How to Find the Best Central Coast Law Firm

How to Find the Best Central Coast Law Firm

Private Law

When it comes to resolving a legal issue, it’s incredibly important to make sure you find a law firm you can trust. If you’re looking for the best law firm near you, keep reading. 

In this guide, we will give you some tips and tricks that can help you find a Central Coast law firm you can feel confident about. Make sure you’re in good hands by choosing the best law firm for you. 

Find an Experienced Lawyer

In order to find the best law firm for your case, you should do some research to find a specialist that will fit your needs. Identify what your legal problem is and find a lawyer that specializes in that service. You want to make sure you have a law firm that knows how to handle your legal situation with expertise. 

Someone with a speciality in your area of need will best know how your case will proceed in order to help you solve your problem. A specialist will know about the latest developments in your area of need that can help to resolve your case. The more experience they have with cases like yours, the better. 

Do some research to get an idea of the law firm’s track record with cases like yours. Take factors such as the firm’s length of service and number of cases into consideration. With experience comes the knowledge that can help develop winning strategies while evaluating risks. 

Look at the firm’s website to get an idea of their background and their accolades. Consider conducting research via Google searches or Linkedin. 

Consider Their Professionalism 

When speaking or meeting with law firm professionals, do the work to make sure they have proven to be professional and trustworthy. You should feel that you’re lawyer has your best interest in mind. The best law firm will act efficiently and economically in helping you to achieve your goal. 

Keep their professionalism in mind in terms of their actions, such as whether they arrive at meetings on time, and whether they are well prepared and organized. Communication skills are also incredibly important when looking for a great law firm. A great law firm will return your emails and phone calls in a timely manner to show you that you’re a priority. 

A great law firm team will be respectful regardless of their position, role or status. It’s important that lawyers exhibit appropriate behaviour in all situations and that they follow all the ethical standards of their practice.

A law firm that shows it is passionate about its services and your best interest will work to accomplish your goals. 

Before choosing a law firm, consider visiting or touring their office. A neat, orderly, and effectively run office will help you feel more confident in the abilities of the law firm, its staff and its processes. 

Get References for Those on Your Case

Before deciding on a law firm, it may be a good idea to review some references, either on the firm itself or the lawyer you’ll be working with directly. Ask for a few contacts of past clients you could consult to learn more about the quality of service you can expect. You could also conduct additional online research on the law firm and the lawyer’s reputation. 

The size of a law firm may determine how many hands are on a single case. At a smaller law firm, you may work directly with one law firm, while at a larger firm, you may have multiple people working on different aspects of your case. Inquire the law firm about who will be handling your case from start to finish. 

You could also ask about how the law firm uses it’s paralegals and support staff to carry out cases. Knowing more about the individuals that would be involved in your case can help you better conduct research and references

Ask About Fees and Approach

As with most business decisions, you should consult the firm about the costs of your legal matter. Ask questions about the firm’s billing procedures and methods to make sure the firm will work for you financially. Ask what kind of fees you may need to expect along the way, such as travel charges and expert fees. 

Your decision should not be based on cost alone, as the cheapest option may not be of the best quality. Once you’ve engaged with a lawyer, make sure you get a costs disclosure document that explains their billing. This will help you prepare for budgeting the case before you get started. 

Finding the Best Central Coast Law Firm

As you look for a Central Coast Law Firm, use some of these tips and tricks to find the best option for you. Feel confident about the law firm handling your case to get the best results. 

Are you looking for a modern Central Coast law firm that has the experience, passion and integrity you need? Contact us today to learn more about Law Quarter, or schedule a free consultation on our site. 

A Tokyo Ramen Dispute

A Tokyo Ramen Dispute

Private Law

The world of commercial law is complex. Rarely will you find the clarity that one might expect in a commercial arrangement. Problems often arise when commercial arrangements are not documented or when not documented correctly. If you are planning on embarking on a commercial venture, ensure that you consult a lawyer early to establish a clear legal framework.

Today we look at a dispute involving a Central Coast business. The New South Wales District Court decision of Elegant Australia Pty Ltd v Chen and; Chen v Elegant Australia Pty Ltd [2020] NSWDC 7 is a good example of the complexities of commercial litigation. We’ve examined this judgement as it relates to parties in the Central Coast of New South Wales.

The dispute giving rise to the judgement concerned the operation of a restaurant, Tokyo Ramen Erina Fair. Tokyo Ramen Erina Fair is in the New South Wales Central Coast.

The Plaintiff in this matter had executed a Deed with the Defendant which, inter alia, enabled the Defendant to derive the profits and obliged the Defendant to bear the losses of operating the Central Coast restaurant. The Plaintiff’s claim totalled $110,991.05 plus interest. The Defendant cross claimed for $89,273.30 based on entitlements she said she would have received had she been an employee of the Plaintiff during the period covered by the Deed.

The Business

During the proceedings, the Plaintiff’s director Mr Guchao Zhou and the Defendant gave oral evidence. Mr Zhou gave evidence that between April 2013 and December 2016 he managed the Tokyo Ramen business. He described his responsibilities as managing staff (including hiring, calculating wages and paying them), managing the till, ordering stock, assisting with the cooking, cleaning and waiting on customers, payment of expenses and managing accounts including providing documents to his accountant. The Defendant stated that she didn’t recall Mr Zhou ever telling her that he was responsible for cooking. She recalled being told words to the effect that in a conversation with the Defendant sometime between September 2016 and early December 2017. From 2013 until 2016 the Central Coast business ran at a consistent loss ranging between $12,000 and $47,000.

On or around 24 September 2016 Mr Zhou received a phone call from the Defendant enquiring whether or not the Plaintiff was looking to transfer its business free of charge. Arrangements were then made for the Defendant to inspect the business later the same day. The Defendant was told that the business made on average between $8,000 and $9000 gross per week. Following a further meeting the parties exchange messages by WeChat. On 26 September 2016 the Defendant requested the Plaintiff’s solicitors detail and speak to the manager of the Central Coast Erina fair centre management.

The Deed

On 9 December 2016 a Deed was signed by the Defendant. The text of the Deed provided inter alia for the provision of training to the Plaintiff and the provision of various materials. In return, the Defendant agreed to use best endeavours to have the lease assignment under her name, to make every effort to acquire the retailing skills and competency required and to follow instructions given to her by the company. Further, the Deed provided that the Defendant would be entitled to all profits generated within the training period and would be responsible for all losses and damages incurred by the business within the training period. Mr Zhou himself stated that between about late January 2017 and March 2018, at no time was he involved in operating the Tokyo Ramen business and was not aware of its actual financial position. He stated that he was not aware of what sales the business achieved or how much profits the Defendant was making and retaining per week.

On 16 July 2017 the Defendant sent Mr Zhou a WeChat message which stated:

Hello Brother Hao. I have considered this for long that I decide to stop running this restaurant by the end of September. Nobody is buying this restaurant either. I have made no money in the past seven months and my son has nobody to look after him. I have talked to my lawyer and he said according to our agreement I can quit this with no legal consequences. Can you come up with a plan for the period to the end of September ? I can work as an employee for you to March next year; I have been working very hard, which is ok if I can make money; Please reply to my message when you have time. Sorry I have tried my best.

Mr Zhou then sought legal advice from Ms Leung solicitor on or about 20 July 2017. He gave evidence that Ms Leung informed him that the Defendant could terminate the Deed and he had no legal remedy. On 25 July 2016, the Defendant sent a WeChat message complaining about the state of the Plaintiff’s accounts. Mr Zhou responded stating from the 14th “it is all yours.”

The Outcome

One of the key issues pleaded by the defendant was that Mr Zhou, on behalf of the Plaintiff, said words to the following effect in a face to face conversation between them at the site of the Tokyo Ramen business in or about October 2016:

“The Tokyo Ramen business income is about $9000 to $10,000 a week which is more than enough to pay wages, rent and expenses and still have profit. If you do better that that, you will also get that extra amount”

The defendant pleaded that the statement was a representation contrary to s 18 of the ACL, as referred to in s 27 of the Fair Trading Act 1987 (NSW). There was no claim for damages pursuant to the misrepresentation by the defendant only for a rescission of the deed, noting:

“A party seeking to invoke s 4 of the ACL is required to make clear that it is doing so as to alert the other party to the need to plead and call other evidence as to reasonable grounds. In my view, the Defendant’s pleading, in particular at [20(e)] of the Further Amended Defence, does not indicate that it seeks reliance on the evidentiary burden on the Plaintiff to establish reasonable grounds for making the representation. [191] Furthermore, it did not seek to identify any such reliance in its Statement of Issues. [192]”

There was judgment in favour of the Plaintiff in the sum of $50,690.70

Trade promotion and Competiton permits

Trade promotion and Competiton permits

Private Law

Your Free Guide To Trade Promotions

If you would like to access our complete guide to Trade Promotions in Australia simply provide your details below. 

Trade promotions or competitions require licences or permits in certain circumstances. These circumstances are set out below.

What is a trade promotion lottery? It’s a contest, a raffle, a sweepstakes, or any other promotion that has prizes and winners determined by chance. Businesses run trade promotions to encourage sales and increase engagement. 

Which rules do you need to comply with?

In short, you need to comply with all the laws of all the states and territories in which you are running a competition, even if you draw the winner in the one location. If you have a permit from any of the below you won’t need a further permit from the NT and in WA there is a deemed permit. Trade promotion permits are not required in Tas, VIC, or in QLD.

Every state and territory has its own set of obligations when it comes to trade promotions. If you are running a national competition, your competition terms and conditions must be compliant on a national basis.

NSW

If you want to run a sweepstake or contest and the total prize value is over $10,000, you’ll have to obtain a trade promotion gaming authority first. You can do that online.

To be eligible for a gaming authority, your competition must: 

  • have free entry;
  • be running a competition based on chance not skill;
  • must genuinely promote the goods or services of your business; and
  • must take place on the date nominated.

If you want to run a competition under your authority, you’ll need to provide Fair Trading a copy of the rules of the gaming activity at least 10 working days before it takes place.

If you change your rules, you must tell Fair Trading as soon as possible. If you do make changes, you must make sure they do not disadvantage existing entrants. 

ACT

If you run or advertise a trade promotion lottery in the ACT and give away more than $3000 worth of prizes, you have to get a permit from the government.

You can expect to receive a permit within 5 days of applying. If you need to change your competition after it has been approved, you will need to submit an amendment request to the ACT gaming regulator. 

SA

You will need trade promotion permit from the regulator in SA if your total prize pool is over $5,000 or if you are running an instant win competition.

If you are using an electronic drawing system, it will need approval as well.

It can take up to 14 days for a permit to be issued in SA. If you need a permit sooner, you can pay a premium fee.

Again, if you have been issued a permit and then amend your competition terms and conditions, you will need to get the approval of the SA gaming regulator. 

If you are interested to learn more about Law Quarter click here.

Central Coast Lawyers

Central Coast Lawyers

Private Law

Law Quarter now serves clients on a national and international basis including some of the largest businesses in the world. Law Quarter started and remains headquartered in Erina on the New South Wales Central Coast. We remain committed Central Coast lawyers and have represented a large number of local individuals and businesses. We are committed to the development of our local community and the preservation of the Central Coast’s unique environment.

Our Central Coast lawyers have represented individuals and businesses in a number of local courts including Wyong, Gosford, and Woy Woy. If you are looking for committed, dedicated, and experienced lawyers based on the Central Coast you have come to the right place.

Your Free Consultation with our Central Coast Lawyers

If you would like a free consultation with one of our Central Coast lawyers, simply provide your details below and we will get in touch to arrange a time and place convenient to you. 

Central Coast Law Firm

Law Quarter is a law firm with its head office in the Platinum Building in Erina. We are a top rated Central Coast law firm with a focus on commercial law, litigation, criminal law and family law. 

Supporting our local community

We’re passionate about our local community and we contribute to various Central Coast community groups and are sponsors of the Gosford District Tennis Club. 

On the Central Coast we regularly appear at both Local and District Courts. If you have a matter listed in a court on the Central Coast or in Newcastle or Sydney, please get in touch. Being located on the Central Coast makes it easy for us to attend courts in both Newcastle and in Sydney.

A track record of success

We’ve been successful in a number of important matters and you can find our reported cases on caselaw.nsw.gov.au. 

If you are not looking for a Central Coast law firm, but are located between Sydney or Newcastle we can easily meet with you in person at our Sydney or Newcastle branch offices or we can meet via Zoom. It is now possible to have documents, including wills and affidavits executed electronically including via Microsoft Teams or Zoom. 

An award winning law firm

Recognised for our focus on quality and innovation, our law firm- based on the Central Coast- has taken out a number of awards. 

Our client reviews

We’re well recognised as a top-rated law firm on the Central Coast. You can see a sample of our client reviews below.

Testimonials

You can read more about our approach to the provision of legal services here. 

You are welcome to visit us at our Central Coast office at Suite 204, 4 Ilya Avenue Erina NSW 2250 or to email us info@lawquarter.com.au. 

Serious Criminal Offence Procedure Part One

Serious Criminal Offence Procedure Part One

Criminal Law, Private Law

All offences commence in the Local Court in New South Wales and are then either dealt with in the Local Court’s summary jurisdiction or if they are more serious, are transferred to the District Court.

Early Appropriate Guilty Pleas

The Early Appropriate Guilty Plea Reform commenced on 30 April 2018 and applies to all strictly indictable and elected table offences where proceedings commenced after 30 April 2018.

Service of the Brief

The first step in a matter dealt with under the EAGP scheme is for a magistrate to make brief orders i.e. for the Officer in Charge to prepare the brief. Police Prosecutors appear until the brief has been served and until orders for a charge certification have been made. The Office of the Department of Public Prosecutions will appear thereafter.

Disclosure Obligations

The DPP has a legal obligation to disclose all evidence that might reasonably be expected to assist the case for the prosecution or the case for the accused person.

In addition, the ODPP Guidelines requires prosecutors to make full disclosure to the accused of, inter alia, “all material known to the prosecutor which can be seen on a sensible appraisal by the prosecution to be relevant or possibly relevant to an issue in the case.

The Charge Certificate

The next step requires a senior prosecutor to review the charges laid and served on the defence and file a “charge certificate” with the Local Court, not later than 6 months after the first return date. That timeline can be extended by a magistrate if it is in the interests of justice to do so.

What to expect from Law Quarter

What to expect from Law Quarter

Private Law

1. What you can expect from Law Quarter

Law Quarter wants its clients to have a positive experience. We have developed the following list of expectations. This is what you can expect from Law Quarter: 

  • We will adhere to our professional obligations;
  • We will keep the information you give us confidential;
  • We will avoid any potential conflicts of interest;
  • We will be transparent in our fees and let you know if our estimates need revision;
  • We will meet deadlines and we will keep you informed;
  • We will do everything we can to help you achieve your objectives and to get the best possible outcome; and
  • We will act ethically and with integrity at all times. 

Table of Contents

2. The Fiduciary Relationship

The lawyer/client relationship is a fiduciary relationship.

Our lawyers act in our client’s best interests with the utmost good faith, subject only to our overriding duties to the court and the law.

The relationship between a lawyer and a client is a privileged relationship, meaning that any confidential information to which the lawyer becomes privy cannot be disclosed without the client’s consent. This privilege exists both at common law and under the Evidence Acts in each state and the Commonwealth. 

3. What we ask from you

Your relationship with a lawyer will be a successful one if you:

  • tell us what we need to know and not hold back facts;
  • keep us informed on any changes to the facts or your personal circumstances;
  • respond to our requests for information within a reasonable time frame; and
  • contact us if you are unsure or if you are unhappy with anything you see us do. 

4. Our Policies and Procedures

Law Quarter is committed to offering its employees an innovative and rewarding environment that encourages and fosters excellence.

Our employee conduct guidelines help to guide employees on how to act, and clarify how Law Quarter expects employees to perform. All directors, principals, partners, and employees agree, as a condition of employment and association, to be bound by these employee conduct guidelines and in so doing, give confidence to those with whom they work, meet or interact as to the standard of behaviour that can be expected. Law Quarter is committed to ethical and compliant business. At its core, compliance implies acceptance, adoption and achievement of particular standards of behaviour and business operations whether enshrined in law, regulation, code, standard, convention, or community expectation.

Access Law Quarter’s Code of Conduct

Law Quarter is committed to quality and positive client outcomes. To this end, we have documented a formal approach to managing and resolving any client complaints. 

Access Law Quarter’s Standard Complaints and Dispute Resolution Procedure

This document, together with our General Terms of Business, sets out the terms of our offer to provide legal
services to you and constitutes our costs agreement and disclosure pursuant to the Legal Profession
Uniform Law (NSW). 

Access Law Quarter’s Costs Agreement

 

Law Quarter has decided to adopt an approach that is consistent with the Privacy Act, the APP’s and the APP guidelines.

Our practices and internal policies are consistent with our privacy policy, and our staff are required to ensure compliance as a condition of their employment. In any third-party contracts, we enter into there is a duty to maintain personal information following our privacy policy and in a manner consistent with the Privacy Act.

Access Law Quarter’s Privacy Policy

Law Quarter has adopted a process approach for its quality management system.

Access our complete Law Quarter Quality Manual  <– here.

By identifying the top-level processes within the company, and then managing each of these discretely, this reduces the potential for nonconforming services discovered during final processes or after delivery. Instead, nonconformities and risks are identified in real-time, by actions taken within each of the top-level processes.

The following top-level processes have been identified for Law Quarter:

  • Quality Recruitment: Ensuring that our recruitment standards are clearly defined and that we recruit appropriately qualified individuals.
  • New Matter Acceptance: Ensuring that Law Quarter only takes on matters where it has the capacity and expertise to complete the agreed scope of work- including to ensure that there are no potential conflicts of interest.
  • Matter Progression: Ensuring that matter plans are developed in all instances and that any departures are communicated and agree upon with our clients. Ensuring that centralized calendars are kept up to date and that all deadlines are met.
  • Document Quality: Providing quality legal advice that is restricted to areas of expertise with peer review completed on all advices provided. Use of Machine Learning systems to review advice and drafted documents against pre-trained models and checklists to ensure consistency.

Law Quarter, despite being a small law firm, understands that is has a role to play in reconciliation. A Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) program provides a framework for organisations to support the national reconciliation movement.

We have developed a draft RAP that sets out the steps we will be taking over the next 12 months. This RAP has not been endorsed or approved by any third-party.

 You can access our draft RAP here.

Law Quarter is committed to a sustainable community and to positive environmental outcomes. We have developed a sustainability policy which is summarised below. Access a complete copy of our Environmental Sustainability Policy <- here. 

Resources

We are careful to reduce the use of non-renewable resources in our work. We avoid printing and in all cases use recycled paper where we do print.

We aim to reduce the travel that our lawyers complete via private transport and have various technologies available to complete online meetings and court appearances. 

We recycle any material used which is capable of recycling. 

Energy and Carbon

Our energy usage each calendar year and carbon footprint will be offset by the purchase and surrender of appropriate certificates or by the purchase of carbon offset certificates. We are not certified as being Carbon Neutral will seek that accreditation during 2021.

Legal Services

A large proportion of the legal work that we do is with renewable energy generator and we have made a significant contribution to the uptake of solar across the country. 

The Electricity Retail Code

The Electricity Retail Code

Energy Law

The Competition and Consumer (Industry Code—Electricity Retail) Regulations 2019 (the Code) applies to all electricity retailers that supply to small customers in the applicable distribution regions of New South Wales, South Australia and south-east Queensland.

The Code sets a cap on standing offer prices and specifies how prices and discounts must be advertised, published or offered.

I. Introduction

The Code is an instrument made under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. The Code:

Places a cap on standing offer prices: standing offer prices must be set such that, were a small customer to be supplied in a financial year at those prices with the amount of electricity determined by the AER for the financial year under Part 3 (the model annual usage), the total amount the customer would have to pay for the supply would not exceed the price determined by the AER under that Part (the reference price) (see section 10); and

Regulates the advertising of offers by requiring prices to be compared to the reference price: small customers must be told how prices for supplying electricity compare with the reference price (see section 12); and

Regulates the advertising of discounts:  an advertisement for supplying electricity to small customers must not have a discount as its most conspicuous price‑related matter, and must state any conditions on discounts clearly (see section 14).

II. Operation alongside NECF

The Code, unlike the NERL and NERR, is a Commonwealth instrument. It is enforced by the ACCC rather than the AER and defines terms differently. In NECF jurisdictions, retail pricing is also regulated by the AER’s Retail Pricing Information Guidelines.

For example, a small customer is defined in the Code to be a customer with or without controlled load who uses electricity principally for personal, household or domestic use. A small customer is also defined to include a small business who uses less than 100 MWh per annum who is not charged a controlled load tariff or a flexible tariff.

The Code does not apply to embedded network customers, those with pre-paid meters or those whose supply includes a demand tariff. Further, solar Feed-in Tariffs are to be ignored for the purposes of calculations under the Code.

III. Subdivision A: Caps on Standing Offers

Where there is a reference price and model annual usage in force, a retailer must ensure that its standing offer is at or below that reference price.

The Code says that: ‘The standing offer prices comply with the price cap if the total amount a representative customer, who was a small customer of that type, would be charged for the supply of electricity in the region in the year at the standing offer prices would not exceed the reference price.’

IV. Subdivision B: Advertising 

There are two ‘options’ for advertising, publications and offers that are subject to the Code.

Option 1: Advertising, publications and offers that are subject to the Code must:

a. Include the difference between the reference price and the unconditional price as a percentage of the reference price;

b. For each proportional conditional discount mentioned in the advertisement, publication or offer, include the difference between the unconditional price and the conditional price for the discount as a percentage of the reference price; and

c. Include the lowest possible price.

Option 2: The alternative to Option 1 is for a retailer to ‘state the total amount the electricity retailer estimates the small customer would be charged for the supply of electricity in the region in the year, assuming that the conditions on all conditional discounts (if any) mentioned in the offer were met.’

V. Advertising Conditional Discounts

Additional requirements apply to the advertising of conditional discounts. These are that:

a. The conditional discount must not be the price‑related matter that is mentioned most conspicuously in the advertisement; and

b. The advertisement must state the conditions on the conditional discount clearly and conspicuously.

VI. Key Terms

To understand these obligations, it is necessary to review the definitions of key terms used in the Code:

conditional price for a proportional conditional discount means the total amount a representative customer would be charged for the supply of electricity in the financial year at the offered prices, assuming that the conditions on the discount were met and disregarding any other conditional discounts.

lowest possible price means the total amount a representative customer would be charged for the supply of electricity in the financial year at the offered prices, assuming that the conditions on all conditional discounts (if any) mentioned in the advertisement, publication or offer were met.

proportional conditional discount means a conditional discount that is calculated as a proportion of all or part of the amount a small customer is charged for the supply of electricity at the offered prices.

unconditional price means the total amount a representative customer would be charged for the supply of electricity in the financial year at the offered prices, disregarding any conditional discounts.

Legal Assistance for Individuals

Legal Assistance for Individuals

Private Law

In challenging times: we work together

 

 

These are challenging times for many. Apart from the clear health impacts of the current situation, many have now lost employment and are facing financial hardship.

The purpose of this page is to provide information for individuals who have been affected by COVID-19.  If you have any feedback on the information provided on this page please get in touch.

What you will find on this page:

  • Free document generators including to request hardship assistance;
  • Information on how you can obtain free or reduced fee legal assistance;
  • Resources. 

Table of Contents

Generate a free letter requesting assistance

Complete the form below if you have lost your job and you need to request help from your bank, energy, internet, or phone provider. This is provided for free by Law Quarter.

Am I able to go out (NSW)?

Many are finding it difficult to understand the government’s latest instructions on when it is possible to go out. Use our simple tool to check.

Helpful Resources

Support Services

Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.

Call: 1300 224 636 (24×7 Support)

Visit: http://www.beyondblue.org.au


Kids Helpline is is a free, 24×7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25.

Call: 1800 55 1800 (24×7 Support)

Visit: https://kidshelpline.com.au


Lifeline is a national charity providing all access to crisis support and suicide prevention services.

Call: 13 11 14

Visit: whttp://www.lifeline.org.au


WIRE stands for Women’s Information and Referral Exchange Inc. and is a Victorian (only) organisation offering free information, support and referrals for women, by women.

Call: 1300 134 130 (Monday to  Friday: 9:00am – 5:00pm except public holidays)

Visit: https://www.wire.org.au

Financial Support

National Debt Helpline: Get free and independent assistance by speaking to one of National Debt Helpline’s Financial Counsellors.

Call: 1800 007 007 (Monday to Friday: 9:30am – 4:30pm)

Visit: http://www.ndh.org.au


MoneySmart offer free, independent guidance so you can make most of your money.

Visit: https://www.moneysmart.gov.au

Free Legal Assistance

If you require legal assistance, please contact us. We may be able to assist you even if you don’t have funds to pay for legal services. For certain matters we act on a pro bono basis. Legal Aid is also an option for NSW residents. Our Principal, Connor James, is on the Civil Law and Family Law panels of Legal Aid NSW.

COVID-19: Working from Home

COVID-19: Working from Home

Private Law

COVID-19: Working from Home

COVID-19 has caused disruption to many around the world and is set to continue to do so. The consequences are multifaceted and extend into many aspects of our everyday life. 

We are now seeing more and more businesses preparing to direct employees to work from home. As those businesses dust off their business continuity plans, they are also forced to quickly consider the steps that are needed to be taken to implement remote work. 

In this post we share our experiences with a remote workforce- both the benefits and the lessons. The key is to plan, execute, and prepare to adjust your processes and policies in response to feedback from your employees. 

Table of Contents

Legal work in 2020 is nothing like it was 50 years ago. Software empowers remote work by making it easier to communicate and to provide legal services. At Law Quarter, we use Titan to review and generate contracts, Zoom for video conferencing, Slack to communicate between our teams, and Clio to track our work. 

At Law Quarter, you could say we have flexible working arrangements. All full time staff enjoy the discretion to work from home at any time and without notice. Flexibility requires trust and trust in your employees pays dividends. However, having your employees work from home does require planning and thought to be effective. 

Step One: Prepare your Systems, Processes and People

To prepare for remote work, ensure that you have the systems and processes in place to support your employees. 

Systems

Examine and evaluate the software you need to work effectively. Consider speaking to those in similar industries or companies to see what works and what does not work for them. As we note above, we use a range of SaaS  products in the delivery of legal services.  

Where you are using specialist software or proprietary databases consider implementing VPNs for staff to use to connect. 

A range of large software providers are offering free subscriptions during the COVID-19 crisis, including Zoom (see here) and others.

Security continues to be a key concern. If your employees are using laptops ensure that they have up to date software and comprehensive anti-virus software installed.  

Processes

Ensure that you have processes in place to support your clients and staff while your company operates remotely. 

This may mean changes to your existing processes and policies or the development of new processes and policies. Contact us if you would like free assistance with remote work policies and procedures. 

People

Clearly explain your plans and expectations to your employees. Give them the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process and give them the opportunity to identify and resolve potential challenges. 

Ensuring that your employees are safe is a key concern, so ensure that you have processes in place that verify the safety of their home-work set up. There are a variety of online courses available that help employees understand how to set up a safe home work-place.  Your business will remain responsible for the health and safety of your employees as they work from home.

Step two: Set up your Employees for Success

There are a variety of safety risks that need to be managed effectively for at home workers. These include ensuring that your employees are set up with a work station that is safe, that your employees have a good chair and, where possible, a standing desk, and that their monitor and desk are set up for maximum ergonomic efficiency. 

Beyond concerns with physical safety, you should ensure that your employees are supported with the mental health challenges that follow from working in isolation. Consider running ‘virtual meetings’ on a regular basis, check in with your employees to ensure that they are not overworked and overstressed and ensure that they have access to mental health services. 

Keep communication channels open to your employees. With Zoom, you can keep a meeting ‘open’ so that employees can check in with you when they need to. To do so, simply start a meeting and have your mic on mute. 

Step Three: Monitor, Engage, and Improve

You will need to continually monitor the effectiveness of your work from home program. This will involve ensuring that your employees are safe, engaged, and satisfied. 

Avoid assuming that business will operate ‘as usual.’ Adjustments will be required on an individual and organisation basis. 

When monitoring the effectiveness of your work from home program, ask yourself what you could do better and ensure that you listen to the feedback given to you by employees. That feedback may mean that you need to change the systems and processes you use and may mean that you need to make adjustments on an ongoing basis. 

Who to Contact for More Information

Please get in touch if you have any questions or concerns. 

COVID19: Contractual Obligations of Musicians

COVID19: Contractual Obligations of Musicians

Private Law

COVID-19: A Guide for Musicians

For musicians and others in the performing visual arts, COVID-19 has been disastrous. While many events and public performances have now been cancelled, resulting in a loss of income- others remain in a state of limbo.

This has left many performers wondering if they are required to attend and perform at events  scheduled over the coming months. This uncertainty has added to the already overwhelming stress experienced by these people. 

The legal concepts discussed below can work for and against musicians- a double edged sword. Musicians and other performers rely on events and gigs to survive. As a result, in many cases, the best outcome would be for event organisers and performers to work together to ensure that the industry remains viable with this, hopefully, temporary set back. This may be effected by rescheduling events or by conducting virtual events. Targeted Government support is also urgently needed.

 

Summary

If you are worried about your obligation to perform you should:

1. Review your contract;

2. Check if your contract includes a ‘termination for convenience’ or ‘force majeure’ clause; and

3. Negotiate with the organisers on a without prejudice basis – draw their attention to the risks and to possible solutions.

Finally, given the Governments recent announcements on support for small business, consider if you should register for PAYG and speak with your accountant.

Table of Contents

Termination for convenience

Your first port of call in understanding your obligations with respect to upcoming events and performances is your contract.

Should your contract expressly provide for ‘termination for convenience’ it will be open to you to rely on such a clause provided that you ensure strict compliance with its terms. A termination for convenience clause allows the benefiting party to terminate the contract for any reason. 

A termination for convenience clause removes the need to wait for a breach, repudiation, frustration, or some other stated termination trigger. When it comes to performances and events, termination for convenience is often only permitted prior to the promotion of an event.

Force Majeure is an expression that derives from French Civil Law. A force majeure clause is a risk allocation mechanism used to limit the liability of a party for events which delay, restrict, or hinder the performance of the contract – where such events are beyond the control of the parties and fall within defined triggers. 

The party seeking to rely on a force majeure clause has the ‘burden of proof.’ i.e. is required to prove that the clause has been triggered. The triggers of a force majeure event often include acts of God such as fire, storms, earthquakes, and floods, as well as civil unrest, strikes, riots, and acts of war or terrorism. As COVID-19 has and will continue to have far reaching consequences, a force majeure clause may be triggered even where the clause does not specify that an epidemic or pandemic is a trigger i.e. triggered as a result of a consequence of COVID-19.

Force majeure is different to frustration. Force majeure is a contractual construct and typically operates to suspend performance. Frustration, on the other hand, operates where the performance of the contract is impossible or radically different and termination results. As such, force majeure can only be relied upon if express provision is made for it within the contract (it cannot be implied as a term of the contract). 

 Unfortunately, as force majeure is a contractual construct, and is limited in operation by the clause itself which is often poorly drafted, a force majeure clause may not be of assistance to you. 

The common law principle of frustration may come into play where performance of a contract becomes impossible or illegal. For example, in the case of Taylor v Caldwell, a licence to use a music hall for a series of performances was held to be frustrated when the hall burnt down. As a result, the owner of the hall was not liable to reimburse the hirer for advertising expenses and the hirer was relived from the obligation to pay the licence fee for use of the hall. 

A contract will be frustrated where, without the default of either party, circumstances would result in performance being radically different from that originally contemplated in the contract. So the question is (as expressed in Brisbane City Council v Group Projects Pty Ltd by Stephen J:)  ‘how dramatic must be the impact of an allegedly frustrating event. To what degree or extent must such an event overturn expectations, or affect the foundation upon which the parties have contracted…’

In considering frustration, a court will look at whether events were foreseeable at the time the contract was made. Consequently, it will be harder to argue that COVID-19 has frustrated a contract made yesterday than it would be if the contract had been made in November 2019.  

There are some clear cases where a contract will be frustrated: such as when a musician has been given an order by a government department to isolate themselves for a set period of time that corresponds to a performance. 

The more difficult question is whether frustration occurs where there are voluntary recommendations from health officials but nothing else or perhaps where a performer’s existing medical condition may lead to their health being compromised if they were to be exposed to the virus. Where this is the case, or where you are worried regardless, the best course of action is to obtain legal advice.  If your legal advice is that you have no basis to not perform, you can then speak to the organisers on a without prejudice basis to express your concerns and to ask for a resolution. In doing so, you should be careful to not say that you are not willing and able to perform your contractual obligations.  

If you are concerned about an upcoming performance or event, you should first consider your contractual rights including under any termination and force majeure provisions.

In any event, where you are concerned, we recommend that you speak to the organiser to seek a resolution. Any such discussion should be on a without prejudice basis and you should take care to ensure that you are not repudiating the contract. If ever there were a time for people to work together and support one another, this is it.  

–  –  –

On a final note, many musicians and others in the industry are self-employed. Many in the industry are also paid cash-in-hand. If you are a small business who is not registered for PAYG (which does not mean you need to register for GST), consider doing so now. The Government’s recently announced support schemes for small business will be administered via the PAYG system- meaning if you are not registered and do not report wages, you will miss out altogether. 

Free Advice Sesions

This Thursday (19 March 2020) we will be providing free advice to musicians during 40 minute one-on-one Zoom sessions. To register your interest, complete the form below. 

Who to contact for more information

Our lawyers are here to support you with advice and representation. Please contact us if you have any concerns or questions.