How I can assist you – replaced August 2018

As a business partnership law expert at Keystone Law, with over 35 years’ experience as a solicitor, I am well placed to advise and assist you with legal issues arising in connection with your partnership, LLP, company or joint venture.

Disputes

I act for clients in partnership, LLP member, shareholder/boardroom and joint venture dispute matters, either

  • advising, negotiating, mediating or (if required) litigating (in court and in arbitrations),
  • in many cases settling, and
  • (where I am acting for claimants) pursuing financial recoveries or other desired outcomes, or
  • (when acting for defendants) defending unmeritorious claims.

For further information please see further down this page under the heading “How I can assist you to resolve your dispute”.

Governing agreements and transactions

I also draft and update partnership, LLP member and shareholder agreements, and advise on and conduct transactions (such as sales, purchases, mergers and LLP conversions).

Who I represent

My clients come from a variety of business sectors across the whole of England and Wales, including most of the professions (among them solicitors and accountants, from two-man businesses to the Magic Circle/Big Four), private equity/alternative investment, investment management, IT, property investment/development, leisure, care homes and farming.  I also act for non-UK individuals and businesses with interests in England and Wales.

Some clients only need a few hours’ advice, perhaps to enable then to understand their situation or be advised on an agreement that they may have been asked to sign, or to be advised on their strategy for exiting a business in which they no longer wish to be involved.

Other clients may need more than a few hours’ assistance, but may tap in to my advice from time to time as required, perhaps by way of occasional email advice or telephone calls during the course of a long-running situation, difference or dispute.

In other cases I may become more deeply and intensely involved in the resolution of a client’s dispute, or in dealing with their transaction. In such cases my client and I may communicate as often as several times a day during critical phases, with the work spanning a wide variety of periods, anything from a week or (or rarely in the case of some disputes) several years.

Initial contact

My work for clients often begins with a telephone call. Please feel free to telephone me on 020 7100 7766. I am always happy to spend up to 30 minutes or so on the telephone with a prospective client without charge in order to understand what your problems, issues, objectives or requirements are, and to discuss how I might be able to assist you.

This discussion is confidential and entirely without any obligation on your part to instruct me to act for you.

How I can assist you to resolve your dispute

Normally during the course of the initial call the key issue or issues can be identified and I can begin to give you some idea as to where you may stand legally. While what we discuss during the initial call should not be regarded as definitive advice and should not be relied upon as such, it is always a useful starting point and may equip you to:

  • consider important aspects more carefully,
  • avoid immediate conduct or outcomes that may be disadvantageous to you,
  • take any immediate steps that may be advantageous to you, and
  • start collecting or collating relevant further information.

At this point I may also be able to give you a tentative estimate for the initial work that you may wish me to carry out, subject to possible modification when I see the relevant documentation.

Should you decide to proceed, I will normally ask you to let me have copies of the relevant documentation. I will also prepare a retainer letter for you to consider and sign.

The first consideration is almost always how the difficulty you are facing can be resolved in the least amount of time and at the lowest possible expense. This requires an understanding of the relevant facts. It is usually advantageous to identify the strengths and weaknesses of both sides and to focus on how you might be able to bring pressure to bear on your opponent(s) by attacking their weak points and/or taking advantage of concerns that they may have and/or what is most important to them.

Very often disputes can be resolved through discussion. In many cases an opponent does not even find out that I have been instructed. I can work behind the scenes, acting as a sounding board for you and usually advising you what your next step(s) ought to be and/or assisting you by drafting or reviewing proposed correspondence with your opponent(s).

But if between us we decide at any stage that a communication direct from me may assist to break a deadlock, then of course I can emerge from the shadows.

What happens after that will depend on many different factors, including both sides’ attitude to settlement, and how they perceive the strength of their case. At every stage the aim is to ensure that your opponent has a full understanding of the reality of their situation and why it would be better for them to settle the dispute. Equally it is important for you to have that clarity. As the matter proceeds we will at each stage consider your opponent(s) responses, to enable you to review not only the potential benefits of proceeding to press your claim or defence, but also the risks involved in doing so, and to decide whether settling on particular terms will or will not be likely to be most advantageous for you.

Most of my clients’ cases settle in the early stages, either in the course of further discussion between my client(s) and their opponent(s) or after correspondence between solicitors.

The minority of cases that do not settle in that way sometimes go on to be resolved through mediation. Only very rarely does a case proceed to litigation (or arbitration). But over my many years of practice I have had considerable experience where necessary of pursuing or defending cases before the courts or an arbitrator, and can act for you and advise and assist you at every stage of that process if required. Even in this context I will always be seeking out and advising you on ways and means to resolve your dispute well before trial.

Even if a matter does not proceed to litigation or arbitration, it is always as well to conduct even the very early correspondence on the assumption that one day a judge or arbitrator may read what passes between the parties. The law reports are littered with examples of ill-judged early correspondence having an adverse effect on the ultimate outcome of the case. Maintaining the discipline of careful consideration of what is written throughout a correspondence has a secondary benefit which is that opponents will see or be advised that you are laying the ground for litigation, and often such a realisation can influence a party’s decision at any given stage as to whether or not to settle the case.

Typical scenarios that I deal with include contentious retirements/exits, boardroom disputes, conduct unfairly prejudicial to shareholders or LLP members, disputes over accounts or the ownership of a business or some of its assets, fraud, secret profits, misappropriation of clients and business opportunities, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of covenant, discrimination, and part-time worker and whistleblower detriment.

How I can assist you with your governing agreement

I advise on and draft or update partnership, LLP members’ and shareholders’ agreements.

During the course of my dispute work I have considered countless such agreements, and have advised on their strengths and weaknesses (either how to enforce them or what the loopholes or weaknesses may be). This experience stands me in good stead when I am drafting or updating agreements.

Many agreements I see are very well drafted, others are appalling. There is a lesson to be learnt from every such agreement, whether how to improve the already excellent or adapt it to a new situation, how to avoid pitfalls and problems, or how to rescue a desperately bad and inherently dangerous agreement.

Most businessmen do not have a full understanding of the importance of having a suitable agreement in place to govern the relationship between the owners of the business, or what the agreement should cover.

The starting point in any drafting exercise is clarity as to what the objectives or desired outcomes are in a range of different scenarios (such as bringing in new participants, a sale of the business, retirement, sickness, death, misconduct, and disputes) and an understanding of what can (and often does) go wrong unless the agreement contains appropriate provisions.

I can assist you to learn what your agreement should contain, and to draft or update your agreement for you.

How I can assist you with your transaction

Just as with any other agreement, it is important to ensure that all terms are stated with clarity and that potential risks arising from the transaction are understood, allocated appropriately, or avoided altogether.

If required, in order to supplement my own expertise, I have full access to the skills and experience of the approaching 300 (and growing) lawyers at Keystone Law. I am able to assemble a team of suitable lawyers to cover almost any specialist area as required by any particular transaction, including specialist employment, property, tax, and pensions lawyers, and lawyers who have particular insights and experience in a wide variety of business sectors.

Contact me

Whether your matter concerns a dispute, or the drafting of an agreement, or a business transaction, if you would like to discuss with me how I (and, if appropriate, others at Keystone) may be able to assist you, please telephone me on 020 7100 7766.

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