Friday, 29 April 2016

Two new partners join the Board

Two solicitors have been given a seat on the board at Martin-Kaye, in Telford.

Andrew Oranjuik and Janet Hawley have both been made partners and they will now play a key role in developing our future plans and business initiatives.

Senior Partner Graham Davies said: “We’re delighted to welcome Andrew and Janet to the management team, and we believe they will bring an exciting and fresh approach to our forward planning and business goals.

“At Martin-Kaye, we’re always keen to encourage bright and dynamic lawyers to continuously develop their skills and to take a pro-active interest in the workings of the firm as a whole. In Andrew and Janet we have two new partners who have demonstrated their commitment and dedication to the practice, and who will now help us to shape the firm for years to come.”

Andrew specialises in resolving commercial disputes and has over ten years’ experience in the sector. He joined Martin-Kaye in 2012, and is a member of the Professional Negligence Lawyers Association and the Property Litigation Association.

Renowned for his dispute resolution skills, Andrew has regularly been recognised in the independent directory, Legal 500, and praised for having “a great eye for detail”, “giving sage advice”, and “never losing his cool”.

Janet is a manager in Martin-Kaye’s residential property department dealing with high volume transactions including freehold and leasehold sales and purchases, new build purchases and shared ownership transactions.

She joined the firm in 2007 as an assistant solicitor before progressing through the ranks to help lead the team in one of the busiest areas of the business.

Both Andrew and Janet will now work with other senior members of staff to ensure Martin-Kaye delivers the very highest levels of customer service at all times, and to make sure the company’s growing reputation continues to flourish.

Pic: Andrew Oranjuik and Janet Hawley are the new Partners at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Panama Papers warning for divorcing couples

Divorcing couples who try to hide their fortunes from a spouse could find themselves under tougher scrutiny following the leak of the “Panama Papers”, a Telford solicitor has warned.

Nadia Davis leads the Family Law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, and she said the disclosures unveiled by the leak of confidential papers from a Panama law firm had shone a spotlight on assets and investments.

“It’s clear that there is now a real appetite for an open and uncomplicated approach when it comes to finances, and in divorce cases we have always called for such honesty.

“Now, with so much publicity on the subject, it’s far more likely that divorcing couples will call for greater scrutiny when it comes to their former partner’s finances.”

Nadia was speaking following comments from the new Chair of family law group, Resolution, Nigel Shepherd, who said publicity on the issue was good news as it made it more likely the matter would be investigated “properly”.

It’s claimed that the leaked files from Mossack Fonseca in Panama revealed how some wealthy spouses had stored assets in complicated trust funds held by offshore companies to make it difficult for their partners to find out how much they were worth.

And the ongoing publicity surrounding the files follows hot on the heels of two successful cases in the Supreme Court where two ex-wives said they were duped into ‘unfair’ divorce settlements.

“These decisions set a real precedent on how dishonesty will be treated in family courts, and lawyers believe there could be many other ex-wives or ex-husbands calling for divorce cases to be re-opened if they feel they have been misled during divorce proceedings,” said Nadia.

“It’s not a simple process to re-open a divorce case to dispute a settlement, but if a spouse believes their former partner really was dishonest, there now seems to be more likelihood that a case could be revisited.

“The Panama revelations are also likely to colour future divorce cases too, so the leaks should be taken as a warning to anyone who might be attempting to hide their true worth.”

Friday, 1 April 2016

Is your company name safe?

Figures show that up to 100 companies every month have their identities stolen and misused – but would you know how to stop it?

Eliot Hibbert leads the Corporate Commercial team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, and said there were some surprisingly simple steps companies could take to protect themselves.

“Generally most people think that identity theft is a problem for people who have their computers hacked or their dustbins raided for personal information.

“But it’s actually just as common, if not more so, for fraudsters to target companies and use their name and credentials illegally. In order to protect your business – and your reputation – it’s vital that company owners take action as soon as possible.”

Eliot said the difficulty with corporate identity theft was that although it was fairly simple to commit, it was generally not uncovered very quickly.

“It’s easy for fraudsters to obtain your company’s details as the information is open to anyone through the Companies House website – and usually they will start by filling in forms to change your company’s registered office address and the name of at least one director. This means of course that you’re not likely to realise what’s happened until they’ve actually misused your company name.”

Eliot said business owners should sign up to the Companies’ House PROOF system to help make it difficult, if not impossible, for fraudsters to intervene.

“The only reason you may not be able to register to use PROOF is if there’s any kind of ongoing dispute between company directors – not a simple everyday dispute, but a serious one that could lead to a director or company secretary resigning.”

Under the PROOF scheme, companies need to submit certain Companies House forms online such as the annual tax return and notice of any changes in directors’ details – and once a company is registered, forms will only be accepted from specific people within a company.

“You can also appoint someone to regularly check your company’s details on the Companies House website – it will take only a couple of minutes and yet it could protect your business from a whole host of problems.”

Thursday, 31 March 2016

References can be a nightmare

Employers should think very carefully before they agree to provide a reference for a former employee as any mistakes could prove costly.

John Mehtam is the employment law specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and he said a reference request was most likely to be for a new employer or maybe a financial situation like a mortgage application.

“It’s important to be aware of the differences though between a corporate reference and a personal one. Your business will be legally responsible for the contents of a corporate reference because it is provided on its behalf.

“So you must ensure you have a clear policy on which employees or levels of management can give a corporate reference, whether it should be verbal or written, and what should be included.”

John said a personal reference may refer to work undertaken for the business but must not be given on behalf of the business.

“There’s always a danger that a personal reference could be taken to be a corporate reference, so make sure it’s not provided on headed paper and does not include the referee’s job title.”

John added that there was no legal obligation on a business to provide a reference and so the business was entitled to refuse to provide one.

“But your company policy on references must be consistent or you could be accused of discrimination. Your business is not allowed to discriminate on the basis of age, disability, gender, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

“So having a clear policy in place about the circumstances in which references will be given will help in defending any allegations of discriminatory treatment. If you do agree to give a reference, the business must be able to justify and support any comments made and show that it honestly holds the views that are stated.

“Your business cannot be successfully sued for defamation for the contents of a reference (even if they are untrue), as long as your business believed the information in the reference was correct at the time it was provided, and that you gave the reference without malice.

“But your business could be sued for breach of contract if you don not give a reference when your business had previously agreed to provide one.”

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Legal experts take top award

Lawyers from a Telford firm are proving they can compete with some of the most high profile legal teams in the UK after winning a prestigious award.

Commercial litigation experts from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, have been named in the 2016 Dispute Resolution Awards as the best for SME Contract Disputes.

Run by Acquisition International Magazine, the awards were created to showcase the very best lawyers and professional advisers across the country.

And it’s not the first time they have recognised the Telford practice.

Andrew Oranjuik who leads the commercial litigation team at Martin-Kaye said: “We’re very proud to have received this latest award, and it is confirmation once again that we really do punch above our weight when it comes to the competition.

“It also shows that the very best legal advice is available outside the major cities in the UK thanks to practices like Martin-Kaye.”

The company has previously been awarded the Excellence in Contract Focused Commercial Litigation title, and the Midlands Litigators of the Year award.

“Our specialist commercial litigation team already has an excellent reputation for its effective, straight-talking advice, and to be recognised yet again on the national stage is sure to raise our profile even further,” said Andrew.

“It’s particularly pleasing as we are one of the very few law firms outside the major cities to develop a specialist team like this, and our commitment to the sector is obviously paying off.”

Martin-Kaye’s commercial litigators deal with a wide range of claims including partnership and shareholder disputes, disputes over intellectual property, professional negligence, and disputes in property, contract, construction and IT cases.

The Dispute Resolution Awards highlight the work carried out by the main players in this fiercely competitive area. They use an exhaustive process of reviews and in-house research to reward the most respected litigators, arbitrators and mediators across the business world. All kinds of firms are nominated from the smallest niche practices to the largest corporations.

Pic: Celebrating their latest award win are, from left, Mohammed Ahsan, Graham Davies, Andrew Oranjuik and Jason Round at Martin-Kaye

Monday, 14 March 2016

Companies receive harsh wake-up call

Companies could be more liable than ever for the behaviour of their employees following a landmark legal ruling, a Shropshire employment law expert has warned.

The Supreme Court found that supermarket chain Morrisons was liable for the actions of a worker who punched and kicked a man on one of its petrol station forecourts.

And John Mehtam, the employment law specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said: “This is a wake-up call to all employers. It means that companies will find it much more difficult to avoid legally binding liability for the actions of their staff during working hours.”

According to court documents, Amjid Khan was working at a Morrisons petrol station in Birmingham in 2008 when he punched and kicked Ahmed Mohamud. Mr Mohamud died six years later of an illness not related to the incident, and his family continued his legal fight.

Morrisons had sacked Mr Khan and agreed to pay damages, but the Supreme Court has now overturned a previous Court of Appeal ruling and decided that the supermarket group is liable for Mr Khan's actions.

Mr Mehtam said the case hinged on the definition of ‘vicarious liability’ - where someone is held responsible for the actions or omissions of another person. In the workplace, an employer can be liable for the acts or omissions of its employees, provided it can be shown that they took place in the course of their employment.

He said: “There is no doubt that this ruling will make it easier for successful claims of this kind against companies – even if the actions of staff were neither sanctioned, nor supported, by their managers. It does not amount to a change in the law, but is most certainly a change in the way that ‘vicarious liability’ cases will be interpreted by the courts.”

Mr Mehtam added: “Previously, it was thought that an employer would only be liable for an assault if it took place while carrying out a task which was part of their working contract. That has all changed. Now, employers can clearly be held liable for any form of criminal act carried out by their staff – whether they are directly linked to their job, or not.”

Monday, 7 March 2016

Religious festivals are not a given right

Companies are perfectly within their rights to deny workers extended periods of annual leave which they claim are for ‘religious reasons’, a Shropshire employment lawyer has warned.

Lubna Laheria’s comments follow the findings of a landmark tribunal case involving a London Underground worker who claimed his religious beliefs required him to return to his home in Sardinia each year for up to five weeks.

Lubna, who is part of the employment team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said the case would serve as a useful guide for any employers faced with a member of staff asking for a long period of time off for specific reasons.

“The tribunal ruled that blocks of leave of up two weeks were perfectly ordinary and should only be declined by an employer in the event of a very pressing business need. It said that blocks of leave of three weeks were not particularly rare, but merited discussion between the worker and the line-manager because of the potential to create greater business difficulties and clashes with the wishes of other team members.

“And it pointed out that blocks of leave for three weeks or more would usually be granted only for rare events such as marriage, or supporting family members through planned medical procedures.”

She added: “The tribunal made it clear that there is a distinction between something which is a requirement of a person’s religion, and something which is tied into family arrangements.

“Employers have to ensure that they are treating all of their staff fairly. People with religious beliefs are not the only members of staff who will have family commitments during the summer months. One of the most important tasks of any manager is to ensure that they treat all their staff fairly, and do not show favouritism.

“Employers do not have to give workers time off for religious observance, but should try to accommodate them whenever possible, within reason. Clearly, the law has decided that it is not ‘reasonable’ to expect this to extend to a right to five weeks of extended leave each and every summer.”