About Christine Oxenburgh

I fix things. Mostly businesses their owners when things do not go according to plan. Shareholders and partners who fall out. Business deals where one or both parties think the other one has not kept their side of the bargain, that sort of thing. Yes, I am a lawyer

Fairness, justice and how to pay for it

On 26 March I went to a debate organised by Michael Taylor of Downtown in Business, Discuss and Think More that was designed to make us… well…think more about “The Press has Broken our Trust and No Longer Deserves to Go Unchecked”. For the motion were Chris Elliott, Readers editor, The Guardian and Tom Rowland, Hacked Off campaigner and former Telegraph journalist. Defending the freedom of the press were Bob Satchwell of the Society of Editors and Nick McAleenan a Manchester solicitor.

Debate Press

Not being one for great suspense, I’ll tell you how it went now. The “No” vote was carried by 2 votes so pretty close then.

What troubled me about the arguments against was that Nick turned up with a 500 page text book on media law that shows that we have a lot of checking of the press right now. Bob said he would like to bin a lot of it but no one seriously argued that we should have a complete free for all. So how can anyone argue that the press should be completely unchecked when it already is checked?

While we were discussing how the press can be restrained now by criminal prosecution and civil claims through the courts, inevitably the Millie Dowler case came up in the context of existing press restraint. Her family have often said that if it were not for a conditional fee agreement (“no win no fee arrangement”) with their lawyers they could not have fought their case. Tom threw in the remark that those fee agreements were gone now.

They are not. This firm still offers conditional fee agreements to both corporate and individual clients (no fee or low fee if you do not win, depending on the chance of success, convenience to both us and our clients and the mathematics). The difference now is that the client pays the success fee. Obviously, the value of the claim has a bearing on whether we or our client want to do it. It is pretty pointless if all the damages go in success fees. That is not what we are here for. At Freeth Cartwright we want our clients to come out of any dispute in a much better position than they were when they came to us.

When the rules changed and success fees and insurance premiums for after the event cover could not longer be claimed from a losing opponent, insurers became more creative too. We can get funding for cases with relatively low values. This means that in exchange of footing our client’s bill as the case goes on and paying the other side’s costs in the event we lose (not likely if we have advised that a client goes ahead) the insurer takes a percentage of the damages. Again, we have to do the maths to see if it is worthwhile for our client.

The debate was well attended and loads of people were clamouring for their say so rather uncharacteristically I kept my trap shut then about the fee arrangements we can offer. So I am putting the score straight now.

And thanks Michael, it was a great debate. I am looking forward to the next one.

Finally, which way did I vote, did I hear you ask? Secret ballot but I may tell you if you call me.

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Best Legal Firm

Our Manchester office was thrilled to win the City of Manchester Business Awards Best Law firm 2014. We picked up our trophy at the Downtown Manchester in Business dinner at Manchester Cathedral on 20 March. First of all, thank you to everyone who voted for us. We would not have won without you.

Ian getting award

This is what we said to convince the Judges, to whom we also offer our thanks.

Why Freeth Cartwright should win

Freethinking. Our brand and what we do.

We are lawyers who do not behave like lawyers. We get to know our clients put ourselves in their shoes and work out what they would want. Then we agree a goal, a price and a strategy and give it to them. We give quick and decisive advice not a range of options.

Big picture

We are 66 in the top 100; a National firm with a commitment to Manchester and the business community.

Taking part in discussions and debates to promote and improve the City

  • Supporting and working in Manchester charities
  • Banging the Manchester drum
  • Looking after Manchester businesses
  • Recruiting local staff.
  • Looking after the local business community from our Manchester base
  • From this office we also serve nationally known organisations
  • Not using legalese
  • Putting money into Manchester by having great team outings.

Ian Alan Paul and Christine

Clients not us

We are all about our clients, their needs and wants. We do not waste time or money. We give clear and decisive advice for a good clean result. The client’s bottom line is the driver.

Clients are particularly impressed by the Firm’s value for money.  One told us how “they are working with us to reduce our legal spend, which I find pretty unique for a law firm”” Chambers UK

Helen and Emma

Being passionate

We care about the result. We are in to win in a deal or a dispute. Our entrepreneurial and commercial approach means that it is the client not the lawyer who is the story.

We fight for the right result for our clients with pragmatism and passion which gets the job done better and earns respect from all sides.

Seriously modern

Our IT is award winning, bespoke, seriously 21st Century and designed to reduce the cost to clients and maximise efficiency and service levels.

Having fun

Law is about more than the job. It is for human beings. People like the people here; as their lawyer, their opponent and their customer. Our job it to support our client to the end of the project while making the passage as easy as possible so they can get on with their day jobs.

And we muck in.

Good place to work

Our attrition is low but our retention is high. People who leave us come back. We have great camaraderie that flows through to our dealings with people outside the firm.

Summat for nowt

Not everything we do is for money. Making introductions and leads for others create opportunities for them to get a platform for what they want to do is second nature. There is nothing it in for us but a great satisfaction if it works.

And it has worked

10 years of growth from a mere 3 to a staff of 40. Every time we take a new lease, we trade up.

Aspirations

 

To double our team and turnover in the next 2 years by adding new departments such as IP/IT and increasing existing ones.

 

Make marketing mileage out of new domains

IP&T Screens“My colleague Simon Barker is a whizz at all
things to do with intellectual property so I am delighted to share this blog
with you.”

So what’s happening?

ICANN, who manage these things, are releasing more than 1,500 new domain name extensions that anybody can apply for. So where as you may have secured your .co.uk or your .com domain name now there will be such things as .shop .clothing .property .food and so on. There’s even a .sexy!!! If you’d like to see a list of the domains to released so far please click here .

Why is this a risk to me?

What you want to avoid is your competitors registering the same word or letters that you currently use in your website address between the www. and one of the new domain endings. They might do this and then use it or register it just to block you from using it. This is a risk for you mainly because Google and other search engines will be using these domain names when returning searches so if you don’t register the new domain names that relate to your sector or block them you will almost certainly lose out!

Can I protect my company?

Yes you can. The secret is to register your name as a trade mark. Using your trade mark you can then register with a special clearing house which has recently been created to help right owners protect their domains. Once registered you can make use of what is called a “sunrise period” where only those people who own the trade mark will be able to reserve the associated name for one of the new domain name extensions. The “sunrise periods” will usually last only around 30 days so if you want to protect your domain names you must act very quickly. Alternatively, some registrars such as Donut are offering a blocking service against third party registration of domains that conflict with trade mark rights.

What should I do next?

You have two ways that you can protect yourself and limit the risk: –

  • Contact us and we can discuss what practical steps you can take – we can’t emphasize enough how important this is.
  • Complete our simple Domain Name questionnaire and we will provide you with a report on the risks and what to do next.

Simon BarkerSimon Barker

Head of Intellectual Property

If you have any queries regarding this post, please do not hesitate to contact Simon at simon.barker@freethcartwright.co.uk

 

What the Frack is that all about

iStock_000027533617Small

There is currently a media storm arising out of coal shale infraction “fracking” which calls for more legislation to control the perceived risks.  What are the real risks and is the process currently uncontrolled or are there sufficient safeguards currently in place?

Who can frack?

The first point to understand is that the Petroleum Act 1988 establishes that all natural gas is vested in the Crown.  In order to extract gas it is necessary to obtain a licence from the Department of Energy and Client Change (“DECC”).  A licence will only be granted if an operator meets the requirements of DECC which requires that an operator is sufficiently experienced, and has sufficient financial resources to meet its obligations in carrying out oil and gas exploration.  The type of licence and length of licence are governed by the Hydrocarbons Licensing Directive Regulations which prescribe a set of model clauses to be used.

Fracking liberty

A second point to appreciate is that although DECC grants licences to prospect for and ultimately exploit the shale gas obtained by fracking it is still necessary for an operator to control a necessary surface interest upon which to place the wellhead.  Any landowner would want to be sure that the operator was a fit and proper person to operate the well the agreement would contain sufficient safe guards to ensure the landowner’s freehold interest was not adversely affected by contaminated.  As with other mineral operations, the fracking operation would be subject to controls issued by the Minerals Planning Authority on the grant of planning permission, the Environment Agency who would ensure that in particular there was no potential contamination of the ground water and the Health and Safety Executive who would ensure minimal potential hazard arising out of the operation.

Various interest groups and the media have made use of images from America which show sites where contamination has taken place and/or there has been pollution of the ground water.  A particularly striking image is the image of gas being ignited from domestic taps.  However, it has to be remembered that in the United States, there is a very different legislative regime, which does not impose the same controls as in English Law and contamination of the watercourse/flaring of gas is in many cases as a result of naturally occurring substances and would have occurred in any event.

Fracking damage

The next point which usually concerns landowners is whether the fracking process will cause damage to surface structures.  A few years ago there was a series of earthquakes in the Fylde area which were said to be as a result of the fracking process.  However a report prepared by eminent geophysicists showed that the tremors felt in that area were as a result of a natural phenomenon and were not as a result of the fracking process.  The government has accepted those findings and has granted licences to explore in those areas.  The experts’ opinions are that surface damage is far less likely to occur from fracking than from other more traditional means of mining.

Fracking marvel?

On the face of it, fracking seems to provide a solution to the country’s short and medium term energy requirements without any additional environmental risks.  Although the generation of energy from the gas obtained by fracking will result in some carbon creation, it is less than more traditional methods of producing energy and in the medium term, the country has no option but to pursue fracking as a means of producing energy if communities wish to enjoy their current standard of living and energy usage.  In the long term there may be other solutions but for the next 25 to 40 years gas produced by fracking would appear to provide one solution for the requirement for new forms of energy.

Paul Calladine H&S smallPaul Calladine

Real Estate Group

If you have any queries regarding this post, please do not hesitate to contact Paul at paul.calladine@freethcartwright.co.uk

Vote for Freeth Cartwright

Downtown in Business has announced its shortlist for The City of Manchester Business Awards 2014. National law firm Freeth Cartwright is delighted to be shortlisted in the Best Legal Firm category but we need your help if we are in with a chance of winning!

Online voting is now open.  Simply go to the Downtown Manchester in Business COMBA voting page, which you can find here.

Voting closes on Friday 21st February at 5pm and the winners will be announced on Thursday 20th March at Manchester Cathedral.

Vote now!

Is it possible to do good work and good business?

Shopping trolly, retail, supermarket, food

I am delighted to post this topical blog by my colleague Robert Nieri.

Corporate social responsibility combined with efficient business practices – can they really go together? Well let’s use the Coop as way to examine this questions.

Unless you’ve been up in space with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney for the last few weeks you’ll know that The Co-op Bank has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Having its ethical character questioned due to the proposed rescue by American hedge funds and now with the hullabaloo over its former Chairman with the possibility that they will be stripped of the right to use the Co-operative name as a result.

In response to the doom-mongers and nay-sayers who may claim that the cooperative spirit is gone forever I say “think again”. For a start the success of the wider Co-operative Group and the cooperative movement around the world is obvious.

Whilst it’s true that hard-headed American businessmen are buying into The Co-op Bank to make money are they really going to be the architects of the destruction of a valuable brand built up over more than 140 years? No very much doubt it.

Take a trip down to the Irwell in the next six months to The People’s History Museum to see the exhibition celebrating 150 of The Co-operative and how “The People’s Business” has historically provided services to support people from the cradle to the grave.

An outdated concept in time of austerity and less government support? Is protecting the environment, consumer rights and fair trade really passé? Hardly.

This has clearly been an annus horribilis for The Cooperative Bank but it will look to get back on track, without the need for a taxpayers’ bailout, in the spirit of self-reliance of the original Rochdale Pioneers.

And looking up at the skyline over Angel Square at the new headquarters of The Co-operative Group, let’s celebrate what is officially the most environmentally friendly building in the world and look forward to the continued redevelopment of the area.

So is it possible to do good work and good business? Of course it has and 150 years of cooperative history stand as testament to that belief.

Maybe even George Clooney is looking down and smiling…

Robert Nieri H&S smallRobert Nieri

Senior Associate

If you have any queries regarding this post please do not hesitate to contact Robert at robert.nieri@freethcartwright.co.uk

Contempt of court via Social Media?

warning signThe attorney general is to publish guidance on Twitter to help prevent social media users from committing a contempt of court by commenting inappropriately on criminal cases. It is designed to make sure fair trials take place.

Anyone commenting about a case or defendant in a way that could prejudice a trial could be prosecuted for contempt and imprisoned.

The guidance which is already available to the media will now be publicised for all. Facebook and Twitter are publications subject to the same laws that in practice used to apply only to the mainstream media. The guidance will warn people about the legal consequences of commenting in a way that could be construed as prejudicial to a court case or anyone involved in that case.

This move has been prompted by a number of recent events. Some twitter users have more following and influence than the largest newspapers, thus resulting in incorrect facts and inappropriate comments being shared with thousands.

Three men used social media to breach a worldwide injunction – the attorney general prosecuted them for using Twitter and Facebook to publish photographs purporting to be of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, murderers of the toddler James Bulger, as grown ups. The injunction prevented publication of any material that could identify the two killers.

Peaches Geldof experienced difficulties when she carelessly tweeted the names of the mothers of the two babies who were abused by rock star Ian Watkins – police are investigating as the tweets identified protected parties.

We live in a world where social media users have no hesitation in airing their views, which can go viral in an instant. Furthermore, there seems to be a public misconception that the web is a place where we can exercise complete freedom of speech free from any civil and criminal law. This is not the case.

There will be hope that this move will ensure cases are tried on the evidence, not what people have found online – and will also bring more openness to the government dealings with the media so that both sides can be accountable to the public for their actions.

The advisories will be published on the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) section of the gov.uk website and also through the AGO’s twitter feed – @AGO-UK.

 

If you have any questions with regards to this article please do not hesitate to contact Christine Oxenburgh on christine.oxenburgh@freethcartwright.co.uk