A Word From Our Founder Melissa Danks about why we offer the legal advice, in the way that we do.

Having worked as a solicitor and in private practice for over 20 years and assisted in-house legal counsel of larger Corporates, I have found the provision of legal services in private practice to be frustrating, largely dis-jointed, issue specific and fragmented. Often, fee earners are target-driven having to manage excessive caseloads with little or no time or inclination to learn about a client’s business. As a result, the fee-earner ends up being reactive as opposed to proactive in terms of providing legal advice.

In contrast, the legal advice provided to larger corporates who can afford to hire in-house legal teams is entirely different. Firstly, they are in-house and thus able to provide legal advice as and when needed. Therefore, it’s not surprising that it is becoming more commonplace for larger corporates to hire in-house lawyers, rather than incur the hourly rates of private practice law firms.

Issues for smaller companies and businesses

Often for those companies that cannot afford to hire in-house legal support, they are left to identify the risks posed and to then engage a law firm to provide the required advice.

It goes without saying that business owners or the Board of a company know the business inside out. However, businesses often do not have the legal expertise in-house to identify the potential problems that may arise. For instance, the varying different legal issues that manifest within companies until it is either too late; becomes problematic; expensive to fix; or more complicated than it would otherwise have been. In short, as the saying goes ‘you don’t know, what you don’t know, until you find out you don’t know it’!

Therefore, without the legal knowledge or experience, it is often difficult for businesses to seek the proactive solutions necessary to avoid things going wrong. In other words, being able to place the business in the strongest legal position possible. It is for this reason that I decided to form 43Legal, to offer an alternative and affordable way in which to engage and seek legal advice and support (without the faff), to achieve growth, stability and longevity for all business, no matter what the size or need.

Listen to Melissa on the isme|&|conversation podcast

Ed Palmer interviews the inspiring Melissa Danks. Hear about how Melissa backed herself against the odds and refused to acknowledge biases to first become a Lawyer and then go on to set up 43Legal. A law firm, which you’ll hear is markedly different from other commercial firms.

Dispute Resolution Services

Unfortunately disputes do arise, the issue is how they are dealt with. We are expert dispute resolution and litigation solicitors. Any dispute can cause instability to a business both in terms of uncertainty and the potential damage that can be caused as a result, never mind the length of time involved and the distraction it can cause.

At 43Legal we understand the impact and the potential difficulty litigation can have on a business. We are on hand to provide advice and assistance regarding a wide range of potential disputes that may arise with any business, no matter what the size. When needed, we have the expertise to offer guidance and support in helping you to navigate your way through whatever the issue. If you have a potential problem, that you may need help with, please get in touch, we’ll be happy to help.

Business Debt Recovery
Is your business owed money? Our Business Debt Recovery services could help you to reclaim unpaid invoices and help increase cash flow.

Unpaid Invoice – Business Debt Recovery
Every business, at some point encounters an unpaid invoice. The pressing issue is how it is dealt with and how frequently it occurs. Unpaid invoices can have an impact upon cash flow and in turn the health and stability of the business and so therefore it is imperative that the right course of action is taken in order to recover payment and depending upon the nature and frequency of the situation, consideration as to the ways in which to prevent future unpaid invoices.

Contractual Disputes
Disputes that arise as a result of a disagreement centred around the performance of a contract.

Contract disputes arise where one or more of the party’s involved in a contract fails to meet their contractual obligations. If a contract dispute occurs, it may be necessary to consider bringing a breach of contract claim through the Court. The issue may arise from a breach of an express term of the contract, or an implied term, or perhaps even implied by statute. For example, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 or the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980.

Director Disputes
Directors disputes are disagreements centred around a directors responsibilities and obligations towards a company.

Director disputes usually arise when a director fails to comply with his or her responsibilities and obligations owed to a company. Alternatively, director disputes arise where there is a falling out or a difference of opinion in terms of the way in which a company is being run or the direction that a company is being taken.

Unfortunately, director disputes can be quite involved, and it is therefore often useful to set out in writing from the outset what is expected of a director in terms of their role, responsibilities, and obligations within the company. For instance, within a director’s service agreement. Similarly, it is a good idea to ensure that the company’s constitution sets out the basis upon which directors are to be removed from office, should a director’s dispute arise. For example, how a director’s dispute should be dealt with. As a result, in doing so, this may reduce the potential risk and exposure to the company.

Shareholders Disputes
Disputes that arise when there is a disagreement or fallout of opinion between the shareholders of a company.

Shareholder disputes arise where one or more of the shareholders of a company fall out. For example, where there is a difference of opinion in terms of the way in which the company is being run. Similarly, shareholder disputes can arise where the minority feel as though their interest within the company are being marginalised or they feel as though they are not being treated fairly in comparison to the majority.

Partnership Disputes
Disputes that arise as a result of a fallout or difference of opinion between partners of a business.

Partnership disputes arise where the partners of a business fall out or have a difference of opinion. For example, partnership disputes may arise as a result of the way in which the business is being run. Alternatively, partnership disputes can arise as a result of ill feeling, due to the poor performance of one or more of the partners. For instance, as a result of one or more of the partners not pulling their weight. Similarly, partnership disputes can also arise where a difference of opinion occurs. For instance, over the direction of the business or how an opportunity should be advanced, or an issue resolved.

Franchise Disputes
Disputes that arise as a result of a disagreement centred around a commercial arrangement or joint venture between a franchisor and franchisee.

Franchise disputes arise where there is a disagreement between the franchisee, the person or company that has the right to operate a franchise business and the franchisor, the person or company who has the right to sell or grant the franchise rights to sell the goods or services. Consequently, a franchise dispute can occur for a variety of reasons. For example, as a result of a disagreement in terms of what a franchisee can or cannot do in terms of the business. Similarly, a franchise dispute may also arise if one party has failed to comply with their obligations and as a result the other party has suffered loss. Alternatively, a franchise dispute can arise where a misrepresentation occurs, which the franchisee relies upon. For example, a misrepresentation as regards overheads or sale projections.

Reputational Risk and Damage Management
Are disputed that centres around claims that give rise to reputational damage as a result of the publication of untrue and/or defamatory material.

Damage to reputation often arises as a result of defamation. Defamation occurs where a false statement is made as though it was true, which causes injury or damage to the reputation of an individual or business. This can occur either by way of a false statement being made in writing or when spoken. Defamation and the potential risk posed as a result has become increasingly more commonplace following the digital age and people taking to posting reviews and comments on digital platforms including social media.

In-House Counsel legal risk and compliance services

At 43Legal we are passionate about providing legal services in a manner that best supports the needs and delivers the outcomes that our clients need to ensure stability and profitability. Furthermore, our Virtual In-House Counsel service enables us to work alongside your business to provide legal advice as and when required in a manner that best suites you. Above all, our Virtual In-House Counsel services provides an alternative way to access legal advice in a way that is affordable, which is not necessarily charged upon hourly rates.

In-House Legal Counsel versus Private Practice?

It is rather unsurprising that more and more of the larger corporates are moving towards hiring in-house legal counsel teams, to oversee and advise upon legal issues. Most certainly, part of the reason is to reduce cost. Firstly, hiring an in-house legal team can be less expensive than paying city rate private practice lawyers. More importantly however, in doing so they retain consistency and a hands-on approach, which invariably occurs from having someone with the legal expertise being on-hand to answer queries as and when they arise.

Meanwhile, for many smaller companies it is not viable to incur the cost of hiring in-house counsel. However, as a result, they do not acquire the same insight or service from private practice. In other words, the manner in which private practice is set up, it is often too expensive and impractical for smaller businesses to retain a solicitor to offer and provide the services that would ordinarily be provided by an in-house legal team.

Consequently at 43Legal our bespoke legal packages are devised in a cost effective manner in order for you to have access to the in-house legal services that larger corporates are able to afford on either a consultancy basis or by utilising our retainer option.

What is 43 Legal’s Virtual In-House Legal Counsel package?

Our role as in-house legal counsel, at 43 Legal is to act as a business partner, enabler, and guardian to your business. Most importantly, we will work alongside you as part of your team. In other words, we are aware that you will have business objectives, and our role is to help to accomplish those objectives, in a manner where we help to guard the company from unreasonable amount of risk.

Above all, by working in-house, we are on hand to answer those questions as and when they arise because we are there and part of your business, not some remote lawyer that does not understand the nature or extent of your business, who needs time to ‘get up to speed’ each time a query arises.

In turn, for example, we will be on hand for you to simply ask “Can we do this?”. Moreover, it may well be clearly permissible, in which case the answer will be, “of course, carry on”. However, often the answer maybe, “You can’t quite do it exactly like that, but if you make these tweaks and operate within these guidelines, you can minimise the potential risk”. Invariably the answer might be no, but before reaching that conclusion, we will really dig in and see what adjustments we can propose to carry out your objectives. Most importantly, when instructing solicitors in private practice, either you may not think to ask the question, or the solicitor may not be able to provide the same response in such a timely manner, having not worked alongside the business.

In addition, where necessary we will work with external bodies and professionals to ensure cost efficient legal advice is obtained to ensure you focus on what is important: – driving productivity and growth.

What assistance can a Virtual In-House Counsel provide?

In short, some of the areas we can assist with are as follows:-

Policies and Procedures – Review and implement policies and procedures to minimise and reduce exposure to potential risk, for example implementing streamlined systems to reduce the potential exposure to being fined by the ICO.

Corporate Governance – Support and assistance in terms of legal governance relating to the board.

Legal Health Check – Provide a legal health check to identify potential areas of risk and offer solutions to reduce or minimise any risk involved.

External Advice – Manage and assist in terms of project specific issues and managing third party experts and advisors.

Cost Saving Strategies – Advising of cost saving strategies for example identifying ways in which to restructure the business to reduce overall cost; reducing bad debts and maximise profitability both in the short term and the long term.

Complaints handling services

At 43Legal we know how important maintaining a good reputation is, especially within legal services. Often people are quick to vocalise when things go wrong, perhaps more so than when they go right! Furthremore, we also know that legal service complaints can escalate quickly, especially if they are not dealt with proactively and efficiently, which can result in a legal service complaint being referred to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO).

Most importantly solicitors, RELs and RFLs are required pursuant to paragraph 8.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct to treat clients fairly and to deal with complaints promptly and free of charge. In addition, pursuant to Regulation 12 of the Provision of Services Regulations 2009 (as amended) solicitors are required to deal with complaints quickly and to make every effort to deal with them satisfactorily. Furthermore, the LeO is entitled to report any suspected delay or misconduct on the part of a solicitor to the SRA. Therefore, it is important that legal service complaints are taken seriously and dealt with appropriately in accordance with a firm’s complaints procedure, otherwise it could lead to a report to the SRA.

Unfortunately, no matter how good you are things do go wrong, whether it’s the fall in service levels or negligent advice. However, if dealt with appropriately a complaint may help promote your firm or even salvage the client relationship. On the other hand, complaints can be used as an attempt to avoid payment. Therefore, it is important to know how best to deal with legal service complaints when they arise.

Often when things do go wrong, there is not the time or resource available for someone to step in and resolve the issue, listen to the client, understand what has occurred and explore what avenues are available to rectify the issue. Moreover, depending on the size of law firm, it may not be cost effective to incur the overhead of recruiting a permanent member of staff to undertake the role. Alternatively, in larger firms it can sometimes be the case that capacity is not available to meet demand.

How can 43Legal help resolve complaints?

We can act as an independent third-party complaints’ handler, providing an independent and impartial view when dealing with a legal service complaint. Most importantly, we are not part of your firm. Therefore, we can help defuse the situation, whilst reducing the perception of bias. For example when making a final determination in respect of a complaint.

Alternatively, we can also help you and your staff deal with legal service complaints effectively. Most importantly by providing you with the tools to address legal service complaints efficiently, proactively and confidently.

What is your Virtual In-House Complaints Manager Service?

Primarily we assist law firms to ‘deal with and manage things when they go wrong’, by providing fixed fee, monthly retainer packages as well as in-house training. For example, our services may include the following: –

• We act as an independent third party complaints handler. For example when a compliant arises, it is referred to us and we liaise with the client to firstly identify the issues involved and what is required to address the issue. Most importantly, with the view to resolving the complaint amicably where possible.

• When a complaint arises involving breach of duty and/or negligence on the part of the firm, we liaise with the fee earners concerned, the client and if necessary, your professional indemnity insurer to then manage the complaint and claim through the process.

• We work with you as the first port of call. For example, if a potential negligence claim arises and it is necessary to notify your Professional Indemnity Insurers, we work with you and your Professional Indemnity Insurers to resolve the issue where possible. Most importantly, we safeguard the firms position with third parties.

• We work with you to identify and process notifiable issues to the SRA if or when the need arises.

• We can provide training to fee earners regarding how to deal with and manage legal service complaints effectively. For example the language to use, how to diffuse the situation and resolve complaints as soon as possible when they arise.

• We can also work with your firm to help identify problem areas, provide a series of best practice directives, whilst also reviewing and providing possible changes to your complaints policies and procedures.

SRA Compliance services for the legal sector

Compliance and Practice Manager Services
Law firms regulated by the Solicitor Regulation Authority (the SRA) are required to comply with the SRA’s seven principles and at 43Legal our SRA Compliance Manager services are designed to help law firms to comply with the SRA requirements and to help navigate your way through what is required in terms of SRA compliance.

Depending upon your needs and requirements, we can tailor a bespoke package to assist with SRA compliance and manager services and advice required, whether that be on a retainer basis or project specific, fixed fee.

Some of the areas we cover and assist law firm with are as follows: –

Risk Management and Loss Prevention
• File Auditing – file reviews are an important way to ensure that quality control process and procedures are being implemented firm wide and can assist to help satisfy third parties such as Professional Indemnity Insurers that the firm is actively involved in risk prevention and therefore are considered low risk. Depending upon your needs, we can be retained to undertake monthly file reviews or a bespoke project as a means to review existing quality control systems. File audits can also be a helpful way of checking for AML compliance and client due diligence and whether these practices are adequate to meet the needs and potential exposure of the firm.

• Risk assessments – we help firms prepare and review bespoke risk assessments for example anti-money laundering practices. Ensuring that risk assessments are in place provides for a reasoned and risk-based approach by the firm and if things go wrong, they can also help in terms of being utilised as a defence in showing that the firm has exercised reasonable judgement.

• Reviewing and drafting terms and condition, in order to limit liability to clients.

Support for Risk and Compliance Teams
• Outsourced Compliance teams – we can offer a second opinion in the event that there are any issues as or when they arise.

• Often compliance teams can become over stretched certainly during peak times and rather than recruiting an additional member of staff, we can step in and assist in terms of providing compliance and risk management services on either a retainer basis or a specific bespoke project.

• We can assist in terms of helping you to overhaul your compliance office manual, client engagement letters. For example, what systems are in place to avoid conflict of interests occurring or breach of confidentiality? Are these practical and adequate for the size of the firm?

• Conflict of Interest/Confidentiality – We can help you to navigate through potentially difficult issues that arise involving conflict of interest, whether a conflict has arisen or a breach of confidentiality and how best to proceed.

GDPR and Data Protection Issues
• Subject Access Requests – We can assist in terms of identifying when a client’s request amounts to a subject access request (SAR).

• We can also assist in terms of helping to identify what documents are to be sent in order to comply with the request

• We are on hand to answer questions such as – What happens if a Subject Access Request includes information relating to a third party? When do I need to provide a response by? How long do I need to keep data for?

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Melissa demonstrated highly detailed knowledge of the issues we faced and showed strong negotiating skills. She was at all times confident and professional and realistic with her advice both from a case and a client perspective.