Neil Warwick: Lawyers can help even if you're not in trouble

A good relationship with a lawyer can help in most circumstances, not just when businesses have problems, says Neil Warwick

Mark Savage Photography Neil Warwick
Neil Warwick

The summer, in theory, is a quiet time for the legal profession. Parliament has been officially closed by Black Rod so no new UK legislation.

The Courts will have their summer recess and very little happens in Brussels or Strasbourg in August. As such it is a good time for lawyers to go on holiday. However, given the massive hike in holiday prices during school holidays it is also potentially a good time to catch lawyers who have had early holidays and are rested and under-utilised.

To many the law is a distress purchase, something you only reluctantly engage with when there is a problem. However it is possible to engage with the law to prevent a problem happening.

The concept of legal audits and legal health checks has been growing for the past decade. The idea is that lawyers can check everything from your terms and conditions, to your IP and Banking arrangements and also make sure you have the right compliance systems and policies in place.

There is an old adage that no one particularly likes paying to have their standard terms and conditions reviewed on the basis that this is a waste of money.

However, thinking logically for most trading businesses standard terms and conditions are the most important document the business will ever need.

A huge proportion of the turnover of a trading business should be covered by the standard terms and conditions provided the business has gone to the trouble of having them properly incorporated. As such it is a document that should be reviewed regularly to ensure it is still relevant to the way in which the company does business.

Significant amounts of businesses now must bid for work through public procurements. Increasingly the ITTS or the RFQs or the PQQ (or whatever TLA is being used at the time) require evidence of policies from Health and Safety policies, environmental policies, anti-bribery policies to HR policies and much more.

Frequently these policies are things a business drafted years ago or worse still simply took off the internet.

As we entered a new round of structural funding from Europe with new rules around State aid exemptions, there is an increased likelihood that these policies will actually be scrutinised during tenders and will no longer be a tick-box exercise.

Given how much can be at stake during a tender process it is worth investing some time in making sure that these policies are up to date and actually reflect how the business runs its internal processes.

The only thing worse than not having a policy is being found out to have a policy that is false and does not reflect how you do business.

In theory therefore it should be possible to find a lawyer during the summer who has the time and energy to carry out a quick legal health check and make sure your business is ready for what will likely to be a busy autumn.

Neil Warwick is a partner in EU and Competition Law with Bond Dickinson

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