Workplace Policies

When Do I Need to Draft New Workplace Policies?

If you’re an employer or manager of a large business, you need to ensure that the relevant workplace policies are in place. These are basically legal documents that outline the appropriate response or actions in specified situations. Many businesses use workplace lawyers to help them draft new policies.

However, it can be difficult to know when you need new workplace policies, and exactly what these should cover. To help you make these initial decisions, we’ve created a short guide outlining when you should consider drafting new workplace policies:

When Current Policies Are Out of Date

If your current workplace policies are old and potentially outdated, you should definitely think about reviewing and potentially updating them. Old policies could contain misleading or incorrect information with the potential to lead to serious workplace incidents.

If the People Using the Policy Have Changed

It often happens that when a business grows, the people working under a specific policy will change. When this happens, you need to conduct a careful review to ensure everyone is covered.

In many cases, you will only need to update small parts of the existing policy. At times, though, you may even need to draft entire new documents that complement the existing ones. If this is the case, think seriously about getting help from a workplace lawyer or other industry expert.

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AdWords vs SEO

AdWords vs SEO For Law Firm Marketing

People throughout the world need lawyers on a daily basis. As a law firm, you want them to employ you, right? However, people can’t employ you and make use of your services if they don’t know that you exist, which means that it’s absolutely essential to build a strong online presence. A strong online presence will help more people find you, and can put you at the head of the pack as one of the leading law firms in your area.

Making sure that you appear in the search engine results when people search for lawyers and lawyer related keywords is a major part of building a strong online presence. You can do this in two ways – through Google AdWords, or through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). In this article we will compare the pros and cons of both.

SEO

SEO, or search engine optimisation, is the act of making your website appear highly in the search engine results pages for certain keywords or subjects. It is relatively cheap, it is effective, and it brings results. However, it also takes time to get yourself to the top of the search engine rankings pages.

Pros:

  • SEO is relatively cheap compared to AdWords, especially for law firm marketing.
  • It isn’t all that hard to get yourself to the top of the search engine results pages, especially if you focus on location based keywords.
  • SEO brings results. The majority of people click on one of the first couple of results on a search engine page, which will send them to your website if you rank highly.

Cons:

  • SEO takes time.
  • SEO takes a fair bit of work, especially creating content and building backlinks.
  • Competitive keywords like ‘lawyer’ or ‘law firm’ can be quite difficult to rank for.

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Settlement Agreements

Settlement Agreements

All good lawyers, specifically good commercial lawyers will tell you it’s a fact most cases settle before they ever come to court. This is both a necessity and the logical outcome of the judicial process.  It is a necessity because if every case were to continue through trial and a decision by a jury or judge, the judicial system would quickly be overwhelmed.  It’s a logical outcome because the very nature of the legal process is designed to illuminate strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case and give them incentives to settle.

Furthermore, settlement allows parties to exercise more control over the terms of the settlement and have access to remedies that might not be available from a trial court.

But what kind of settlement ought to be achieve?  And what type of process should govern settlement negotiations.  Here are some tips:

(These 6 tips are based on the Ethical Guidelines for Settlement Negotiations produced by the American Bar Association)

Purpose:  The purpose of settlement agreements is to satisfactorily resolve any disputes the client may face.  The attorney represents the client both legally and financially and must always be acting in the client’s best interest.

Honesty:  A lawyer’s conduct in negotiating a settlement should be characterized by honor and fair dealing.

Communication: Good lawyers must consider and discuss with the client promptly any and all alternatives to resolving the dispute outside of litigation.  Without assistance from lawyers, clients often are not aware of potential alternative methods for dispute resolution.  A lawyers desire to convince the client of the lawyer’s support for the client’s position ordinarily will not justify delaying efforts to discuss early settlement.  As negotiations progress the attorney owes an obligation to constantly communicate the status of the discussions as well as the subject matter of the negotiations to the client.

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Commercial Lawyer

Why Your Business Needs a Commercial Lawyer

Many Australian business entrepreneurs hire lawyers only when a problem crops up. It’s much wiser to seek the services of commercial lawyers as they can identify potential problems before they occur. It’s natural to be extremely busy with financing, loans, hiring staff, marketing etc as you launch your new business. In our minds, these issues often take precedence over legal problems which don’t seem to be of immediate concern. However, the truth of the matter is that smart business planning involves preventing problems before they occur and this includes working with a business lawyer right from the start.

Even if your business is a small one, many legal problems could crop up in the early years and interfere with successful operation. In general, commercial law is complex and so is the language that is used with it.

A reliable business lawyer can help you understand your options and select the ones that correspond to your business requirement. Dealing with legal issues can be frustrating, exhausting and demoralising. Your lawyer will be on your side from the time of inception of the business and will help you create partnership agreements in case of multiple owners. Lawyers can also help with drafting employer, contractors and other business agreements. While these may seem like extra work during the early days, the contracts become very important as the business becomes valuable. Even if you are an efficient problem solver, it always pays to forestall legal issues before they turn into problems.

Business owners cannot be expected to be familiar with every facet of Australian commercial law.

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Do You Think Your Lawyer Has Overcharged You?

While the majority of workers in the legal industry will deal with clients in an ethical manner, there are those who might take advantage of their clients. The average person relies heavily on the expertise and skill of their lawyers, to make sure that they do not wind up in serious legal trouble. They also depend on their lawyers to disclose costs, and deal with them fairly regarding fees. Since the costs for legal matters can become exceedingly high, there are laws in place to protect clients.

These laws are intended to allow sanctions against any lawyers who charge overly high fees. Costs are also able to be reviewed by independent bodies. Under some circumstances, agreements regarding costs can even be set aside.

Overview of Costs Disclosure Requirements

When starting a professional relationship with a legal representative, it is best to get the retainer in writing. This serves as the work contract, but it is not a prerequisite. However, ensuring that you do get it in writing is a smart idea. This will allow future costs to be compared to what the lawyers claimed they would be in the beginning.

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Court Fees Deter Average Australians from Seeking Litigation

Australian citizens often do not appreciate having access to a fair legal system. Being able to have a hearing is something that should be available to everyone. However, the costs associated with legal trials is often a deterrent to people who do not earn high incomes. Steep increases in litigation costs are one factor that is making it harder for “average” Australians to seek their own justice. And then there are the alternatives for dispute resolution, which seemingly work to encourage people to forgo litigation.

A problem arises because there is a risk that people who have enough money, including government bodies and large corporations, have access to litigation. If they cannot use mediation to get what they want, this is a viable option for these groups. On the other hand, people without the monetary means are left accepting alternative dispute resolution (ADR) decisions. Even when your average person wants to pursue a matter with litigation, they often just do not have the money to do so.

It does save a lot of time and money, when people are encouraged to seek mediation to solve their disputes. It can also save people the hassle of entering a courtroom, and dealing with a full-blown trial. Using the high costs as a way to drive people toward ADR could be creating a two-class system in regards to the law. Read more on Alternative dispute resolution

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Terms of Use

Why Your Website Needs Terms of Use

If you are in the middle of getting a website built, by a professional web design team, to conduct an online business, you may not have thought of the Terms of Use that are needed. Commercial lawyers would tell you that these are needed to protect you as well as to inform users of your website what to expect when using your website. Any visitors to your website become potential customers or clients and so need to have everything made clear to them about what you offer and what they should expect.

Without this important document, you leave yourself open to being sued if the customer finds that your goods are faulty or if the instructions on your website are followed and they don’t get the result they expected. For the best result, the Terms of Use document should really be drafted by a lawyer so that it is specific to your business.

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Commercial Lease Negotiation

Main Issues to Consider In a Commercial Lease in Australia

If you are thinking of setting up a business, then either you have your eye set on a property or are scouring the market for the suitable commercial setup. If you don’t have the finances to buy the property at once, then you must surely be looking through different leasing options on offer. Commercial leasing in Australia for small businesses is quite common, and that is why there are many options available to accommodate the needs of different businesses in the segment.

While commercial leasing is a good option for anyone trying to setup a new business, there are also some important issues and regulations linked with the process. If you want to make sure that there are no legal irregularities, then you need to pay close attention to meeting all the requirements without error.

Some of the important issues related to commercial leasing for small businesses in Australia, include the following,

Rights as a Tenant

The lease details all your rights and related obligations as a tenant. If you want to make any changes or add any adjoining space to the property, then make sure that you have the right to do it, under the negotiation terms made with your landlord. Some important rights as a tenant that you would probably want to include in your lease documents include,

  • Use of any common area
  • Access to all areas of the premises
  • Use of certain facilities like toilets
  • Putting up additional shelving and partitioning
  • Putting up any sign on the property

It is important that you discuss all the details before signing a lease contract.

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Divorce

Dividing Finances Equitably After Divorce

Before you can get a divorce you need to have been separated for 12 months. Family lawyers will tell you that this does not have to be in different accommodation; you can be separated while still living in the same home if moving would cause financial difficulties.  However, one way to prove to the court that you are separated is to have separate bank accounts.

So on the day you separate, you should set up an account in a bank or other financial institution in your name only. Even if you have no money, you can often simply set up the account with a zero deposit or a low deposit of one dollar. After that, if you are on a government pension or benefit, you can to go to Centrelink and have them pay the money into your new account.

While you are there, ask whether you can also have the child benefit payment redirected into your account if you are the main carer for your children. You will need to have at least some money in order to apply for the divorce because there is a fee involved. You can reduce the costs of a divorce, if you are on a government benefit or have financial hardship, but if you’ve set the account up on the day you separate or shortly after, you’ll have the chance to save some money in readiness.

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accc-versus-reebok-australia

Misleading Product Promotion

Misleading Product Promotion Leads Federal Court to Order Significant Fines

According to www.lawyerslist.com.au it pays for businesses to get advice from lawyers and be careful with the way they promote their goods and services. In the case of ACCC versus Reebok Australia in 2015, the Federal Court gave Reebok Australia a fine of $350,000. They were found as having falsely advertised their footwear in Australia. In addition to these fines, there were also restraining orders issued, an order to correct the advertising, and $45,000 in legal costs. This was paid to the ACCC. Of particular interest is the fact that Reebok’s parent company, Reebok International, had already been dealt with for similar conduct in the United States.

The Federal Trade Commission, which fills a similar role to the ACCC in Australia, investigated the issue of false advertising and dealt with it accordingly. Reebok Australia was fully aware of the problem with false advertising, but did nothing to bring the practice to a stop, as far as the Federal Court viewed the matter.

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eBooks and iRecords – Director’s Duties in the Cloud

Cloud storage, cloud accounting packages and similar applications for communication and recording of information have changed the face of business forever. Before you run off to your lawyers in a panic, please read some of the following information.

While these advances have been beneficial to company directors who can discharge their duties at greater speed and from almost any location, we should pause for thought about whether or not these advances can potentially place directors in breach of their duties to the company.

Financial Information

Good commercial lawyers in Perth can explain and advise on Section 286 Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (“Corporations Act”) requires the company to maintain records of financial information that accurately reflect the financial position of the company.  The records can be kept electronically on the proviso that the electronic records can be converted into paper records within a reasonable time after a request is made (s288).

Pursuant to s289 the company can decide where to keep its financial records, however if they are kept outside of Australia the company is required to keep sufficient information to allow preparation of accurate financial information inside Australia; and notify ASIC of the place where the records are kept.

The cloud implications of this are clearly the location of the records.  More often than not, the cloud server on which your data is stored will be located in a low-cost jurisdiction, generally not inside Australia.   Financial information, pursuant as defined in s9 Corporations Act includes all source documents, statements, entries and adjustments in books of account.

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Electronic Signatures, How Valid Are They?

There is no escaping the rapid advance of technology. People are interacting in ways that would have been completely alien to businesses and their employees just decades ago. Keeping in step with technological innovation, people are always seeking easier and faster ways to carry out their business. Doing business with people all over the country leaves little room for physical documents, or the signatures that are commonly used on them.

The electronic signature is commonplace now, but there is still concern about just how valid they are. Would they be legally binding in court, for example? According the the law in Australia, electronic signatures are in fact considered valid for signing agreements. Trouble arises when it becomes difficult to identify who actually signed a contract, or whether they were aware of the implications of signing. There are special tools that can identify the parties, and these can help to reduce the risk of a signature being declared invalid in court.

Overview of Electronic Contracts

All contracts, both physical and electronic, must meet certain requirements. Signing parties must be aware that they are entering into a legally binding contract, that they are accepting an offer, and must be given a chance to benefit from the exchange. This could include something as simple as being paid for a promised service. These are the standard guidelines of a contract, and they do not change in the digital world.

A digital contract needs to be stored in a way that it can be accessed by the parties after being executed. And each party much agree to using an electronic agreement, as opposed to a traditional one of ink and paper. Legally, the originator of the agreement is bound by the contract, provided that they consented to sending it. This becomes a problem when it is hard for each party to verify the identity of the other, and confirm who sent the digital agreement.

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Australian Man Files 50 Lawsuits, Prohibited from Filing More

The average person might only file a handful of lawsuits in their lifetime. Many will never file a single one. Over a period of 10 years, an Australian man filed an astounding 50 lawsuits. The result is that he is now somewhat prohibited from filing any more. The man’s name is Mr  Rahman, a science teacher who is a resident in Sydney. Justice Michael Adams made the ruling, stating that the man had been using using the legal system to “harass” and “annoy” people, among other things. He is only the 12th person to be put on the register for vexatious litigation.

While Mr Rahman is still allowed to start a litigation proceeding, he must get permission from the courts first. And since he has proven himself to be such a nuisance in their eyes, that is not expected to be forthcoming. Some of his offences include attempting to re-litigate matters where a decision had already been made. In addition to that, he also sued his very own legal representatives. The result of that lawsuit was that Mr Rahman was ordered to pay them more than he had already owed.

Rahman has spent more than $500,000 in the process of filing all of these lawsuits. He is also said to be in danger of losing two houses that he owns. However, even after being placed on Sydney’s vexatious litigant register, he is still not giving up his fight. He claims that the ruling is a “crime against humanity”, and that he will go to the International Criminal Court if necessary.

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Death Caused by Dementia in the Elderly and Testamentary Capacity in Creating Wills

With the number of elderly citizens increasing in Australia, more people are dying as a result dementia, as well as other similar disorders. Since people are continuing to live longer on average, they are also able to build up greater amounts of wealth. This can often lead to some difficult litigation, by people claiming that wills were made by those without the capacity to make proper decisions.

The appropriate court is the only entity with the jurisdiction required to decide on these matters. They will generally use a specific test, which includes the following requirements:

  • The person making the will needs to understand the legal significance related to creating the will.
  • They must be at least generally aware of the extent, nature, and value of their assets.
  • They must understand who might be able to claim their accumulated wealth, as well as why and how such people can make claims.
  • They must be able to decide the validity of people who make claims for the aforementioned wealth. No “disorder of the mind” should be able to skew their decisions.

In these types of circumstances, it is sometimes too easy for disgruntled beneficiaries to appear, and start litigation to overturn a will. Without proof as to the mental well-being of the deceased, these cases can be particularly trying. Even if your will is upheld in the end, the legal costs might have taken a toll on your intended beneficiaries.

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Leaving a Charitable Gift in Your Will

People often think about those who are closest to them, when making a will. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing that, many Australians are starting to leave money to charities in their wills. When doing so, it is essential that legal requirements are all fulfilled, to ensure that the gift is going to actually get to your charity of choice. Simply writing down the name of a charity that you remember is not a good idea. There are more things to consider.

Things to Consider

When naming a charity in your will, it is important to consider the following:

  • The charity’s name must be included, or the name of the association.
  • You must indicate if it is actually a charity, or some other body.
  • Your charitable bequest needs to be made in the form preferred by the charity, if there is one.
  • You must find out whether you need to account for any taxes or estate regulations that might be imposed upon your gift.

Double Check the Terms of Your Bequest

It is important to ensure that your gift will actually go to the charity that you have chosen. For starters, be sure that you have the name of the charity absolutely correct. There are a lot of different charities, and you cannot simply use a general term, or assume that you have the name right. While you might have given to the charity some time ago, it might not exist any more. If the charity does not exist any more, you can choose to have the executor of your will give the gift to a similar organisation. This is a good option for people who want their bequest to go to a deserving charity, no matter what.

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