

The maximum fee at present is £1,920 for a claim of £300,000 or more.  Under the new system, the fee for a claim this size is £10,000 - that is more than five times as much.

Under the new system, the maximum fee is £10,000 and this is reached at a claim of £200,000 or more.

These new fees are massively higher than the fees at present. It is true that most claims are less than £10,000. It is also true that generally all claims, no matter what size, are important to Claimants (otherwise why bring them) and to Defendants, who find themselves having to fight them.  

Yet claims of £10,000 or more are to most people involved very significant legal challenges or even battles.  If it's a personal injury claim, a case of this size may involve a very serious injury or a substantial loss of earnings or both.  In commercial litigation, to many businesses a claim of £10,000 represents a serious threat to their livelihoods and continued existence, whichever side they are on. 

These greatly increased fees, following a whole series of previous reforms to legal costs, are another deterrent to people who might otherwise have recourse to our legal system to settle their disputes.

Points for consultation

The Ministry of Justice wishes to consult on changes to the issue fees for possession cases, the consent order fee and application fees. Unsurprisingly all of these involve increases to the existing fees.

The government proposes increases the fee for possessions claims by £75.  In the County Court the current fee is £280 so this will increase to £355.  At £355 this becomes a rather substantial amount of money to a landlord who may well already be out of pocket from a defaulting tenant who is failing to pay their rent properly. It must make it more tempting to landlords to try alternative, unlawful means to rid themselves of defaulting tenants.

Applications by consent are due to increase from £50 to £100, obviously a doubling of the existing fee.  This is not just an increase - it is akin to fining parties who have the temerity to reach a settlement.

The fee for making most applications to Court used to be £80 for a long time. It was then increased to £155 and the government is now proposing to increase it to £255.  To my mind, £255 is a very large sum for an application at Court.  £80 is a sensible value in my view; big enough to make you think seriously before applying but not so big as to put you off making an application when you need to just because of the size of a Court fee.  The figure of £255 is more than the issue fee for claims less than £5,000.

It's worth remembering that this will apply to cases of all sizes, even in the lower end of the personal injury claims, say £3,000 or so.  In those cases, a figure of £255 looks very high when compared to the fixed inter-partes costs a successful party can recover from the opponent at the end of the case.

These reforms are a further erosion of people’s ability to stand up for themselves using our legal system.  The senior judiciary have produced a response to the reforms that sets out in beautifully precise language the full ramifications of the government's approach to this issue and this is available here:  http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/JCO/Documents/Consultations/senior-judiciary-response-court-fees-proposals-for-reform.pdf.

The rule of law on which a democratic society is founded rests on citizens having access to the courts.  A Court system has to be a service provided by the state in a democracy and this is not reliant on the costs involved.  The reforms undermine that in a practical sense and, which is more worrying,  the government's philosophy that has lead them to this position is an attack on the nature of our democracy.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Law Society's President at St Mary's Stadium

Hampshire Incorporated Law Society (HILS) held its Annual General Meeting last night at the hallowed grounds of Southampton Football Club at St Mary's Stadium and I was delighted to be invited to attend.  As someone who is Southampton born and raised and a Saints fan, albeit in  completely armchair and ignorant fashion, it was a thrill to be there.

One of the guests at the meeting was Andrew Caplen and I remembered Andrew from a previous AGM for the Hampshire local law society I had attended in 2000 when he had been elected as their President.  Time of course has moved on and earlier this year, Andrew was elected as President of the national law society.  At HILS, we are naturally very proud that a Hampshire solicitor is the head of the Law Society and so it was a rather special meeting as a result.

Inside St Mary's stadium

It was fascinating to hear the very varied range of events and activities Andrew has been involved with already during his term as President. He explained that one of the first points he had dealt with was the controversy concerning the loan company Wonga. It had been reported that Wonga had been writing to some customers using the guise of entirely bogus legal firms and the Law Society had stepped in and requested that the Metropolitan Police investigate this activity.  Almost before he had a chance to sit down in his new role, Andrew appeared on Newsnight being interviewed by none other than Jeremy Paxman on the debacle. Fortunately, Paxman was rather on Andrew's side in the discussion.

Andrew recalled he had been questioned about the European Arrest Warrant particularly when it became clear that Judges, as is often the case, were not very keen to be interviewed personally about such pressing matters.  He had also been involved in discussions about sovereign debt restructuring which, he commented, was thankfully less intimidating than it might sound.

One of Andrew's themes in his discussion was looking forward to 2015 and the celebrations of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta.  In particular he will be a guest at the Global Law Summit and Andrew explained that one of the main points of discussion will be the importance of the rule of law.  Of course with all the current international instability it is perhaps unsurprising that this is the case.  Andrew's particular interest in the concept was how it related to access to justice, that is to say the rule of law could only be effective if citizens actually have access to justice and can exercise legal rights in a court of law.



The role of President of the Law Society clearly involved a lot of travel, both within the UK and abroad.  Rather movingly, Andrew told us how he had attended at an event in Japan and had been amazed to find himself one of a small group of people selected to meet the Emperor and Empress of Japan.  As well as making contact at this level he had also sought out a visit to a unit dedicated to tackling domestic violence in Japan to learn more about how different countries deal with this.

Throughout the evening, Andrew noted that the one person he couldn't seem to meet was the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling.  He had met him prior to becoming President and told an amusing story about correcting a speech that was connected to this yet he had not, despite trying, been able to see him after becoming elected as President.

Again and again Andrew returned to the problems facing legal aid and criminal law practitioners.  Despite extraordinary efforts, despite numerous presentations and proposals it seems the government are simply not listening.  Even more depressingly, Andrew suggested it seems that even if there were a change of government at the next election, it was unlikely that this would change greatly.

It had been an enjoyable evening, assisted with a delicious meal at St Mary's, and some very thought provoking talks were given.  Andrew Caplen is clearly enjoying being President, and quite rightly so, but this flows from his natural energy and passion for what he is achieving in the role. We at HILS continue to be very proud of our Hampshire President.

St. Mary's at night


Saturday, 28 September 2013

Surviving Jackson edited by Jeff Zindani and Professor Regan

A book review by Adam Manning



Claimant personal injury lawyers have been in a kind of “phoney war” since 1st April 2013.  In the build up to the implementation of Jackson, there was a flurry of announcements, proposals and consultations about the nature of the reforms.  Then there was the publication of the rules.  There was dismay, if not to say anger, when the implications for clients and solicitors were recognised.

Law firms have closed down, people have been made redundant, lives have been drastically changed.

Then there were the final weeks leading up to 1st April 2013 and reviewing all one's files to ensure they were as ready as possible for the reforms. Hard hats were put on, air raid shelters built.

Yet the 1st April 2013, part of the Easter weekend so long ago now, came and went.  The sky did not fall in on our heads, no blazing mad bombers set the night on fire.  Do not be deceived. It is just a temporary reprieve whilst the reforms start to bite.  It is, in the words of this book, a window of opportunity.  Here we are told that it maybe twelve to eighteen months before the changes really start to make a substantial difference and in my view we’ve now had six months of that window already.

We are lucky as a profession to have this book to bring us to task and robustly pull us up to look at what we are doing.  I was excited by its contents but also felt I was being slapped, or at least tapped, quite hard with the reality of what was happening to the profession I had been a happy part of.

The first section is a clear, concise setting out of the nature of the reforms.  It is a superb outline of the new rules and worth reading either as an introduction or a source of consolidation of previous knowledge.  Professor Regan makes some interesting remarks about the success fees that claimant lawyers are learning to charge their clients.  Many firms are now charging these and have been surprised by how acceptable they seem to clients, by and large. Professor Regan's comments about the precise percentages involved are at variance, I would suggest, with the way most firms are setting the success fee.

There is also a very clear examination of costs budgeting which will be of great use to anyone needing further guidance. In practice this might be one of the more difficult parts of the new regime for lawyers to become accustomed to and this part by well known barrister Dr Mark Friston is particularly welcome.

Nick Jervis, of Samson Consulting, provides a section which optimistically sets out some ideas for marketing in our brave new world.  One of the themes implicit in the book is that the referral fee system has lead to lawyers being far too reliant on others to simply provide us with cases.  We must get back to marketing.  He provides a concentrated plan on how to do this and it is his focus on getting on with it and measuring the success or failure of different techniques that impressed me.

The current phoney war may lead to some of us thrusting our ostrich heads into the sand of a busy case load but Mr Zindani and his colleagues are keen to pull us up to smell the air and look ahead to the future out on the horizon.  Later sections look at business models and as the book suggests many, many lawyers will not be thinking about what plan their business follows or how they operate and what to do to adapt to the new world but will simply be trying to carry on regardless. 

A number of issues that any large change to the firm may raise are looked at. Some of the most important are the transition to the use of a (possibly new or updated) case management system and the personalities of the senior management of a law firm and how detrimental to the process of change in practice they can be.

The final section of this useful and timely book looks at how law firms are funded and the options available.  Stripping away some of the fantasies lawyers sometimes have about their businesses it was at this point that I had felt I had been slapped. Hard. With a large, cold fish.

Reviews shouldn’t, without any warning, provide spoilers and I will not do so.  Read this book and wake up from the phoney war and look ahead, with hope and clear guidance, to the challenges of the blitzkrieg heading our way.