- Interview with Founders Abi Fennell & Guy FennellMarch 24, 2021
- Interview with Expert & Founder, Vanessa ChallessMarch 8, 2021
- Interview with Founders Kyra White and Shannon BarrieJanuary 19, 2021
Hi Vanessa Challess, let’s start by getting to know you. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and Tiger Law?
I started working for myself in 2015, having qualified into commercial litigation in 2003. Having spent years sorting out contractual disputes, I had always firmly believed that prevention is better than cure so I focused my business on keeping clients away from people like me by getting the right agreements in place early on.
This grew, as did my team until we went for it in 2017 and opened Tiger Law. I had my third child in the first year of my business and he will be six this year. I have always been the sole breadwinner in a family of five and I have taken our team from me to 19 or 20 within that time. I think I can just about relax and feel proud of what I have been able to achieve.
Thank you Vanessa Challess , that was a great introduction. Can you help our audience, when starting a company what are some of the key legal areas one should look at when trying to protect their business?
Startups, and anyone in charge of a business, need to think about the directions in which they are contracting with people – customers, suppliers, distributors, self-employed consultants producing websites and IP – everyone. Then think about how and when orders are made, payments are due, how to protect cash flow (in and out), cancellations, what guarantees are there and so on.
Every one you buy from should have clear terms that set this all out, if not why not? Can you get anything in writing, even if it’s a ‘shopping list’ in an email? When it comes to what you’re selling, whether goods or services, apply the same philosophy: how do I actually operate in my business, can I set it out clearly and provide this to my customers? Probably, so do it.
What are some of the benefits of hiring a commercial lawyer?
A good commercial lawyer will be able to advise on legal pitfalls and how to avoid them, as a business owner myself I find this gives me a very wide view of my clients’ needs and objectives, short and long term, because I live and breathe it with my own business.
You need to be able to trust someone’s judgment which is delivered quickly, is not equivocal and the back covering and who feels like they’re in your corner so that they can support your business journey and you personally, as the owner.
What are some of the legal risks with selling a business and how can you legally protect your company?
The risks these days are that buyers are looking for deals that are increasingly biased towards them, often with much longer payment periods, no cash on completion and/or the purchase price being calculated on how the business does after you’ve sold it.
If the buyer is calling the shots, you have got to have your payment structure agreed and in writing with some form of comfort, whether it’s personally underwritten or secured on the shares/assets, so you’re not just walking off into the sunset.
When would someone usually look to take out the services of a family lawyer?
This will tend to be either when there is a multi-pronged approach to organising a family’s affairs around a multi-generation company and when sorting out succession planning and protection of assets or, more broadly speaking, when things start to go wrong at home and a few preliminary questions about options come up.
If it’s after a split, we do find that often people have dealt with things between them and it’s when one or other of the partners starts a new relationship and children are involved, this can often cause the situation to become inflamed all over again and then we have disputes over contact with the children and so on.
As of March 2021, what financial help can businesses get?
This is a bit of a moving target with the government regularly changing its guidance but we currently have a small grant for businesses that are directly impacted by the second lockdown, primarily in hospitality.
The CIBLS has been extended to the end of March 2021 will be replaced by the Recovery Loan Scheme, which launches on 6 April and is open until 31 December, subject to review. In addition, the furlough scheme is also extended with a focus on allowing those who need to care for others being allowed to furlough, but employers have the final say here.
Another lockdown can be deflating and worrying for employees and employers, these government schemes are effective as when measures are eased, it is essentially the light at the end of the tunnel knowing they still have their jobs to go back to.
What is furlough and what are the current requirements for a company to put its employees on this scheme?
Furlough is essentially a way of bridging the gap for employees who work for a company that has been directly impacted by the lockdown, ensuring that they are still able to receive the majority of their usual pay.
It is an effective scheme as it avoids redundancies and gives people a sense of job security. Furlough allows employers to claim 80% of their employee’s salary for the hours they are unable to work due to circumstances outwith their control.
There are no explicit requirements about the type of contract allowed to be permitted, currently, all types of employment contracts are eligible for the furlough scheme. The only qualifying factor is that as of the 1st November, a furloughed employee must have been on payroll between 20th March-30th October 2020.
Can employees still be entitled to annual leave when furloughed?
Employees placed on furlough are entitled to annual leave without it affecting their furlough.
New legislation developed as a result of the coronavirus (The Working Time (Coronavirus)(Amendment) Regulations 2020) has protected furloughed employees from losing their annual leave and they are able to roll their unused leave over, given it has not been practicable for them to go on holiday.
When furloughed employees are on holiday they’re entitled to their normal pay in full as opposed to the furlough rate.
What are some of the key legal areas one should know when buying a house?
Buyers should be aware of the ‘default’ conveyancing process which tends to be a very high volume, low cost operation meaning service standards can suffer.
Estate agents will often only refer buyers to one firm because of a beneficial relationship so always consider that firm and one or two more and pick the one you click with. If you are buying with another person, ask your conveyancer how the property will be held – it’s important – and consider insuring your mortgage payments.
The other key point is to be aware of and look into any rights that affect the property, for example, the bulk of all claims against solicitors are in this area, so pick your firm carefully as you would with any other expensive purchase.
What do you or Tiger Law predict will be the future in regards to people requiring a lawyer as a whole?
People are definitely genning up more, as they should, and there may well be areas that they feel confident enough to tackle alone. My experience is that internet template farms often have out-of-date or non-UK documents so if you do take this path, research!
Be aware that we don’t know what we don’t know so having a friendly lawyer on tap will always be a good idea and that’s about relationships, and some jobs will always require a qualified adviser – would you want to risk a few million on a deal without any protection? I wouldn’t.
What I think will change is the relationship that clients want to have with their lawyers: less formal, fewer clocks ticking, more of human touch.
Do you think Covid-19 will and has impacted the need for a lawyer?
Let’s face it, lawyers are a luxury product and when times are tough, it’s the luxuries that go out of the window first. Unfortunately, this has meant that where people are buying and selling on no or self-written contracts, for example, they are only discovering the issues later on.
Our litigation work has easily doubled and that’s a sure sign of people having problems paying each other and looking to take shortcuts.
What drives you as a lawyer and as a firm what are your values and ethos?
Lawyers are service providers to the people who actually make the wheels go round, we as a profession need to get off our pedestal and connect with our clients, provide good value, robust advice and commit to the advice that we’re giving.
What drives me is finding a way to do that which is ethical for clients and good for my people: we have no chargeable targets so no time dumping, we mainly work on fixed fees and we genuinely care. My team work flexibly and, in a lot of cases, have worked remotely from day dot and we’re happy and committed to our clients.
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