Last year, just ahead of our rebrand to 2020 Business Law, we shared our Christmas Advent of Legal Top Tips. Each day we shared a piece of advice in the run up to Christmas. We received lots of great feedback about how the tips had prompted you to take action or remind you of things to take a closer look at.
With a growing audience, a growing team and quite a peculiar year shall we say, we’ve refreshed our legal top tips to make sure you’re still getting the right advice.
Don’t forget, you can always get a free legal health check of your own business which provides you with a personalised report – find out more here.
Advent of Legal Top Tips – the 2020 edition!…
1 – Get it in writing: although oral contracts are binding, it is very difficult to prove what has been agreed if there is a dispute.
2 – Put a date in the diary: if you enter into a lease or contract with key dates for giving notice make a note of the date to avoid missing deadlines.
3 – Spread the word: make sure your business T&Cs are available before orders are placed by customers or clients. Simply putting them on your invoices is too late as the contract has already been formed. Have you had your free legal health check yet?
4 – Listen up: when dealing with disputes in your business make sure you listen to the other side’s concerns. It is easier to resolve a dispute early on if you know what the issue is. Communication has been so important this year.
5 – Sorry to let you down!: Covid-19 has changed a lot of things in the business world this year. If a consumer has paid in advance for goods or services that can’t be provided due to Covid-19, they should be offered a full refund
6 – Good grief!: by law if you are an employer you must set out a grievance procedure and share it in writing with all employees. It doesn’t have to be in your contracts of employment but make sure you have one. If this is something you need help with, we highly recommend speaking with the team at VivoHR.
7 – Sharing is caring: if your business is a limited company with 2+ shareholders you should consider a shareholders agreement to avoid disputes between the shareholders and set out procedures for resolving disputes that do arise.
8 – That’s my name!: Consider protecting your business name by applying for a trade mark. A trade mark is a valuable business asset and will ensure nobody else uses your name. We successfully helped our client Premier Touch Cleaning to trade mark their company name – find out about it here
9 – Already protected?: Or so you think! If you have already registered your business’s intellectual property, in light of the UK leaving the EU you will need to apply for separate UK and EU trademarks/designs/patents etc. Confused or unsure – give our team a call.
10 – Prevention is better than cure: if you are going to start working with a new customer/client or supplier make sure you do your homework to find out the exact business entity you are dealing with and consider their financial position. 2020 has increased the importance of this so consider things like taking deposits or having shorter payment terms in place until a payment history is established.
11 – It’s not my fault: when entering into a contract make sure there are provisions to avoid liability for matters outside your control and reasonably limiting liability for those you can control. Understandably, Covid-19 has had a massive impact on everyone’s business not least when it comes to actually delivering services, so make sure you check your force majeure clause to refer to pandemics, lockdowns and shortages in supplies or workforce.
12 – For sale: if you are considering selling your business, start pulling together key information early. Due diligence (where the seller delves into the business to understand what it is buying) is a lengthy process which can be shortened if you have key documents and information to hand.
13 – Can I have your autograph?: contracts can be validly signed electronically provided that there is an intention by the person signing to authenticate the document. This year has advanced the use of technology and many more businesses are considering how electronic signatures could be used to speed up transactions.
14 – Health & Safety: although businesses with fewer than five people are not required to have a written statement, all businesses need to assess potential risks in the workplace. Consider having a written statement in any event to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your team. This is an area which Field Training Services can support with you – find out about Debbie and her team here.
15 – Cash is king: unpaid invoices can cripple a business. It’s important to review your T&Cs to check you have sufficient protection against non-payment e.g. retention of title, interest on late payment or suspending services. This year we did see some temporary legislation come into place to protect tenants who were unable to pay their rent because of the impact of coronavirus. This meant that landlords could not evict them due to non payment of rent.
16 – Happy anniversary: make it a habit to review your business contracts and T&Cs regularly (e.g. perhaps when you renew your insurance) to make sure they are still working for your business.
17 – Dealing with consumers: if you sell goods or services to consumers (people that are not buying from you in the course of their business) they have extra protection you may not expect – make sure you understand your obligations under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.
18 – Copycat: if an employee creates work for his employer the employer will generally be the owner of copyright in the work. However, if the work is created by a freelancer/independent contractor you will need to specifically make provision to deal with copyright as it is otherwise retained by the freelancer/independent contractor. Don’t get caught out!
19 – Top Secret: when sharing confidential or commercially sensitive information with others consider using a non-disclosure agreement to protect the information being disclosed from being misused or shared.
20 – London, New York, Paris: if you enter into contracts with parties in other countries take extra care in ensuring your legal interests are protected and in particular don’t assume that our law will automatically apply to your contract (or that any disputes will be dealt with by courts in England and Wales). Seek advice at an early stage before the contract is signed.
21 – Insure it: as your business grows make sure you have adequate insurance that grows with you. If you have employees then Employer Liability Insurance is obligatory.
22 – Virtual meetings: Covid-19 has vastly increased the use of remote meetings using appropriate online software applications. Company law in England and Wales does permit directors to hold board meetings remotely. However, it will depend on your company’s articles of association as to whether this is allowed by your company or not.
23 – Brexit: 1 January 2021 is not just New Years Day, it is also the end of the Brexit transition period. Understand how the changes brought by leaving the EU will affect your business.
24 – Sorry!: Not a business law tip but it is Christmas Eve – Why did Santa have to fit booster seats and seat belts on his sleigh? Because of Elf and Safety! Happy Christmas from the team at 2020 Business Law.