Legal Assistant’s Corner: Be Nice to Your Attorney’s Legal Assistant

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been the brunt of a client’s anger or irritation just to hear that same client interact completely respectfully towards the attorney just one minute later. We understand that you are likely going through one of the most stressful and traumatic periods of your life; however, it doesn’t give you license to treat us poorly during the process.

When we are mistreated, we always inform our attorney about it. More often than not, the attorney will note the poor treatment and insist on solely interacting with you in the future. If you don’t think that’s a “punishment”, then I suggest you study the differences between your attorney’s hourly rate and their legal assistant’s hourly rate. I’ve also witnessed attorneys firing clients over an interaction that was deemed particularly heinous. Assumably, if you didn’t want the attorney to remain your attorney then you’d have fired him rather than the other way around.

Legal assistants have long memories and more power to influence your case than you may give us credit for. A few of the tasks we routinely handle in a client’s case are:

Keeping a case organized and moving along
Providing the client with updates on their case
Drafting many of the pleadings and related correspondence
Filing documents with the court
Disseminating information about the case to those who have a need to know

While the majority of legal assistants won’t allow a negative interaction with a client to seriously affect any future work on their case, it’s fairly common for us to put “difficult” clients’ matters at the bottom of our to-do lists.

The Takeaway: Before you launch into an attack on your attorney’s legal assistant, you should first consider how important the above tasks are to you. Simply put: JUST BE NICE.

© 2/22/2018 Hunt & Associates, P.C. All rights reserved.

How to Ensure Your Winding Up Petition Is Not Dismissed or Withdrawn

Some time ago, we presented a winding up petition to a company that owed one of our clients £50k. Upon receipt, the respondent company threatened to apply for a court injunction to restrain us from proceeding and dismiss the petition on the grounds the debt was disputed.

The respondent company falsely alleged that £49k of the debt was disputed, but in accordance with section 123 of the Insolvency Act 1986, the petition remained in force as the undisputed sum (£1k) was more than £750.

Additionally, they claimed that if successful with the injunction, they would seek another court order forcing our client to pay their legal costs. In this case, the respondent company was unable to provide any evidence of a dispute and eventually paid the debt, and our costs.

However, all too often, the threat of having to pay the other party’s costs forces petitioning creditors to withdraw their petitions, even though the respondent company’s complaints are not genuine.

When issuing winding-up petitions, you tend to find respondent companies are quick to make an application to restrain and dismiss the petition because the only way they can get out of the situation is to demonstrate to the court that there is a dispute.

Once this has been established, a petitioning creditor must withdraw their petition because it is an abuse of the insolvency process to continue while a dispute between the two parties exists.

Even if the creditor finds out about the dispute after a petition has been issued, they must withdraw the petition immediately as respondent companies do not have to prove the dispute has any real merit, only that a genuine dispute exists.

And that’s why in these circumstances, you must be absolutely certain the debt is undisputed because intentionally issuing a winding-up petition for a disputed debt is an abuse of process, and the court will dismiss that petition, and order costs on a full indemnity basis against you.

Challenging your debtor’s application to dismiss your winding up petition

If you are absolutely certain the outstanding debt is undisputed, indulge in some brinkmanship and call the respondent company’s bluff. Tell them: “Fine, go ahead with your application to restrain and dismiss. We’ll see you in court.”

Once you’re successful in challenging their application, two things happen:

You are free to advertise the petition and the respondent company’s bank accounts will be automatically frozen.

The court will order the respondent to pay your costs in defending the application.

Top 5 Solutions for Dealing With HMRC Winding-Up Petitions

I’ve previously written an article explaining how to get winding up petitions dismissed and withdrawn and another, five months later, revealing how HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) was responsible for issuing the vast majority of winding up petitions in Britain.

Sadly, very little has changed over the past three years and today, HMRC issues approximately 80 per cent of the winding up petitions received by the High Court in London – around 800 every month.

HMRC issues approximately 80 per cent of the winding up petitions received by the High Court in London – around 800 every month.

If you are behind on your VAT or PAYE tax returns; HMRC has imposed penalty charges on you; or moved your records from a local office to their collections department, chances are you have probably already been issued with a winding up petition, or soon will be.

In order to consider their options comprehensively, the director(s) must acknowledge the company is insolvent and unable to pay bills as and when they are due.

Nevertheless, a winding up petition from HMRC does not necessarily mean the company will face a compulsory liquidation.

The second article (posted in November 2010), notes how a director who receives a winding up petition from HMRC avoided closing down his business by entering into a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA).

In addition to a CVA, there are several available options:

1) The quickest and simplest solution is to pay the petition in full before the hearing date.

2) The director(s) may attempt to save the company by allowing it to go into liquidation, especially if there is nothing worth saving and the company has no value. They can incorporate a new company and continue trading, usually with the assets from the previous company.

3) Another viable option is a pre-pack administration, whereby the company enters into administration so it can be protected from creditors. Then, all the assets are bought back from the administrator and trade starts again, but without the barrier of having to deal with old creditors.

4) Make representation to HMRC and ask for an adjournment of the first hearing date. Providing they receive a substantial payment, usually 50 per cent of the amount owed, the court should agree.

5) Usually, petitions are preceded by a lengthy period of warnings, reminders and notices of proceedings. If you have not done so already, make representation to HMRC for an adjournment to get more time to pay the bill.