in plain English
- Why do simple business deals get complicated as soon as lawyers get involved?
- Plain English Law keeps it simple with a ‘business first, legals second’ approach.
- Our firm is based in Dundee, Scotland. We understand the needs of local companies and we’re proud to be a part of helping them succeed.
- Our flexible billing model works for you – use our services as little or as often as you need.
Plain English Law are your local experts for business law and GDPR compliance in Scotland.
Commercial contracts & negotiations
Most business deals have 5 basic parts:
- You do this.
- I'll do that.
- This is the price.
- This is the schedule.
- Here's what we do if something goes wrong.
The contract? It's just a business deal written down, so keep it simple.
Doing your commercial contracts and negotiations in plain English instead of confusing legalese builds trust, builds your brand, and saves your customers and contractors a lot of aggravation.
Buying or selling a new business
Whether you're buying a company, or buying a business to move it into another company, we can help with negotiating detailed terms, contract drafting, due diligence, completion and payment.
Starting a new business
Get ready to start trading with customer-centred terms of business, privacy notices, and legally compliant direct-marketing processes.
We can help with company formation, articles of association, shareholder agreements, joint venture agreements, employment contracts, data protection, and anti-spam compliance.
We advise employers on a wide range of issues, from plain-language employment contracts and hiring processes, to disability and the right to use medical cannabis in the workplace.
Joint venture & shareholder agreements
In business with family and friends? Avoid headaches down the road with a comprehensive agreement covering the key issues, such as:
- how you'll manage the business together
- the roles you play
- how much each of you gets paid
- how and when you can sell shares
- what happens if a shareholder dies
What's got you excited today? Corporate governance and drafting board minutes? We didn't think so.
Your company is required to keep basic records up to date and we can take that off your hands. Writing in plain English can avoid unnecessary shareholder conflicts, and gives confidence to lenders, auditors and tax inspectors.
What our clients have to say:
“Getting all our contracts consolidated, cleaned up, and *without legalese* has been an amazing experience.
Thank you, Trevor Fenton and Plain English Law.”
Justin Megawarne, Managing Partner - Megaslice LLP
“Trevor offered expert knowledge and an ability to talk in plain language, which I really appreciated. I worked with him to write a contract for my mental health business, and he helped me to balance both the legal and ethical sides. I was specifically looking for expertise on how to scale my business internationally and Trevor was able to advise and offer peace of mind for how I could do this in an online world. I now feel like I can focus on what I do best, while knowing that the contractual side is solid.”
Lee McKay Doe, Psychotherapist - Therapy With Lee
“If anyone is looking for a lawyer who is easy to work with, really understands a business commercially, challenges legalese conventions and can write legal contracts and terms in plain English, I would highly recommend Trevor Fenton at Plain English Law. I founded a new e-commerce business that will trade internationally with what is quite a complex business model, and Trevor was invaluable during the set-up process. He not only produced legal contracts and terms that everyone who reads them understands (and as a result I have very few if any queries), he also helped shape the business structure and how we developed relationships with vendors and suppliers. Trevor made a big difference in getting my business to where it is now.”
Graeme Kerr, CEO & Co-Founder - Scotsoftheworld.com
Book your free 30-minute consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions
I thought legalese was just how lawyers talk. Don't legal documents have to be written this way too?
Think about the purpose of any legal document. It will explain which things you are:
allowed to do;
forbidden to do; or
Question: Who reads your contracts the most? Who is most likely to use your contracts to figure out who is allowed to do what?
Answer: You and your customers, suppliers, business partners, and staff.
If your documents aren’t written for you and your people to use, what use are they to you?
Some lawyers say contracts should be written “for the judge”. We agree, but we’d add two things:
A judge will probably never read your contract, but you definitely will, so it should be written in a way that’s useful to you and your business.
If you and your customers can understand the contract, a judge will be able to understand it too.
Are contracts written in plain English as good? Will they stand up in court?
Yes to both.
Even better, plain language contracts might keep you OUT of court in the first place. If you have a clear and understandable contract, you are less likely to need a judge to help you sort out a dispute.
What happens if you end up in court anyway?
The judge’s most important job is to figure out what everyone agreed. Writing the contract in elaborate and flowery language makes this job a lot harder, and it actually doesn’t impress anybody, not even the judge.
What does your ‘business first, legals second’ approach really mean?
It means we don’t start with the contract. We start with your business deal instead.
Focus on the five things that make up practically any business deal:
You do this.
I’ll do that.
Here’s the price.
Here’s the schedule.
This is what we’ll do if something goes wrong.
If we get those right, then the contract almost writes itself.
Does a plain English contract cost more?
Sometimes yes. As someone famously wrote (we’re not sure who): “I’m sorry for writing such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.”
Writing plain and concise contracts is an investment. However, it can save you money in the end. How?
Imagine everyone who gets the contract can understand it easily. This usually leads to:
fewer customer questions
a better customer experience
less staff time wasted on explaining the legal fine print
fewer disputes with customers, suppliers, and business partners because it’s clearer to everyone what they agreed.
Do you only serve businesses in Scotland?
Not at all.
Our founding lawyer, Trevor Fenton, is qualified in Scotland, England & Wales, and British Columbia (Canada).
While our home base is the Scottish Riviera (Dundee), we have clients all over the world including the UK, Canada, USA, Kenya, Mauritius, Hong Kong, and Australia.
What kinds of businesses do you work with?
As specialists in commercial law and GDPR compliance, we get to work with pretty much any type of business. If you’re making a product or providing a service, we can help.
We’ve served clients in a variety of sectors including:
Learning & development
Apps and software development
Leisure and hospitality
Maintenance and facilities management
Keep scrolling to read some of the clients testimonials we've received.
Can't I just download a contract template and do it myself?
You definitely can. However, the templates you’ll find online tend to be too long, overly general, crammed with unnecessary legal jargon, and tilted heavily in favour of one party or another.
A good contract template:
reflects your business model and relationships
is fair and balanced – there’s nothing clever about looking like you’re trying to pull a fast one
deals with risks that are relevant and leaves out the ones that aren’t
is likely to be accepted with few or no changes
No one reads ‘terms & conditions’ – why invest the time and energy to write them in plain English?
We can think of a few reasons.
Some people do read them: Others will at least try. Better to leave them with a good impression.
Explain what you sell: You need to do this anyway. Well-written T&Cs simply take your sales pitch and add some further detail about how the transaction and relationship will work. The more accessible you make the T&Cs, the less likely you’ll have an unhappy customer later.
Plain language builds trust: If the other party understands what they read, you become more trustworthy. If they get T&Cs full of bafflegab, they may wonder what you (or your lawyers) are trying to hide in there.
Protect your brand: You’ve got a happy customer, excited to buy. Why kill the buzz and harm your brand with impenetrable legalese?
Market differentiator: Most T&Cs are written in an aggressive, overly formal style with unfair and complex rules. Imagine a customer’s delight when you give them understandable, fair, balanced, customer-centred terms.
I use an online website builder. Is their “GDPR compliant” cookie banner really compliant?
Maybe, but probably not if you are trying to comply with UK or EU privacy laws.
Cookies, tags, and other tracking technologies are central to most online marketing efforts. Without them it can be very difficult to understand how your website is performing.
The downside is that many of these technologies track people across many websites, often without their knowledge. They are invasive technologies, and you are generally required to get a user’s consent before you use them.
Most cookie banner templates claim to be GDPR-compliant. In our experience, the vast majority are clearly not compliant.
Cookie laws generally require the website owner to get consent before placing cookies on a user’s device. The trick is in how you define consent, and then how you get it.
In Europe, cookie consent rules are particularly strict:
You must get consent before placing cookies.
Consent must be fully informed.
Implied consent does not count.
You can’t pre-tick a consent box for the user – they must tick the box or click the button themselves.
Nudge techniques are forbidden. You can’t trick people, even a little bit, toward accepting the cookies.
Implementing the banner correctly
If you do manage to find a GDPR-friendly template, you still need to implement it correctly in your website’s code. In our experience, most websites get this wrong.
Most websites display a cookie banner but have already set the cookies before the user has given consent. This happens on even the most sophisticated companies’ websites.
Setting cookies before you get a response is arguably worse than having no cookie banner at all. Think about it – your site could be pretending to ask for consent but then sets the cookies no matter what the user does. This gives the illusion of choice, and that can cause complaints about deceptive practices.
To implement a cookie banner correctly, your website’s code must block the cookies from being set until the user actively consents. Often that means putting the cookie-setting code within the snippet of code that displays the banner and waits for the user’s response.
If the cookie banner complies with Canadian law, is it also GDPR compliant?
Probably not. Canadian law sets a surprisingly low standard for cookie compliance. It would be hard to imagine an approach that is any less GDPR-compatible.
CASL requires consent – only it doesn’t
Cookies are governed by Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation, or CASL. At first glance, the law requires ‘express consent’ to install cookies on a user’s device.
That sounds a lot like the GDPR standard. However, it’s nothing of the sort.
Express versus implied consent
Though CASL says it requires express consent for cookies, don’t believe it. Section 10(8) says a user is deemed to give express consent if their behaviour makes it reasonable to believe they consented. That’s the same thing as saying implied consent counts as express consent.
This is baffling. Express and implied consent are totally different. In Canadian law, the whole point of requiring ‘express’ consent is normally to stop you relying on implied consent. The same is true of UK and EU law.
CASL makes them interchangeable.
The CRTC’s guidance on cookies makes things worse. It gives just two examples of where you can’t rely on this bizarre implied-express consent for installing software on a user’s device:
The implication seems clear: a user is deemed to give ‘express consent’ to accept your cookies even if they’ve never heard of cookies, don’t know what they do, and have no idea you could disable them in your browser settings.
In short, the Canadian law on cookies appears to be: “go for it!”