The Firm’s Approach to Equality & Diversity

This firm is an equal opportunities employer and is committed to ensuring our workplaces are free from unlawful discrimination related to protected characteristics.  These are race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), sex, marriage and civil partnership, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity and paternity, sexual orientation, religion and belief, age and disability.

We will not treat anyone less favourably for a reason relating to their part time or fixed term status unless this can be objectively justified.  The firm will also take all reasonably practical steps to ensure that disabled people (including staff and clients) are able to participate in it’s business activities on an equal basis with people who are not disabled.

All personnel must be aware of the firm’s policy in relation to discrimination, equality and diversity. The policy deals with all professional dealings by personnel with clients, other Solicitors, Barristers and third parties, and so covers :-

  • accepting instructions from clients;
  • using experts and counsel;
  • the provision of services to clients;
  • dealings with those representing others;
  • interaction with everyone involved in or incidental to the provision of services by the firm;
  • dealing with third parties, suppliers and contractors.

The policy also extends to the recruitment, training and promotion of people within the practice. In connection with both aspects, it is the case that all personnel must comply not only with the professional requirements of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, but also with the law of England and Wales.

In the Bedford office disabled access is available through the main door on Harpur Street. There are two interview rooms available for clients with mobility problems.

We will endeavour to meet all client’s requirements and would take any reasonable and practicable steps possible to provide them with access to legal services taking into account their disability.

Also home visits are available to those clients who require them.

In the Ampthill office, access to the office is more difficult, but home visits are always available to those clients who require them.

Sharman Law LLP is therefore committed to avoiding discrimination in its dealings with clients, Partners, employees and all other third parties that have dealings with the firm. It is committed to promoting diversity in its professional activities.

Appointment of Nominated Officers:-

Equality & Diversity Partner: Philip Elliott

Forms of discrimination:-

The following areas of discrimination are collectively referred to as ‘the above grounds’ in the rest of this policy.

  • race or racial group (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins);
  • sex (including marital status, gender reassignment, pregnancy, maternity and paternity);
  • sexual orientation (including civil partnership/marital status);
  • religion or belief;
  • age;
  • physical or mental impairment

The types of action that are against the firm’s policy are :-

  • Direct discrimination, where a person is, without lawful cause, less favourably treated on any of the above grounds.
  • Discrimination by association – ie where a person is without lawful excuse, less favourably treated because they associate with people with those characteristics (above)
  • Discrimination by perception – ie where someone is thought to have one of the characteristics referred to above, even if they do not, and are treated less favourably as a result.
  • Indirect discrimination, where a requirement or condition that cannot be justified is applied equally to all groups but has a disproportionately adverse effect on members of one particular group by reason of any of the above grounds.
  • Victimisation, where someone is treated less favourably than others because he or she has taken action against the firm for unlawful discrimination on one or more of the above.
  • Harassment, which occurs when unwanted conduct on one of the above grounds has the purpose or effect of violating another person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.

Everyone at the firm is expected and required to treat all others equally and with the same attention, courtesy and respect regardless of the above grounds.

In addition, the firm will ensure that nobody with whom it has dealings will suffer any substantial disadvantage through any disability that they might have. The firm is committed to making reasonable adjustments for those with a disability in relation to job opportunities, promotion and training within the firm and the provision of services to clients and not to pass on those costs to the disabled individual.

Recruitment, training, promotion and partnership opportunities:-

The firm is committed to providing equal opportunities in employment. This means that all job applicants, employees and Partners will receive equal treatment in relation to the above grounds. It makes good business sense for the firm to ensure that its most important resource – its staff – is used in a fair and effective way.

The firm will also comply with the law and the professional requirements in relation to its Partners and prospective Partners. Thus, where appropriate, the existing Partners will not discriminate on any of the above grounds in the arrangements they make for the purpose of determining to whom they should offer a membership of Sharman Law LLP, the terms on which such membership offered, or by refusing to offer, or deliberately not offering membership to anyone. Nor shall the Partners discriminate in any way in relation to the provision of benefits to any Partner, or in relation to any matter relating to the expulsion of any Partner or any detriment to be suffered by him/her. This policy will be made available to any candidate to be interviewed upon request and the fact that the firm has the policy will be indicated at the point when interviews are set up.

The firm will take steps to ensure that applications are attracted from people without regard to the above grounds and will ensure that there are equal opportunities in all stages of the recruitment process.

The firm will arrange training if and when appropriate. This policy forms part of the firm’s induction training programme.

Planning:-

For its part, the management of the firm has considered all aspects of its operations to ensure compliance with the professional rules. Any development of the firm’s strategic and business planning, or changes in this manual, will similarly be examined in order to ensure that no inadvertent breach of the firm’s policy occurs.

Clients:-

The firm is generally free to decide whether to accept instructions from any particular client, but any refusal to act must not be based on any of the above grounds and care must also be taken to avoid there being any perception that they apply. The file review forms will include reference to diversity and equality.

Barristers and other experts:-

Barristers and experts should be instructed on the basis of their skills, experience and ability. The firm will not discriminate in the instruction of Barristers and/or experts on any of the above grounds.

A client’s request for a named Barrister or expert should be complied with, subject to the firm’s duty to discuss with the client the suitability of the Barrister or expert and to advise appropriately. The firm has a duty to discuss with the client any instruction by the client as to choice of Barrister or expert that is based on any of the above grounds. The firm will endeavour to persuade the client to modify instructions that appear to be given on discriminatory grounds. Should the client refuse to modify such instructions, the firm will cease to act unless the preference can be justified under the permitted statutory exceptions referred to as ‘genuine occupational requirements’ or ‘genuine occupational qualifications’.

Positive Action:-

Although it is unlawful to discriminate in favour of certain groups on the grounds of race or sex, positive action to enable greater representation of under-represented groups is permitted by law and the appropriateness of such action will be kept under review.

In 2017 the  partners and staff of the firm were again pleased to participate in the equality and diversity survey produced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the statistics in relation to this are shown below:-

SRA Diversity 2017 – Sharman Law LLP

Read More...

On the 26th September 2014, Bedford Hospital launched their Challenge Cancer fundraising campaign. Thanks to generous sponsors and donations, we were able to raise a total of £2631.25 towards the campaign through our climbing expedition to Snowdonia last year. On the 10th of June 2016, we tweeted a picture featuring staff and Partners of Sharman Law handing the cheque over to Gordon Beeden, the Vice Chair of Bedford Hospital.

Now that the Challenge Cancer campaign has been successfully completed, two of our Partners (Mel Lawrence and Philip Elliott) were invited to a reception held by Bedford Hospital on the 18th of January 2017. There, it was announced that the target of £750,000 had been met and we are delighted to have been able to help in that sum being raised.

Two-thirds of the money raised has been spent on improving services at the Primrose Unit of Bedford Hospital and the remainder of the monies has been spent on purchasing new specialist equipment. Mel and Philip were delighted to be invited to the reception and to see how well the funds were being spent. We would like to congratulate Bedford Hospital on their successful campaign and thank everyone who sponsored us to enable us to help this worthy cause.

To read more about Bedford Hospital and the Challenge Cancer campaign, visit their website at: http://www.bedfordhospitalcharity.org.uk/cchallenge

Read More...

Once again, it is that time of year, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

 

During Christmas Jumper Day 2016, Staff and Partners of Sharman Law displayed their festive spirit by wearing their Christmas jumpers in aid of Save the Children. The photo above shows the variety of jumpers on display! The money raised will be donated to Save the Children helping them bring essentials such as healthcare, education, protection and food to the millions of children around the world who are unfortunately missing out on the most basic support.

 

To read more about Save the Children and the great work that they do; please click HERE

Read More...

The next Letting Forum will take place on Wednesday, 12th October 2016 in Bedford.

 

We will be focusing our discussions on council tax and, in particular, the position following the case of Leeds City Council v Broadley.  Council tax is not something which we have considered in any of our previous forums, so I hope that this will be of interest to you.

In addition, we will have a reminder of the Section 21 Notice procedure bearing in mind that the new regulations have now been in effect for 12 months, and I hope that this will give you an opportunity to share any experiences (good or bad) that you have had over the last year.

As usual, we ask you to meet at our offices at 12.30pm.  Light refreshments will be served, and we will aim to start the presentation around 1.00pm.  We are always happy to field questions and hope to finish about 2.00pm.

I hope that you will be able to come along.  If you can attend please let me or my secretary Ann McFarlane know.  Ann’s email is ku.oc.walnamrahsnull@enalrafcm.nna

With my best wishes.

Simon Parrott

ku.oc.walnamrahsnull@ttorrap.nomis

 

Read More...

Parental Alienation

 

Parental alienation is when the psychological influence of a parent on a child leads to the child developing negative opinions towards the other parent. This occurs mostly in intractable contact disputes (where one party is denied contact to the child). Parental alienation can develop as a natural result of the situation the child is placed in or, more sinisterly, can be purposefully instigated by the resident parent. Due to this, many see parental alienation as a form of psychological child abuse.

The courts are beginning to recognise parental alienation as a phenomenon though identifying when it is occurring in a certain case can be difficult for the courts. In routine Children Act cases, the courts normally make use of an officer from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) or independent social workers to provide recommendations on the appropriate steps to take regarding a child. This is not sufficient when a case involves parental alienation. In these cases, noticing the elements of parental alienation should mean that the appropriate skilled practitioners (such as psychologists, psychiatrists or psychotherapists) are instructed to prepare assessments though the Court will need to be satisfied that such an assessment is required.

We here at Sharman Law keep elements such as parental alienation in mind when dealing with these sensitive cases to make sure that this is considered where appropriate. If you have any questions regarding parental alienation or have any other issues concerning Family Law, please contact:

Philip Elliott on ku.oc.walnamrahsnull@ttoille.pilihp or
Jonathan Copper on ku.oc.walnamrahsnull@reppoc.nahtanoj or
Janet Brown on ku.oc.walnamrahsnull@nworb.tenaj
Or call us on 01234 30 30 30

Read More...

Cybercrime

 

Cybercrime is a growing threat to businesses and individuals. This means that everyone needs to be on high alert. There has been an increase in the number of high end criminal activity where fraudsters use sophisticated cyber-attacks such as malware-facilitated fraud in order to obtain large sums of money and other assets. This kind of criminal activity is highly profitable.

In response to this, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have recently included cybercrime among their list of illegal activities for their annual crime survey. The ONS estimates that there were around 2.5 million incidents involving cybercrime of which over 2 million people were affected during the last year. Due to the scale and increased growth of cybercrime, businesses are being challenged to find more effective ways to fight this new threat.

For businesses, perfect security is almost impossible. The technical challenges evolve at a very fast rate ensuring that solutions which may be effective today may be vulnerable to a cyber-attack from a skilled group of cyber criminals in the near future.

We here at Sharman Law, take cybercrime very seriously and we do our best to ensure that our digital security is not compromised. To achieve this, our firm employs the use of rigid systems for transfers of money as well as using robust security systems and top of the line databases to make sure that information is not leaked. Clients of Sharman Law can rest assured that we do everything in our power to keep their personal details beyond the reach of cyber-criminals.

Read More...

Aiming for a win-win separation

 

With court documents detailing lavish lifestyles and counter-accusations of drug taking and abuse, the proceedings look set to secure many more headlines as they unfold.

By contrast, BBC2’s TV latest series, Mr & Mrs : Call the Mediator, shows a different side to divorce, with negotiated outcomes, as couples are helped through the separation of their finances and childcare arrangements outside the courts.

Every relationship breakdown is painful, especially when children are involved, but with all of us living ever more public lives, played out on social media, what may have a significant impact on the process is the way that couples conduct themselves through their Twitter thoughts or Instagram images.

Here, family law expert Philip Elliott of Sharman Law Solicitors explains some of the ways that separating couples can make the journey to divorce less painful.

Mediation:

The Depp/Heard divorce started with a war of words and flying accusations. It would be hard not to know what was going on between the couple, with their pictures splashed across front pages in both the print and online media.
As I write, the headlines are focused on another ‘divorce’: that of the UK’s split with Europe, and emotions are running high, as with the break-up of any long term relationship.

It’s a thorny issue, but it’s fair to assume that the majority, whatever their voting preference, will be hoping that any withdrawal by the UK from the EU will be approached in a positive spirit, to achieve the best possible negotiated outcome.
It’s an attitude that can make the difference for couples and their families too. The Children and Families Act 2014 says that before a separating couple can ask a court to sort things out for them, they must consider using mediation.

The BBC2 series Mr & Mrs shows that it’s not plain sailing, even with experienced and impartial mediation, but it gives a good idea of how it all works. Many people reject mediation if they are concerned about having to face their ex; perhaps they fear they’ll be intimidated, but it’s a flexible process and you don’t have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable.

The big difference between going to court and mediation is that a judge has much wider discretion and does not have to come up with a solution where both sides are happy. Mediation can give more control over the outcome as each side can keep on negotiating, until an agreeable compromise is reached.

Social media:

The privacy risks around social media should be obvious: one has only to look at the chatter around recent celebrity injunctions. But for some people, translating that into their own day-to-day lives does not seem to be so obvious. It may be hard to maintain privacy in this always-on, digital world, but re-thinking how you use social media when you’re going through a break-up should be a priority – not just for your own peace of mind, as where children are involved, it’s even more important.

Just type “divorce and social media” into a search engine and you’ll find millions of results, covering everything from advice to academic research. The use of social media is even given as the reason that people separate, whether because of discovery of illicit affairs or because of postings made by a partner.

There are all sorts of simple things you can do to avoid becoming drawn into damaging dialogues with your ex or upsetting each other by showing what is happening in the new life you are each living.

First, it’s a good idea to break all links and connections with your ex on each site you use. Check your settings to be sure that your profile is set to private and that you can’t be tagged by friends in newly posted pictures so you’re not sharing with your ex. You may be drawn to see what is happening with your former partner, and they with you, but it’s unlikely to help the process of moving on.

And think carefully before you post, so you avoid posting anything in anger or to try and score against your ex. Remember that once it’s out there, it’s in the public domain and can be seen by family, children, and even by a judge, if things come to court. It’s sometimes easy to imagine you are just ‘talking’ to close friends and followers when you post, but these are public platforms with a world-wide audience.

Across borders:

In the EU referendum aftermath, those in a relationship where one is a national of another EU country, may be wondering what is going to happen in future if their marriage suffers a break-down. But for now, there’s no change, while the UK remains a member of the EU. It’s likely there will be changes ahead, but those will be revealed as we progress through the lengthy negotiations that will be required.

For now, let’s focus on how sparring can be turned into conciliation and positive outcomes.

Read More...

Handover photo cropped

Thank you to everyone who supported us during our recent Challenge, today we had the pleasure of handing the cheque over to Gordon Beeden, the Vice Chair of Bedford Hospitals Charity.

Read More...

LawNet Quality Standard and ISO 9001 Certification

We are delighted to have been granted the above certification. ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems is the world’s leading Quality Management Standard. The LawNet Quality Standard is the bespoke ISO 9001 Standard written specifically for law firms.

By achieving this Standard we have been able to demonstrate to our assessor good management practice across the firm to include the management of risk and performance measurement. We are pleased that it will be our clients who will be the true beneficiaries of us achieving this accreditation which undoubtedly provides us with a competitive edge

Read More...

LawNet Challenge – An Updatecantilever

WE DID IT!

They told us it was a challenge – and they certainly weren’t wrong! We set off bright eyed and bushy tailed at 7.30 on the morning of Saturday 14th May (none of us really had a clue what lay ahead) and didn’t arrive back until after 6pm, by which time it’s fair to say we were all ready for our evening meal and free drink!.

On the way we climbed the equivalent of over 400 flights of stairs, walked (mostly vertically it felt) over 14 miles and literally clambered our way up and over some of the most breath-taking scenery Wales has to offer. We were blessed by the weather and so thankfully didn’t need any of our wet weather gear. Perhaps the highlight for all of us was when we clambered on to the famous cantilevered stone high up in the mountains, which just balances on it’s own weight. Whilst we got up there, we weren’t brave enough, like some others, to jump on it to feel it move though we have the photo to prove we got there!!

We are so grateful to everyone who supported us and are thrilled to have raised over £2,500.00 for Bedford Hospitals Challenge Cancer Campaign.

Read More...