I was approached by a longstanding farming client, who had recently abandoned the same firm of long standing accountants that we had employed and dismissed for going to sleep when they should have been filing our accountant’s certificate. We should have been fined but were let off because of our blameless previous record. Both she and I were delighted by our new accountants. In her case, the new accountants had written to her urging her to take action to avoid inheritance tax.
The Government has recently boasted about its success in tearing up 150 pages of planning regulations and consequently the cunning developers, having been advised that they can drive a coach and horses through the present regulations, have started resubmitting planning applications for hundreds of houses around my local area in central Wiltshire.
Last week I was driving my son, Alex, down to Chippenham station so that he could go to Court in Bristol before making my way to the office. He is a barrister and has to be insured against negligence. I asked him what his premium was. He told me he insures through the Bar Insurance paying £108.00 for cover of £500,000. I told him that my cover was for £2,000,000 and I had had an offer of £42,500 for the annual premium. Barristers get off lightly. Preparing for the annual Profession Indemnity round each year is highly stressful because, for small firms like mine, the market is extremely limited. We need our Professional Indemnity Cover to enable us to practice. Generally, we pay the first £5,000 on each claim and leave it to the insurance company to pay the remainder. For the last four years we have had no claims or hints of claims against us at all. 2008/2009 was a bad year because having taken over our Tetbury office in 2006 I did not know my staff well and some of the problems went back to 2003, but despite that our record is quite good apparently.
We have had lawyers in the family since before 1900 and one of my daughter-in-law’s direct ancestors was at school with Doctor Johnson and subsequently became Lord Chief Justice. My youngest son is due to take his bar finals this summer. This affects our outlook on life. We feel affinity with farmers and their ilk because of the continuity. At some point during my early professional career perhaps following the convulsions of 1968 there was a change in emphasis between duties and rights.. Clients have become consumers and solicitors have become fee earners. Globalisation has heralded the arrival of the megafirm which means that the majority of solicitors and executives are answerable to the firm before the client because if you do not own the firm and the client complains it is the firm that decides your fate rather than the client.
My approach to divorce as opposed to domestic violence is that if the parties really cannot make the marriage work and their continued cohabitation brings out the worst in them then a dignified exit must be achieved with the minimum of fuss or rancour. I do not encourage the McCartney v McCartney solution although sometimes it cannot be avoided.
If possible one should organise one’s life to avoid one’s solicitor having nightmares. I have recently taken over a case which has produced such a nightmare. The problem arose because the deceased died thinking about making a will i.e. intestate but failed to do so. He was wealthy but had married twice. The children of the first marriage were not happy. The second wife, who was wealthy in her own right, inherited the first £250,000 and the personal chattels under the rules of intestacy. She was entitled to a life interest in a proportion what remained and after her death the remainder of this portion was to go to his children. The remainder was destined for the children. Inheritance tax was to be paid. No one could agree about anything except about setting up trusts and the fall outs meant that the legal costs exceeded any benefit obtained by the tax saving.
If firms are trying to shed staff the requirements of employment law are that certain procedures have to be followed and if not the employers could find themselves spending a day in the Bristol Employment Tribunal which is a very grim place. Firms often like to short circuit this by providing the departing employee with a compromise agreement which in effect arranges for the employee to receive a payment on signing an agreement that he will not make any claims whatsoever against the employer.
The Liberal Government of 1894 introduced Death Duties, which in one way or another have remained with us until now. The collection of it was revealing and in its first 12 years doubled its receipts. A French financial expert Rene Stourm commented with his admiration for “the self sacrifice” with which “the privileged class , a minority increasingly restricted in numbers on whose shoulders alone the burden of income-tax falls submits – in the public interest – to painful and inevitable ruin, an example which few other aristocracies could display”. The French introduced a similar tax which showed that there were four times as very rich men in Britain at the time. - See more at: http://lansdownelegal.com/news/taxation-and-social-policy/#sthash.1M8qRJI0.dpuf
Our current legal press is filled with articles about how lawyers should react to recession, complaints and the Judicial Appointments Commission’s reluctance to appoint solicitors as Queens Counsel or High Court Judges. The Judges in declining seniority sit in the House of Lords, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and the Circuit or County Court.