As one of only a handful of specialist franchise law firms, Solicitors Title were delighted to have been approached by Claire Robinson and the Approved Franchise Association to support their merger with the British Franchise Association, which was announced today.
It is acknowledged that the bfa and AFA coming together will only serve to strengthen the UK franchise sector, in what is a c.£15bn industry.
With almost 20 years’ experience in franchising, partner, Richard James, led this transaction for the AFA, to ensure that the merger achieved all that was intended, working closely with CEO of the bfa, Pip Wilkins and Roz Goldstein, of Goldstein Legal (now part of nexa law), which acted on behalf of the bfa.
Commenting on the merger, Claire Robinson, CEO of the AFA, explained: “I have witnessed the transition of the bfa to become a much more inclusive association, with a desire to support every type of franchise business. I am excited about the future and how Pip and I can work together over the next 12 months to support the AFA Members with a transition to bfa Membership. I really feel that I have made the best decision for the industry in choosing the bfa to become my trusted partner too.” Claire Robinson will take on a new role as ‘Lifestyle Ambassador’ within the bfa.
After Executing the first remote will in the UK, The Times’ law diary considers Solicitors Title’s landmark step and what possibilities the new law might bring, in Debate of the Week: Have Lawyer< Will Zoom, by Edward Fennell in The Times
Since the start of lockdown, necessitating a change in approach brought about by the pandemic, Solicitors Title and Dr Nicholas Bevan, have led a successful lone campaign to persuade the Government to sanction the most radical innovation in procedure for executing wills, in 343 years. The announcement legalising video wills being the first real change since King Charles II’s reign, under the Statute of Frauds 1677!
Such approval of Solicitors Title’s novel approach, utilising audio visual technology, enables private citizens to complete their will from the privacy and safety of their own homes, without having to travel into the office to sign their will in the presence of two witnesses. Alongside the obvious health benefit for anyone particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, such adoption of what is now common-place technology also aids convenience and discretion.
Our innovation has been made in the face of almost universal opposition from within the profession who believed, mistakenly, that section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 requires the testamentary witnesses to be physically present at the signing. The Government clearly shares our view that this is misconceived and this is why its guidance expressly states that it is not, in fact, changing the law; but merely clarifying it.
In light of such positive endorsement, yesterday we completed the world’s first completely remote cross-border will for a client in Crete.
On 29 July 2020 Solicitors Title LLP executed a will for an elderly client who had retired to live in Crete. The entire process of executing the will (signing, acknowledging and witnessing ) was undertaken remotely, using online live-streaming technology, from Solicitors Title LLP’s offices in the West Country. This is believed to be a world-wide precedent; unparalleled in any other jurisdiction.
On 1st May Solicitors Title set a new and important legal precedent. We believe that we have become the first law firm in the United Kingdom to prepare and execute a will electronically, in full conformity with section 9 of the Wills Act 1837. Our newly devised protocols protect our clients against any risk of exposure to Corvid 19 during the entire process: whether directly from the physical proximity of witnesses or indirectly from contact with contaminated surfaces.
On Monday 27 April, Solicitors Title was consulted by a self-isolating client who wanted to know whether it would be possible to sign and witness his will in complete safety and, at the same time, to avoid the indiscrete rigmarole and inconvenience of ‘drive-by’ and ‘through-window’ witnessing practiced by some enterprising law firms.
On 30th March the popular Italian restaurant chain Carluccio’s (founded by “the godfather of Italian gastronomy” Antonio Carluccio, 21 years ago) entered administration, putting at risk its 71 UK restaurants.
The administrators had until yesterday (Bank Holiday Monday) to decide whether to make staff redundant (being the expiry of the 14 day period, after which the administration would have been liable for their employment costs); leading to a rapid hearing to allow for a determination by the court.
Mr Justice Snowden’s High Court judgement, handed down yesterday, confirmed
We had recently been exploring start-up success and what makes the difference between those that are and those that are not; the Covid-19 pandemic and, particularly, the impact this is having on SME businesses has brought this question into even sharper focus, as business owners are faced with having to make very rapid decisions about the future.
So what issues and challenges are businesses facing?
Although the Government has now introduced a temporary relaxation of the wrongful trading rules, under s.214 of the Insolvency Act 1986 – where a director could be held personally liable and have to contribute towards a deficit if he or she continued to trade a company past a point where they “knew or ought to have concluded that there was no reasonable prospect of avoiding insolvent liquidation” and did not take “every step with a view to minimising the potential loss to the company’s creditors” – a company’s general financial health and future prospects should feature highly on every board of directors’ agenda.
This temporary suspension of the wrongful trading rules will allow directors to continue to pay staff and suppliers, in preference to others, despite liabilities that might be overdue (potentially rendering the company insolvent), without the risks to them personally, that would normally be associated with continuing in these circumstances.
The purpose of the wrongful trading sanction being relaxed is to encourage directors to continue their businesses, in these unprecedented times, in the hope that instead of suffering a collapse, they instead emerge intact and able to rebuild once the Covid-19 pandemic is finally over.
If you would like further advice on your obligations and what you can and cannot do, as a director, to include if you decide to furlough yourself, please contact a member of our corporate team. For further guidance on a director’s obligations by trading through these difficult times: https://solicitorstitle.co.uk/covid-19-directors-and-insolvent-trading
In response to the current difficult times, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, award-winning South West law firm, Solicitors Title, will be launching a Business Support Hub, to provide comprehensive information for businesses during and beyond the current crisis.
Head of our corporate practice Richard James explained the initiative: “Having had many conversations over the last few days and with the rapidly changing situation for businesses, we recognised the need for the Business Support Hub, to help business owners navigate the risks, understand latest developments and to identify opportunities; for example, we have been impressed as we have watched the many businesses up and down the UK rapidly deploy an online offering, as a result of their traditional business model being impacted.”
Some will know that we had a bigger project in the making, along similar lines before the Covid-19 outbreak, as announced at our Solicitors Title’s 21st birthday celebration last year and therefore the Business Support Hub will act as a trial for the much bigger business support package that we have in preparation.
We will announce when the Business Support Hub is available and, of course, the resources and information will be entirely free. In the meantime, please see our guidance to businesses, via our Business Perspective in light of Covid-19 article.
As the Prime Minister has said, we have not known a situation like this in peacetime. Our objectives, like with many other businesses, are to ensure the safely and wellbeing of our staff, to support our clients and to ensure, as much as we can, that any disruption to the availability of our services is minimised. We have therefore considered whether we can deliver services in a more novel way, if the need arises or in particular cases and we are keeping this under review.
Our offices are open and we will aim to ensure minimal disruption to our service levels, but please bear in mind that all businesses are having to manage this fast-moving situation, keeping developments and how they respond to those developments under constant review. However, for our clients, referrers and contacts, we can confirm the following:
- We have full remote working capability and a secure IT infrastructure, meaning that we can continue to operate even if our offices needed to close (at present, all of our offices are open as usual)
- Our compliance team have reviewed critical deadlines and areas of work that cannot be disrupted, if at all possible, to ensure continuity in these respects
- We have considered any risks to our business and are taking steps to mitigate these
- We have deployed updated guidance on hand washing and good hygiene and are taking practical steps to avoid unnecessary contact (for example shaking hands) and this is ongoing
- We have already moved some meetings to alternative methods of communication; for example, phone, video conferencing/Zoom/Skype
This situation may inevitably lead to consideration of advice that businesses and others need or to look at putting various things in place -we will be publishing some outline thought of things to consider, from a business perspective, later on today. For the moment, and as always, please do get in touch with your usual contact at Solicitors Title, to see what we can do to help.
The Partners and staff at Solicitors Title
It is recognised that celebrity endorsement of a product can add real weight to how it’s received by the public, particularly where the product is in a competitive or crowded marketplace. Such was the case last week when, in California, a brewer chose to associate a new beer, called a pastry stout (owing to it being made with the kinds of ingredients you might usually associate with the familiar baked item), with a celebrity baker, without their endorsement!