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Corona Virus (COVID-19) Service Update

COVID-19 Statement – Clark Willis Law Firm

(Updated 23rd March)

In light of the latest Government guidance to combat Corona virus, including restrictions on movement and self-isolation, we wish to re assure our clients that we will continue to operate a range of legal services during this period with sensible adjustments inline with Government guidance.

We fully appreciate that certain clients, especially those elderly and vulnerable, may be rightly concerned about accessing legal services given the magnitude of the COVID-19 virus and its consequential impact on personal interaction. As a business we have therefore implemented a number of practical measures to ensure you will have a continued service, whilst safeguarding your health and safety, and that of our team: 

  1. As of the 24th March 2020 we will be closing our receptions and so customers will not be able to visit our reception areas as normal. This applies to both Darlington and Catterick Garrison. We remain open for business and so please do contact us in relation to your existing matters or indeed any new matters we can assist with. Customers are asked to telephone, post or email documents to us rather than attending our office.
  2. Any booked appointments will be transferred to alternative means of communication, such as telephone or skype, where their matter is able to be dealt with in such manner.
  3. Our Wills team have put in place special provisions to provide an effective service, especially to those at high risk or required to self-isolate in order that they can still instruct us. This includes instructions via telephone, video call, email, post. We will also consider home visits for signature where required and with appropriate steps to manage risks to our staff and clients.

We are confident that we are able to continue to progress matters appropriately and have support and systems in place to ensure that, should members of our team be required to self-isolate, your matter will not be adversely affected but please be aware that timescales for completion of matters may be increased where government restrictions advance.

We are monitoring closely the developments relating to the spread of COVID19 and noting the updates and advice given by the UK Government, the World Health Organisation and other UK public bodies.

If you have any concerns please feel free to contact us via telephone at your local office or email enquiries@clarkwillis.co.uk.

 

Flexible Opening and 20% NHS Discount (Covid19 Support)

Suporting our NHS –  Flexible Appointments & 20% NHS Discount

As a firm we recognise that the current Covid-19 pandemic has made it more difficult for the NHS workers and other emergency service to access legal services during our normal service hours. For that reason, we have increased the number of evening and weekend appointments available to make it easier for those on the front line to access our legal services around their increasing shift patterns.

Appointments will still have to be pre booked and can be undertaken via telephone or video call. Will writing can also be undertaken via email or postal questionnaires for those who want to put provisions in place but with greater flexibility.

As an additional thank you, we are also including a 20% discount for all new matters we are instructed on after the 13th March 2020 to NHS staff (see terms & conditions below)

At a time when the NHS has become the front line against the pandemic, it is a little way to say thankyou.

*Terms and Conditions.
  1. Discount is on new instructions from the 13th March 2020 and cannot be applied to pre existing matters.
  2. Evidence may be required as to entitlement.
  3. Discount cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.
  4. Discount is not applicable to public funded matters.

No5 – Happiness

At Clark Willis Law Firm we take customer satisfaction extremely seriously and we are only happy lawyers when we have happy clients.

The marketplace for personal legal services is very competitive and a dissatisfied customer has a number of alternative providers to utilise the next time they require legal help. You can have the best technical knowledge but if that cannot be utilised to a client’s advantage and packaged in a service that delivers, then customers will not feel loyalty to that firm. When we engage with a new customer we have the ethos that that customer will enjoy the experience of using us compared to our competitors, coupled with our legal expertise,  that they will continue to return to us for any future legal issues.

been great and has sorted all our matters professionally and efficiently. We will be using Clark Willis for any future legal matters. Their service has always been exceptional.

Every client is sent a feedback questionnaire to complete with the opportunity to reflect on the service and a random selection are directly contacted by a member of the senior management team to gain further insights and ensure we are delivering the high service level we strive to achieve. Whilst most solicitors will seek feedback from customers, especially those that are Lexcel accredited (the Law Society’s Mark of Quality) it is the proportion of highly rated reviews, coupled with an unusually low number of complaints received from customers, that sets Clark Willis Law Firm apart from many of the competitors.

Excellent customer care, professional service and they kept me fully informed throughout the process of buying and selling my properties

Despite the rave reviews we are modest, we know we can do better occasionally and that no matter what we do, sometimes 3rd parties we work with mean that we can’t keep everyone happy, or we simply get it wrong. We are human. We would love a perfect 5* average rating across our review platforms but let’s be honest, that would be exceptionally rare and perhaps a little too good to be true. In the world of fake reviews 5* across the board would be miraculous so we will settle for a range of 4.6/5 to 5/5 averages across our review sites but we will always look for areas where we can improve.

Using a law firm, especially at a time of distress or crisis, such as divorce, personal injury or following a death, can be a daunting experience and sharing your experiences can help people make an informed choice.

other solicitors were not confident they could get the land registry to split our deeds. Excellent communication throughout. Will be using them again. A*

We are only happy lawyers when we have happy clients.

If you have a problem and no one else can help I know sounds like the A team right? Well your not wrong these people have helped me out before and helped me again so if you have a problem see these people. 5 Star

For those of our clients reading this who haven’t yet left us feedback, either positive or constructive, on Google Reviews then please do so as not only can we reflect, adapt and improve where necessary, you can also help other legal service users appreciate the service we provide to our customers.

Thank You

My Life as an Apprentice – National Apprenticeship Week

As a firm we actively support the Apprenticeship programme and currently have three apprentices with us under Business Administration. As it is National Apprenticeship Week, we thought we would ask one of our recent graduates from the apprenticeship programme, Jaspreet Gill, about her time as an apprentice and how she feels this route had benefited her.

Jaspreet successfully completed her Apprenticeship in Business Administration in January 2020 and works within the firms Residential Property team at our Darlington office.

Why did you choose to take the Apprentice route?

I chose to do an apprenticeship as I didn’t think that carrying on school life would be the best choice for my career development. I wanted to try something a bit more ‘hands on’ and gain real experience as to what working life would be like. I thought that an apprenticeship would enable me to gain more skills and knowledge than just going to college would as I would be working full time whilst also gaining a qualification.

How have you found your time as Apprentice?

I have found my time as an apprentice enjoyable as the working environment itself has been enjoyable to be in. I have never felt as if I have been treated differently for being an apprentice and from the day I first started I have felt welcome and a valuable member of the team. I was always given as much support as possible with regards to college work and the time I was taking out to attend college and i do not think this impacted on my role.

What sort of things have you been doing for the firm as an Apprentice?

Initially I carried out general administration duties, such as working on reception, post collection, scanning documents into the firm’s case management system and other basic functions required to keep a business functioning. As I progressed through my apprenticeship I moved into audio typing for two or three solicitors within the firm and ultimately moved towards becoming a Legal Secretary ending my apprenticeship  in the Conveyancing department which is what I am currently doing now.

Do you feel the Apprenticeship has developed you as a person?

I do feel like this apprenticeship has made me a lot more mature.I have continually gained experience throughout my apprenticeship as I have had exposure to different tasks and worked within different departments.  This has given me more confidence in being able to do my job unaided without fear of mistakes.

My communication skills have significantly developed as I have daily contact with clients, both on the telephone and via email or writing. This of course includes technology and working  with IT programmes and computer systems in an office environment has exposed me to more experience in the standard Microsoft office programmes and other 3rd party software applications used by a law firm.

By carrying out the administration duties at the start of my apprenticeship I have gained a valuable insight into the importance of these tasks and how they impact on the firm’s overall operation. There is a great team spirit in the firm and every member is valued as everyone understands that each persons work is vital to our continued success.

Due to working in a law firm I have also gained a greater understanding of legal processes and how the law impacts on everyday life. The legal process for dealing with property sale or purchase for example is more complex than some members of the public are aware of and the extend that solicitors go to safeguard clients in their biggest capital purchase is not always appreciated.

At the end of the Apprenticeship do you feel like an integral part of the team?

I absolutely feel like an integral part of my team and following my apprenticeship I was really happy to remain with the firm in Conveyancing Department.  The work itself is interesting, I am continuing to learn and work with a great bunch of people.

I have also recently been a made one of the First Aid members in the firm and have had the opportunity to attend courses to continue my development in this role.

Any other advice for people considering doing an Apprenticeship.

Make sure you choose an apprenticeship within a sector you would be happy working in and to stick at it no matter how hard it may seem or if you feel like you aren’t making a significant impact to your workplace. An apprenticeship is a great way of starting a career without going through higher education and sets you up for working life after school.

No4 – Clear Pricing

“No4 – We Don’t Mask Our Prices”

Those have been following our series of monochrome images will understand that our fundamental aim is Clarity. This flows through delivering our technical legal expertise with clear advice at clear pricing, meaning we are the clear choice for personal legal services.

‘Clear Pricing’ means just that – You know what you will pay and when.

Work we undertake on a fixed fee basis, such as Will writing or Residential Property Sales & Purchases, is as the name suggests fixed. You know exactly what you will pay at the outset and additional costs won’t come out of the woodwork after you have signed up to use us.

Those matters that we operate under an hourly rate charge, such as private Divorce or Dispute Resolution (Court Litigation)  incorporate an accurate estimate at the outset based upon your circumstances and those costs are then regularly reviewed to ensure we can advise you of any change in circumstances.

Our regulatory body, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, include certain legal services that law firms must display prices for on their website to assist client to make an informed choice over who to use. Think Go Compare for Lawyers.

Whilst fundamentally this is a good thing for people searching for a solicitor, it makes no allowance for value, which is wholly different from price, but also allows room to list a base price or exclude certain items that may make that quote seem more competitive but leads to all those dreaded extras in the small print once you have decided to go ahead.

Take Residential Property Sales or Purchases (Conveyancing)  for example. Some firms provide online quotes, 24/7, like we do. You can see a price after putting in you details and make the decision to instruct that firm only to find that additional fees are then suddenly added for bank transfer fees, identity checks, because you are buying a leasehold property etc etc – and the list goes on.

At Clark Willis we believe in clarity of fees, being upfront and honest, and our online conveyancing quote is clear. It is fully inclusive of everything that you have told us and is the price you will pay unless anything on the property changes. We believe that clarity of our prices is part of our value – alongside great service and legal expertise of course!

If you are reading this and you are in the market for buying a new home then do get a quote from us online to see how competitive we are, but do remember that you can always contact us directly to speak to one of our property team.

The same applies across our entire service range. We are happy to speak to people directly about our prices and a number of our matters include initial complimentary  appointments in order that we can fully understand your needs before advising you of your options, with clear costs.

So whether you are moving home, wanting a new Will, thinking of Divorce or have any other legal need, get in touch with us to find out what the cost may be, but more importantly – what the value is.

Expert solicitors

No2 “No Magic”

The second of our black and white monthly images, entitled ‘No Magic’, represents the training and development of our legal team behind the scenes, as well as solicitors in general, to reflect why choosing the right law firm for your legal matters needs more thought than just plumping for a name.  Not all legal providers are made equally (some are not even solicitors) and your choice can have a direct impact on your matter.

It is not down to magic that our solicitors are experts in their own field and the right choice for your legal need but rather a dedication to learning, training and developing to make them not only competent lawyers but specialists in their respective fields.

Experts in their Fields

In addition to the training requirements to become a solicitor, 4 years of higher education and 2 years in practice, we encourage our solicitors to undertake additional training and qualifications to make them specialists in their respective areas of practice and respected amongst their peers.

Our Wills, Probate, Tax & Trusts team include members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and Solicitors for the Elderly so they have vast experience and knowledge in Wills, tax planning matters and later life planning.

Our Family & Divorce team include members of Resolution Specialists, Collaborative Family Lawyers and trained mediators so they can take a holistic approach to separation and childcare issues.

Our residential property team have been awarded the Conveyancing Quality Scheme to reflect the quality of their work on property sales, purchases and mortgaging whilst our Dispute Resolution team includes mental health accredited panel members.

The firm as a whole has also been awarded the Lexcel award by the Law Society as a quality mark for practice management and client care.

As the law itself constantly evolves all of our legal team go through  annual training to remain at the forefront of their specialist legal areas.

A full list of our firm and individual accreditation’s can be found on our website.

Experience when it Counts

As a firm we have been assisting the people of County Durham, the Tees Valley and North Yorkshire with their legal matters for nearly 50 years.

Individual Solicitor’s experience is often referred to as post qualification experience (PQE,) in other words the number of years undertaking the job following the completion of the 6 years education and training set out above.

At Clark Willis, our longest serving solicitor and Partner, Peter Furness, specialising in Dispute resolution and Courts Martial work, has over 30 years PQE and our four Partners average 18 years PQE to lead our 28 strong team.

Whilst qualifications grant exposure to the relevant legislation and practice, it is experience that is the practical application of the law to assist individuals. The greater the number of years of practice, the more varied exposure to the real world application of the law and the greater ability to apply it to your matter, meaning increased knowledge and often swifter results.

Alternative Legal Providers

The is perhaps a little confusion by members of the public over solicitors, consultants, executives, Will writers, estate planners  and even the words lawyer and solicitor. Unless you a dealing with a law firm or solicitor regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority then you are not dealing with a solicitor with known training levels, experience and fully backed by insurance.

If you approach someone to write you a Will for example you would assume that there is a minimum training requirement for any person in England writing a Will, after all it is a document of significant magnitude. Many people are shocked that they could become a Will writer themselves within the same day with very little or no qualification behind them let alone any experience.

Whilst for simple affairs they may well be capable of writing a Will, just as a person can write their own Will without any help, it is perhaps best described in comparison to your doctor versus attending an alternative medicine provider. Your local GP has minimum training levels, can look at your entire circumstances instead of an issue in isolation and has access to the NHS behind them, to provide peace of mind and appropriate treatment. With alternative legal providers, especially Will writing, errors only become apparent after a death when they can’t be easily rectified, if they can be rectified at all.

Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert includes in his Will writing advice:

Here we want to start with a WARNING – unlike many areas of financial services, will-writing is NOT a regulated market.

This means there are a number of different ways to get a will, but the protections you have if something goes wrong can vary hugely, depending on who writes it.

Confusingly, while will-writing itself is unregulated, because solicitors ARE regulated professionals, if you use them you ARE covered by a range of potentially valuable protections.

With other (non-lawyer) will-writing services, you do NOT have the same safeguards, and with a DIY will essentially you are on your own.

 

No Magic

There really therefore isn’t any magic involved in dealing with our clients legal matters and our advice is purely based on training, experience and the knowledge and application of the law in a straight forward, clear way. So if you are in need of legal services in County Durham, the Tees Valley and North Yorkshire, then contact our trusted solicitors for peace of mind that what you are being advised is not hocus pocus.

‘No Magic’ is the series of a serious of monthly monochrome images to be featured over the next 12 months across our social media channels to highlight some of the key elements of our service so be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to see the series as they are released.

For more information on our firm please see www.clarkwillis.com

Divorce law Darlington

Pensions and Divorce by Tanya Bloomfield, Family Solicitor and Mediator

Getting divorced can be an emotional, worrying and difficult time, however, for most couples sorting out the finances can be the most daunting part. In particular, pensions are not always straightforward and the options for dealing with them can be tricky depending on the circumstances of you and your family.

Do you need to consider pensions as part of a divorce?

The short answer is generally yes. When considering the resolution of finances on divorce the assets of the marriage are all considered. The starting point is to ask both parties to provide voluntary disclosure. This really means obtaining evidence to show how much all the assets are worth. Pensions form part of this process and we will generally request that you try and obtain a ‘transfer value’.

What is a transfer value and how is it used?

A transfer value is a calculation of how much the pension pot is worth on the date it is valued. You might get an annual statement every year which will give you an indication of how much the pension will pay out when you start drawing on it, but for divorce purposes we need to know how much the pension is worth as a whole. Most people will now have a pension in light of the auto-enrolment provisions, even though these new pensions tend to have quite a low value at the moment.

Will I lose my pension as part of a divorce?

Not always, but it will depend on a number of different factors. We will look at pensions with you as part of the divorce process and discuss all the different options available when looking at all the assets involved in your case.

We offer specialist legal advice on pensions and all of your other assets on separation and divorce. If you would like to discuss your case with us, please contact a member of our family team on 01325 281111.

Cash Is King – Debt Recovery for Business following Bathstore Going Down The Drain by Karl Medd

Why Keeping Your Debtors in Check is Vital for Your Business

 

When the specialist retailer Bathstore collapsed last month, 500 shopfloor and head office jobs were put at risk together with up to 300 bathroom fitters, suppliers and small businesses  paying a price. An article in the Guardian on The collapse of Bathstore makes a clear point, as do the case studies set out within it, that these are challenging times for businesses in all sectors. It does feel like there have been so many stories within the media regarding the precarious finances of some of the UK’s biggest businesses including Debenhams and Arcadia Group to name but two.

The difficulties of big business and the wider economy can also have a significant trickle down effect upon small and medium sized businesses, which are referred to in business jargon as “SMEs”. The article lays bare the effect that the failure of large business can have upon SMEs. One large contract or transaction can make, or break, an SME.

For the sake of impartiality, we have so far not mentioned Brexit, but this is clearly a matter of ongoing financial concern for business.

It is not just the financial fortunes of Big Business which can impact upon SMEs, as small and medium sized businesses very often work and trade with each other and therefore the livelihoods of all of employees are likely dependent upon receipt of payment, or contractual provision of goods and services, promptly.

Cash flow is extremely important for SMEs. In fact even law firms are not immune to the financial pressures of cash flow and bad debt. There is a well rehearsed adage in business and accounting circles which sums up the position neatly: “Turnover is vanity, Profit is sanity, but Cash is king.”

Reality can be extremely harsh if your business is struggling to recover bad debts which are impacting upon the financial health of your business.

At Clark Willis Law Firm, our Civil Litigation team are experienced in pursuing recovery of trade or commercial debts on behalf of individuals and SMEs and we act for some well-known business in the town to assist with their debt recovery. We can also provide practical advice and information as to your legal position should your debtor become insolvent, be it liquidation, Administration or a Voluntary Arrangement. So before outstanding invoices start having a detrimental impact on your business call our team on 01325 281111 to discuss ways we can help you.

First Time Buyer’s Guide to the Conveyancing Process by Jane Mafham-Jackson, Solicitor

We know how daunting it can be to buy your first home, but it is important that you understand the process involved so you can stay in control.

Step 1 – Offer Accepted

Once you have had your offer on a property accepted, you will be required to provide your solicitor’s details to the selling agents. For a no obligation quotation, please contact the Darlington office on 01325 281111 or the Catterick office on 01748 830000 or use our online quotation tool at www.clarkwillis.co.uk.

Step 2 – Instruct Your Solicitor

Once you have decided on your chosen firm of solicitors, they will send you some initial client care paperwork for you to complete and return. This will normally include a questionnaire, firm’s terms, information in respect of stamp duty, proof of funds and ID. You will need to complete and return all documents in order to instruct the firm. An upfront payment will also be required which will be around £250.00 for disbursements such as your searches and ID checks.

Step 3 – Contracts Received

Once the contracts and protocol documents are received from the seller’s solicitors, your searches can be requested. It will be a condition of your mortgage offer that searches are carried out on the property before funds can be requested. The searches include a local authority search (which we request direct from the relevant local authority) a water and drainage search, an environmental search and, in some circumstances, a coal search. At this stage the contract documents will be checked and any enquires will be raised with the seller’s solicitors. You will receive a report on title of the property which you are purchasing.

Step 4 – Mortgage & Survey

Once the solicitor’s offer of mortgage arrives, this will need to be checked to ensure the same is in line with the contract, we will also need to check whether there are any specific mortgage conditions within the offer. A mortgage report will be provided. The mortgage valuation is not a survey and can only be relied upon by your lender. You may wish to instruct an independent surveyor who will advise you on the different types of reports available.

Step 5 – Providing the Information

Once we have replies to the enquires raised at Step 3 and your search results, we will be in a position to provide you with all the necessary information about the property.

Step 6 – Signing Documents & Deposit

Once all enquires are satisfactorily responded to and search results are clear, the contracts will be issued to you for signature. You may attend the office or the documents can be posted or collected by you. You will be asked to sign a contract, transfer, mortgage deed, confirmation form, file plan and stamp duty form. You will also be provided with a completion statement which details all receipts and payments that need to be made on your transaction. We would require the deposit/balance funds from you in a cleared format together with confirmation of the source of the funds and up to date bank statements.

Step 7 – Exchange of Contracts

At this point you must be sure that you are happy to purchase the property. Once contracts are exchanged the completion date will become legally binding. There are penalties if you change your mind and wish to withdraw. Upon exchange of contracts a fixed date is inserted into the contract. There is no set time frame between exchange and completion. Some people wish to book removals or hand in a notice on a rental property so will require a period of time between exchange and completion.

Step 8 – Completion Day

This is the day in which the funds are sent to the seller’s solicitor and upon receipt, subject to the agreement of time, keys will be released to you. These are normally collected from the selling agents.

 

If you are ready to take the first step, contact us for a no obligation quotation on 01325 281111 (Darlington office) or 01748 830000 (Catterick office) or use our online quotation tool at www.clarkwillis.co.uk.

 

 

 

 

 

Enforcement of a Judgment by Beth Grimwood, Paralegal

If you are owed money by an individual, the law provides that you can take action in trying to recover that debt by firstly issuing a claim and thereafter obtaining Judgment. The Judgment allows the Court to order that the debtor must repay all monies owed and if no response is received from the debtor, the Judgment can then be ‘enforced’ by a number of enforcement procedures that are available. These include:

Order for Debtor to Attend Court for Questioning

Whilst this enforcement method does not require the debtor to make a payment, an order is given that the debtor must attend court to answer formal questions focusing on their current income and expenditure and also whether a repayment plan can be proposed.

If a payment plan is proposed and accepted, the court can create a variation order detailing the agreement. If a plan is not put forth then the information obtained may allow you to enforce the debt through a different method.

Attachment of Earnings

If you have knowledge of the debtor’s employer then it is possible to do an application for an attachment of earnings. Here, a proportion of the debtor’s salary will be deducted by their employer each month until the Judgment debt is repaid. However, it must be noted that an Attachment of Earnings Order cannot be made against a debtor who is self-employed.

Charging Order

When enforcing a Judgment, a Charging Order can be secured against any property a debtor owns. If a property is jointly owned by the debtor, then a charge will be made on their share of the property, rather than the property as a whole. Unfortunately, however, a Charging Order does not guarantee immediate payment of the debt as payment is usually only received if the debtor re-mortgages or the property is sold.

If you are uncertain whether a debtor owns their property then it is possible to run a search of the land registry documents to see who the legal owner is.

High Court Enforcement

Here, an application is made for a High Court Writ which allows an enforcement officer to seize goods belonging to the debtor to the monetary value of the Judgment. Once goods have been seized, they can then be sold so that the debt is repaid. The High Court enforcement officers will also recover their fees from the debtor and so have the incentive to make sure their attendance at the debtor’s residence is successful. This method of enforcement is for debts of a higher monetary value.

County Court Bailiff

Much like the High Court Writ, an application can be made to the County Court to request that a bailiff attend a debtor’s property. Here a bailiff will also recover items to the value of the Judgment obtained. This service is for debts of a lower monetary value.

 

At Clark Willis we recognise that the prospect of any civil enforcement action may be daunting. We are here to support and represent you in your journey to recover what is rightfully yours. If you require advice or assistance in relation to a bad debt or enforcement matter then please contact our dedicated civil team to discuss your options on 01325 281111.