Merry Christmas from all at Mitchells Roberton!

George Square, Glasgow

Christmas comes but once a year. We are all looking forward to Christmas. Some of us will be off work for  a longer break  than others, so we will be running our business with reduced staff numbers over the festive period-lucky folks who are off for a  extended holiday!

Our Christmas Card competition was a great success- Howie Gardiner aged 8 yrs of Scotstoun Primary School won. His classmates all did wonderful drawings for the competition. Well done Howie.

Our reception is decorated with many twinkling lights. Margaret, our receptionist ,has gone mad in Poundland- even Marjorie Cruickshank, our little judge figurine, who lives in reception has a festive bib on.

Christmas Opening hours and contact details.

Our office will close at lunchtime on 24 December and be closed on 25 and 26 December 2013.    The office will re-open for Friday 27 December, Monday 30 December and the morning of Tuesday 31 December.     We will then be closed again on 1 and 2 January re-opening on 3 January 2014.

However our telephones will be taking voice messages on these days. Should you need to contact us please leave a voice mail message on our main switchboard number 0141 552 3422 or email us at info@mitchells-roberton.co.uk .

May we wish you all a very Happy Christmas and all the best for 2014.

 

House Prices in Scotland are Rising

2013 is drawing to a close and it seems certain that house prices in Scotland are rising again as interest from buyers has outstripped the number of properties coming onto the market.

A recent survey by RICS Scotland reported that 52% more chartered surveyors across Scotland are predicting prices to continue their upward trend over the coming months with 78% expecting sales levels to increase assisted in part by the Scottish Government’s Help to Buy Scheme.

Separate figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders also show that the housing and mortgage markets look set to continue to show greater levels of activity in 2014. The body forecast a rise in lending from an estimated £170 billion in 2013 to £195 billion in 2014, increasing to £206 billion in 2015.

There is however some disquiet about the rapid growth in property prices. As Sarah Speirs, director of RICS Scotland, said “The housing market is gathering momentum and buyer numbers are on the rise across Scotland. That said, the number of houses currently up for sale is still nowhere near enough to keep up with demand and, in order for the market to function correctly, this imbalance urgently needs to be addressed.”

She continued to say “with more people returning to the housing market and supply currently limited it is important that the prices do not rise to such an extent that they become unaffordable.” “For the market to work properly it’s vital that property is both accessible and affordable, and we’ll be monitoring the situation very carefully as the housing sector continues to recover.”

Hopefully 2014 will experience continued healthy growth in the housing market.

Book Review – Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

Our Book Club is formally reconvening in the New Year but in the meantime here is a novel I would highly recommend.

Tolstoy in Anna Karenina says “All happy families are alike but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion” and is therefore more interesting.

For ten days in London in the summer of 1976 the tar is melting in the streets, it is the third month of a drought, the temperature has not dropped below 90F and people are becoming a little unhinged. At precisely 6.45 am , Robert Riordan, who has recently retired from the bank, went out just as he has always done for more than 30 years, saying on that particular Thursday morning , “I’ll just go round the corner and get the paper.” Only this time the devoted husband and father of three did not come back.

By teatime Gretta, his wife is panicking. She calls upon her middle child Monica to help, but Monica is too busy with a crisis involving her stepdaughters’ cat. Gretta then calls Michael Francis her eldest, who is in the middle of his own family drama involving two restless children and a wife deeply distracted and immersed in an Open University degree and Gretta cannot phone her youngest Aoife who has run away to New York, because she doesn’t have her number. But soon the three siblings come together to try to figure out what has happened to their father.

What ensues is a richly drawn portrait of a dysfunctional family. Robert Riordan’s disappearance takes place within the first five pages of the novel and the seismic shock waves which this act causes to flow through his next of kin, become the subject matter of the balance of the novel. Tensions are unearthed between Aoife and Monica, Michael Francis and his wife Claire, Monica and her husband, Aoife and Gretta and so on and so forth. Secrets concealed and congealed within the family leak out as the reader becomes drawn in, with O’Farrell slowly and gradually exposing the problems and flaws in each character.

I for one think Gretta is a magnificent creation- garrulous, unthinking, caring, loud, embarrassing , maternal, pathetic, loving, hypocritical, inquisitive- an altogether credible mixture of contradictions. The rest of the family is no less painfully believable and authentically drawn, all having their own secrets. The only son Michael Francis is a history teacher whose marriage is fragile and who has had a secret affair with a fellow teacher. Monica has a difficult marriage to an older man and she seems  as  though she is waiting to be rescued, her neurosis  achingly real. Aoife (my favourite character) is the black sheep of the family, plagued by her own deficiencies, suffering from undiagnosed dyslexia and being functionally illiterate.

O’Farrell does not shy away from complex dynamics and I greatly admire her skill in juggling four separate narrative threads (the disappearance of the father, plus the back stories of the three siblings) without there ever being any confusion. All the hallmarks of a good novel are here, a family with secrets, relatives long since forgotten, a claustrophobic uncomfortable feeling of emotional closeness. For me I find this an accomplished and addictive novel, a powerful, solid book providing the reader with a unique opportunity to inhabit another person’s consciousness for a while, facilitated by the wonderful texture of psychologically realistic fiction. The narrative landscape isn’t flashy, there are no vampires or car chases, the novel’s concerns are internal rather than external and because of this I believe it is a novel well worth seeking out.

Legal Fees FAQ

If you use a lawyer he or she should talk to you about the cost of their services. But you should also understand their charges. As a consumer, you have the right to expect your lawyer to be clear about how much they are likely to charge you, and for the final bill to be comprehensible and be in the range you anticipated. Legal costs can be complicated and the end cost can depend on such things as type of service, individual details of the case, and how events develop. The expertise and experience of the solicitor involved are also instrumental.

To help you, we have prepared answers to some frequently asked questions about charges :

1.       Will I be charged for my initial consultation ?

Finding a lawyer who is right for you and the service you need is very important. Some solicitors do charge for an initial consultation but should tell you this before hand and explain any condition. Here at Mitchells Roberton for new clients to the firm we do not charge for the first 30 minutes of the first consultation.

2.       How do solicitors cost their services ?

This is quite a vexed question as new clients may phone for a quote but are shopping around and get confused when two solicitors provide very different estimates for the same service. Understanding why the quotes may be so divergent can help you make the right decision. One lawyer may be more experienced or an expert in the area of law your case involves .If you have a complex case perhaps you would wish to instruct the expert, as at the end of the day that expert could be able to achieve the desired outcome, meaning you may have to pay less in the long run. However, if the matter is fairly straightforward you may want to choose  the cheaper option. We are always prepared to discuss our costs in detail and explain the level of service you will receive for that fee and from whom.

3.       Can you tell me more about the way you charge ?

Lawyers have different ways of charging and their charging methods may vary with the  service. For example we have a fixed fee for writing a will or making a Power of Attorney. However ,there may be an hourly rate for the administration of the estate of a deceased person. We have a duty to confirm the costs we will be charging in a client care letter which is sent to each new client when they have instructed us.

4.      What is a fixed fee and what does it cover? Will I be charged for any other costs ?

The term “fixed fee” can be used in different ways. It can be easy to assume that it covers all costs for the service you need but it may also refer to only the lawyer’s fee. For example, a fixed fee in a property case may or may not include charges relating to searches , stamp duty  registration dues or VAT.  On every occasion we will tell you what the whole transaction will cost including all outlays so that you are certain there are no hidden costs.

5.       You charge an hourly rate but I would like an estimate for the cost of the whole service. What will my final bill look like? 

If your lawyer charges an hourly rate they should still be able to give you a rough estimate of how much the overall service will be. Sometimes it may be hard to predict but having a range of costs might be helpful. You can ask your lawyer to add a limit to your spend so that he or she has to check with you that you are happy to continue if the spend approaches the agreed threshold. We are always happy to answer any questions and can give an estimate of the likely number of hours we expect the transaction to take and what might cause it to change and how likely this is. 

6.       Could my costs change ? How will you let me know ?

There may be circumstances where costs do change such as where new information or developments make a case or a transaction more difficult .For example, in a divorce case a lot depends on the other party’s co operation to resolve matters quickly and there may be a breakdown of communication further down the line preventing an amicable solution. Even if there is a fixed fee, if a case becomes complicated the fixed fee arrangement may change. We will advise you of this, as and when the fee is likely to vary from what is expected.

7.       When will I receive my bill and how long will I have to pay ?

We will always give you clear information about our billing procedure and offer a        reasonable time for you to make payments which is 28 days from the date of issue of the fee. We are not obliged to offer payment options but may be willing to negotiate in individual circumstances. We would expect all third party outlays to be paid at the time the searches or court dues are going to be incurred.

8.       What happens if I disagree with the amount I have been charged?

Every law firm including our own have a complaints handling system in place. You can ask for the fee to be audited independently by the Auditor of Court or some other independent assessor.

We place great importance on the value of the good service we offer and will happily answer any cost related questions you may have.

Reporting Wildlife Crime Has Been Made Easier by the Introduction of a New App.

Little owl-1305

A mobile phone application has been launched which means people who witness wildlife crime can record and report suspected cases directly to the police via their iPhones.

The app is the brainchild of former wildlife crime education officer Andy Turner who wanted to improve the detection and reporting of wildlife crime throughout Scotland. The app allows users to access basic guidelines on what to do and what not to do at a crime scene and provides an on screen form to record the suspected offence. Users can attach two photographs which are automatically tagged with a GPS reference of the location and the information is then sent to Police Scotland via email.

As Andy Turner has stated “Scotland has a population of 5.3 million people. With more and more of these people now accessing the countryside an excellent opportunity exists to raise awareness of both wildlife crime and legal countryside practices and improve reporting of crime by employing readily available phone technology.”

Wildlife crime threatens a far greater range of creatures and plants than one may imagine, even damaging the environment upon which they depend. In short, it is the illegal destruction and theft of animals, plants and habitats in both the countryside and urban areas. It can involve anything from poisoning a golden eagle to cracking open freshwater pearl mussels.

The app has received the support of Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse as he said “ This reporting app will be an extremely useful tool in the fight against wildlife crime and I would like to thank all those involved in its development.”

“Wildlife crimes can often go unreported. I hope that the app will be used to provide valuable information to wildlife crime officers and help us continue to build a more accurate picture of the extent of wildlife crime in Scotland.”