Breeze & Wyles: Finalist in the Lawnet Award for Innovation 2014

Breeze & Wyles has the pleasure to announce that it has been selected as a finalist in the LawNet 2014 category for Best Innovation in legal services for its shortfall collection tool. The product enhances the process whereby customers can make shortfall payments in remortgage and conveyancing transactions.
Murray Fraser, Operations Director at Breeze & Wyles said: "The main outcome is that we have found there are less delays in collecting fees or shortfalls and that customers are coming away happier about the speed of a transaction.
It has helped our own internal staff, as we have found that we need to remind clients less to pay outstanding bills, which is reducing the transaction times. Due to the ease of use, our customer satisfaction reviews are indicating much positivity about the service and the technology in use.
The unique aspect of the innovation is that we are currently the only firm to be offering this service. We are working with our lenders to ensure that we are an extension of them and not just a legal machine. This has huge benefits not only with our market standing as a leading property firm but also as continued preferred partner of one of the largest lenders in the sector.
The success is measured in being the first legal provider to receive the ‘Global Supplier of the Month Award’ from Barclays.”

Tribunal decision shakes up personal use of office email

Employees who use their company account for personal email exchanges get a wake-up call after an employment tribunal ruling that the privacy of such messages is not protected  
An employee has failed in an attempt to have the content of personal messages he sent from his work email account excluded from a disciplinary investigation.

The messages were discovered during an investigation into Mr Atkinson, the former director of resources with Community Gateway Association, after disciplinary proceedings were launched in late 2010 following the discovery of a significant overspend by the association.  
Mr Atkinson had been emailing an employee at another housing association with whom he was having a relationship.  As well as overtly sexual content, the email exchanges also included a suggestion that the woman concerned should apply for a job with Gateway, and provided her with detailed advice on the selection process.   
When the emails were used as part of a case against him, Mr Atkinson tried to claim a right to privacy as set out in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which provides that, ‘everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence’.
But both the first Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal, did not agree.  The tribunal said: “What is ‘private life’ depends on all the circumstances of the particular case, such as whether the conduct is in private premises and, if not, whether it happens in circumstances in which there is a reasonable expectation of privacy for conduct of that kind” and concluded that in the circumstances, MrAtkinson had no reasonable expectation of privacy, despite his Article 8 ECHR rights.
The emails violated the association’s email policy, which had been drafted by Mr Atkinson himself, and the Tribunal pointed to the fact that the messages were not labelled “private and personal” - as recommended in the policy that he had drawn up. 
“It’s an important ruling, but it isn’t a green light for employers to go through individual emails without good reason,” said Maria Koureas-Jones Head of Business Services of Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Limited
“The biggest lesson is that companies should make sure they’ve got a clear policy on private use of company email accounts.  If they don’t want staff to use accounts for personal messages, then the policy needs to set out how accounts will be monitored.  In this instance, it was the ex-employee who had drawn up the guidelines, so there was no question that he was not aware of company policy, but it’s probably worth considering incorporating some sort of regular reminder to staff about what’s acceptable.” 
Although Mr Atkinson’s has lost out on his right to privacy claim, it is not the end of his unfair dismissal claim, as other aspects of the case have been referred back to the employment tribunal by the appeal hearing.
 Atkinson v Community Gateway Association (Unfair Dismissal : Constructive dismissal) [2014] UKEAT 0457_12_2108

Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Limited celebrates its Centenary

Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Limited have been at the centre of innovation in the legal profession for a century.   At the very beginning, in 1914 the firm was made up of just a few people; the company now boasts 11 directors and employs over 180 permanent or temporary staff.   From humble beginnings of only one office in Bow, East London the firm now has three offices along the A10 corridor and a further office in Bishops Stortford near Stansted Airport.  
Breeze & Wyles Limited has gone from strength to strength, riding out several recessions over the 100 year period.   The name may have changed from Breeze & Wyles, to Breeze & Wyles Solicitors LLP and now Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Limited but one thing that has remained however, is our aim to provide the very best in legal advice and customer service.  The excellence of advice and provision of an efficient legal service means that we are the firm of choice for both the private individual and the corporate client. 
There have been many changes in the legal profession in the last century but Breeze & Wyles have used this as a tool to create new processes and procedures, such as innovative IT, enabling them to meet the challenge of the ever changing legal field. 
Brendan O'Brien, Chief Executive of Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Limited, on the firm reaching its centenary said: “The fact that Breeze & Wyles is 100 years old is based on three features; management embracing changes in the legal profession including technological developments in the delivery of client service, the combination of quality, dedication and accuracy of staff and the loyalty of the business’ clients and customers.. I would like to thank the staff of Breeze & Wyles both past and current for the efforts that they have made to the success of the business. I also take this opportunity to thank existing and past customers of the business for their loyalty and custom.”

Straight talking protects family business

Carving up a family business for a divorce settlement can spell disaster for the company, and the best option is to plan ahead rather than resort to crisis management
 A businessman is facing a hearing in the Supreme Court to answer claims that he misrepresented the value of his company to cheat his ex-wife out of millions in their divorce settlement.
When the Sharlands divorced after 17 years of marriage, Alison Sharland, 46, was awarded a settlement of over £10 million in cash and properties.  This left her ex-husband, AppSense chairman Charles Sharland, with assets worth just £5.64 million, but a bigger share of the profits on any future sale of shares in his company.  The company was presented as having a value of between £30 million and £50 million, but subsequently it turned out to be worth up to £600m and was being prepared for an initial public offering, contrary to the evidence given by Mr Sharland in court.  
The couple have been fighting and appealing through the courts, but now the case is going to the Supreme Court, where they will consider whether the original settlement was unjust due to information being concealed by Mr Sharland. 
Until recently, couples rarely considered the legal and financial issues that could arise out of dividing up family-owned businesses when divorce happened.  But the family court has wide ranging powers to redistribute assets and although the aim will be to avoid any detrimental effect on the profitability of the business, the court can make decisions on what happens to the ownership of a company or demand a distribution of funds, all of which can have a significant impact.  
Explained family law expert Olive McCarthy:  ““It’s often very difficult to value non quoted companies, and the easier option is to protect a family business before problems arise.
“Firstly, you can take steps to protect the company itself, for example, by having the articles of association spell out a policy on shareholding.  This could be that only certain members of the family can hold shares, or that they must be handed back on divorce.  It won’t stop the value of the business being taken into account by the court when deciding the financial settlement, but it can help guard against any negative impact on the running of the business during any divorce.
“The other thing to consider is how to protect your assets through a pre or post nuptial agreement.  In a marriage or civil partnership this sort of agreement can be used to ringfence interests, including in any family-owned business, to help guard against any financial settlement if things go wrong.  These pre/post nups are still not binding, but they are being given increasing weight and it’s certainly a useful part of the mix.”
She added:  “We all know how tough it can be sitting down to talk about what would happen if things went wrong, but being able to discuss things openly is a good test of a relationship as well as helping to safeguard the future.”
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This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.