Umbrella Company: A Simple Guide

Umbrella company document review

No, you do not have to be afraid.

An Umbrella company has nothing in common with Resident Evil’s Umbrella Corporation – although everyone of us feels a little bit like a zombie before the morning coffee.

In short, an Umbrella Company is an opportunity to earn a little more than PAYE, without renouncing to the benefits that PAYE entails such as sick leave, maternity leave and employment protection. An Umbrella Company is also a good solution for those who do not want to operate their own payroll and be faced with the administrative burden of running their own limited company.

How it works?

In it is simplest form, it is trilateral relationships among YouThe Umbrella CompanyThe Client.

You sign an employment contract with the Umbrella Company (you are, in fact, an employee of the Umbrella Company, not of the Client). You then perform the document review for the Client, fill you weekly timesheet with the amount of hours you worked and send it to the Umbrella Company.

The Umbrella Company invoices the Client based on the amount of hours you worked, retains a fee for the service provided to You and the Client and pays your salary. The Umbrella Company is also responsible for deducting and paying your taxes and NIC contributions to HMRC on your behalf.

The Client pays the invoice and doesn’t have to deal with the economical and legal requirements that a salaried employee would entail.

Why is better than PAYE?

The advantage for you is that – subject to certain tests and exceptions– you will be able to claim work-related expenses like food, travel, mileage and accommodation.

You will have to keep a receipt for any expenses you incur as part of your job, uploading (or posting) them to the company’s system and the company will then reimburse you.

The combination of the salary paid by the Umbrella Company plus the reimbursed expenses – and minus the Umbrella’s fees – is normally higher than the standard PAYE salary you would have earned if you had been employed directly by the Client.

Is this is legal?

The answer is Yes. Offering professional services via a third party entity – rather than contracting directly with the client – is allowed in UK.

However, it is important to remember that only certain expenses can be reimbursed and within specific parameters defined by the law. Be mindful of small outfits that boast a very high take home pay promising to reimburse all your expenses, as they may not be fully compliant with the current regulations.

In addition to that, check the amount of the weekly or monthly Umbrella Company’s fee and what level of service and benefits you will be entitled to, as this will have a direct impact on the amount of money you will receive for your document review services.

Document review salaries: How much can you make as a document reviewer?

document review salariesIt is not really easy to estimate the document review salaries as several variables will influence the take home pay.

For instance some of these will include:

  • Your experience and qualifications;
  • The languages you speak;
  • If you’re working through an agency or independently;
  • How you will be taxed (PAYE, Umbrella, Limited as explained here).

As a general rule the rate for an entry level document review job for a qualified lawyer will span from 15 £ to 18 £ per hour.

A very experienced document review lawyer contracting directly with the client for a document review project in a foreign language will be offered an extremely competitive rate, up to 50 £ per hour.

Other details will influence the total take home pay and it’s worth clarifying them before accepting a proposal:

Overtime: always ask if overtime will be available, and if so what the rate will be. Some projects will require you to work 40 hours per week, but sometimes your client will ask you to work over the 40 hours limit, possibly including weekends. Projects with overtime are highly desirable, as it can be paid up to twice the standard hourly rate.

Project duration and possible extensions: needless to say- the longer you work, the more you get paid!

Language requirements: the document review job market is ruled by supply and demand, as any other market. If you can supply a product (your language skills in this instance) that is scarcely available, the market will probably be willing to pay you a premium. We’ve recently seen exceptional rates for Mandarin and German speakers.

Qualifications: document reviewers can be divided in 4 main categories, based on the rates they will be get paid 1. Paralegals (i.e. non- qualified lawyers);  2. Non – EU Foreign qualified lawyers; 3. EU qualified lawyers; 4.Qualified Lawyers in England and Wales (often includes Lawyers qualified in other Common Law jurisdictions such as Australia, New Zealand, US and South Africa).

Notice period: during your assignment you may be offered another project at a better rate or with improved conditions – it’s better to be sure what notice you will have to give before you can join the other project.

Finally remember that the rates are always gross, meaning that depending on your circumstances you will have to deduct taxes and NIN. If you want to know more about taxation, read the full article here.

PAYE, Umbrella Company or Limited Company?

PAYE, Umbrella Company or Limited Company

How do you want to be paid: PAYE, Umbrella Company or Limited Company?

Most of the times you will be asked this question for the first time during the interview process.

If these terms do not ring any bell, it is worth keep reading this article.

Getting paid is always a very important part of the job. How and how much are equally fundamental questions.

In the UK, document reviewers can be potentially paid via the 3 different methods outlined above. The first one is called Paid As You Earn (PAYE).

PAYE is the default system that employers need to follow when paying employees. Like in many other countries, your employer has to deduct income tax and national insurance contributions directly from your salary and pay the tax man (HMRC in the UK) on your behalf.

 

The good thing is that you – employee – do not need to do anything apart form cashing the paycheck. The less good thing is that you could probably earn more doing the same job and asking to be paid via an umbrella company or a limited company instead.

In the second option, in fact, you are not qualified as an employee of the company you are reviewing for, but as an employee of a different company (the Umbrella Company). Your formal employer is the Umbrella Company, who pays you following the PAYE principles and then invoices the client for the number of hours you worked on a specific project.

The difference is that, by working for an Umbrella Company, you will be able to claim, with some variations, travel and food expenses, accommodation and other expenses you incur while working on an assignments. This way you will bring home a higher salary compared to the simple PAYE.

As this is perfectly legal it would be a pity not to take advantage of that.

The third option is setting up a limited company (LTD) and invoice directly the client for the hours you work.

The LTD company is 100% owned by you (you are the only shareholder) and you also are the sole director. Offering your professional services via a LTD company grants you a huge tax cut because dividends are not subject to national insurance contributions. We will analyse in detail the pros and cons of a limited company but it is important to know that you should check with your accountant and with the HMRC if any of your assignments falls within the blanket of IR35. In this case you may be liable to pay taxes as if you were an employee of your client instead of a supplier.

The QLTS – Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme

If you are a foreign qualified lawyer and you are after a legal job in London, the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) is definitely an option you should be considering. The QLTS is the way for international lawyers to qualify as Solicitors of England and Wales.

The QLTS is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), and ensures that a lawyer qualified in another jurisdiction has met the standard of knowledge and skills required of a newly qualified solicitor of England and Wales, through two separate tests, the MCT (i.e. Multiple Choice Test) and the OSCE (i.e. the Objective Structured Clinical Examination).

The tests are administered on the SRA’s behalf by Kaplan QLTS, and are held twice a year in London and in various locations around the world through a partnership with Pearson Vue. Locations include New York, China, Scotland and others in mainland Europe.

The cost of the QLTS can be roughly broken down as follows:

•              MCT = £500 (+Value Added Tax (VAT))
•              OSCE = £2,925 (+VAT)
•              Cost of admission application after passing the tests = £100

TOTAL: 3,500 £.

The MCT must be completed before the OSCE is attempted, but there is no time limit for completion of the full assessment (i.e. once a candidate has completed the MCT there is no time limit to complete the OSCE).

Also, the SRA regulated that there is no limit on the number of attempts.

Intra-UK candidates and foreign lawyers qualified in an EEA country can apply to the SRA for exemptions on one or more of the outcomes tested.

Part 1 – The Multiple Choice Test (MCT)

Kaplan, the test administrator, explains that the Multiple Choice Test (MCT) part of the QLTS consists of 180 multiple choice questions delivered online, divided into two 3hour sessions of 90 questions each with 5 possible answers. That makes 1 question every 2 minutes!

No material is permitted into the exam room and late comers will not be let into the test room.

The first document you need to familiarise with is Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Day One Outcomes, and specifically Part A, that lists the core knowledge and understanding of the Law applied in England and Wales (see Appendix A), namely:

A1- English & European Law; A2-Constitutional Law; A3-Professional ethics and SRA Accounts; A4-Financial Regulation Authority; A5- Law of Contracts; A6-Law of Torts; A7-Criminal Law; A8-Property Law; A9-Equity & Trust; A10-Human Rights; A11-Business Law.

Part 2 – Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)

The OSCE is a practical legal skills assessment that will test Outcomes C, D and F of the SRA’s Day One Outcome (see appendix B). Candidates will be tested in the practice areas of Business, Property and Probate and Civil and Criminal Litigation, and in each practice area they will be tested for the following skills:

Interviewing; Advocacy; Online Legal Research; Legal drafting; Legal writing.

Past results

If you are considering studying for the QLTS you have already realised there is not much information about the test itself. In fact QLTS candidates acknowledge that the content of the assessments is confidential and it can’t be disclosed or discussed with any 3rd party.

 

First of all the exams take place a couple of times per year.

Normally the MCT (the multiple choice part of the exam) is in February, and then in June/July.

The OSCE is usually around June and at the end of November.

Kaplan, the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme administrator, publishes on its website the results of the past exam sessions.

MCT Results

The pass mark is set by the SRA for each session; hence it is not easy to predict the pass mark for the next exam.

The pass mark for the MCT typically ranges around 55%-60%: as the test is made of 180 questions, you’ll normally have to answer correctly to at least 100 questions (55% of 180).

The results of the last 8 sessions of the MCT are shown in the table below:

DATE PASS MARK PASS RATE
January 2012 57% 52%
July 2012 56% 44%
January 2013 60% 59%
June 2013 59% 54%
February 2014 59% 58%
July 2014 56% 51%
February 2015 59% 56%
July 2015 58% 48%
February 2016 58% 59%

 

No marks are deducted for incorrect answers, and multiple answers will not be counted.

For detail on how the pass mark is set and the marking process, please refer to Kaplan Marking and Moderation Policy.

MCT Results are usually published by Kaplan within 4 weeks of the exam date.

OSCE Results

The Pass Mark for the OSCE in the last sessions has constantly been over 60%, with a pass rate ranging from 70% (in November 2015) to 82.5% (in November 2014).

DATEte PASS MARK PASS RATE
June 2014 64% 78%
OSCE Part 1(22 Nov 2014) + Part 2 Dec 2014 63% 78.4%
OSCE Part 1(26 Nov 2014) + Part 2 Dec 2014 64% 82.5%
June 2015 66% 77%
OSCE Part 1 (16-18 Nov 2015) + Part 2 Nov 2015 66% 73%
OSCE Part 1 (22-24 Nov 2015) + Part 2 Nov 2015 68% 70%

Registration & Booking

The Multiple Choice Test is offered through Pearson Vue in a number of locations across the world. To register for the Multiple Choice Test candidates need to submit a registration form to Kaplan. Candidates will then receive an acknowledgment from Kaplan which will contain a candidate number, and subsequently Pearson Vue will contact them within 21 days to begin the registration process.

Registering for the OSCE

Candidates registering for the first time will need to submit a registration form.

All other candidates can complete a booking request.

In any case remember that candidates sitting the QLTS for the first time must register with Kaplan before they can book any of the assessments, using the registration form.

QLTS Preparation

There are essentially two ways of preparing for the QLTS: self-study or via a course provider.

We can’t suggest that one way is better than the other; it really depends on your personal circumstances, needs and skills.

Self-study

This is the cheapest solution. You can find a list of the books you can buy and study on Pass the QLTS.

There are many options available but the Oxford University Press (OUP) Concentrate Books are in my opinion the best choice for the MCT preparation. They cost between 10 and 12 £ and can be ordered easily via Amazon.

Course Providers

The second option is to subscribe to one of the course provided by the specialised schools.

The three main options (according to our friend Google) are listed in the table below together with the average price. When choosing a course, remember to compare the features and not only the price.

SCHOOL NAME COST FEATURES
QLTS School 1,190 £ Textbooks

MCT practice  questions

Mock tests

Course handbook with free updates

Revision notes

Video library

QLTS Advantage

(Partnership with City University London)

720 £ Manuals

Practice questions interactive lectures

Live Q&A

BPP 2,200 £ Lectures

Practice questions

Course slides

Online tutorial

Online mock test

For any other information or suggestion on the QLTS, get in touch or subscribe to our newsletter to receive our updates.

 

Legal Jobs London

Legal jobs london

London is currently the business capital in Europe. While the economy of the Euro area is still sluggish, the UK and – specifically – London have seen an incredible rise in capital inflow and employment rate. This is also true for all legal jobs, although with a few caveats.

Law is traditionally a very conservative area, intrinsically connected to the language and culture of a specific Country. Globalisation and international trade, far from affecting this feature, simply spread the use of Common Law and English language beyond what their original national borders were.

A good working knowledge of both the legal framework and the language is, therefore, a good predictor of your potential success in the English legal industry, but not a fundamental precondition.

The legal market is very dynamic and highly layered, with a range of temporary and permanent positions that range from legal assistant and paralegal to partner. In addition, these traditional roles are supported by a variety of professionals whose existence is rarely known outside of international law firms (e.g. Legal Executive, Litigation Support Lawyer, Legal Project Manager).

Moreover, the sheer number of deals, trials, arbitrations, mergers and acquisitions that take place every day in London, often with an international scope, can make a non-native English speaking lawyer looking more attractive that a 100% born and bread UK solicitor.

The good news is that the legal market in the UK is deeply meritocratic and it is growing at an unprecedented rate. The bad news is that this is not a secret and the competition is fierce, with applicants submitting their CVs from every corner of the world.

A golden rule for climbing the corporate ladder is that it is easier from the inside, instead that from the outside, regardless of your starting point. Many lawyers are qualified and have the relevant experience required but they may not be considered if they are holding a foreign qualification (see article on QLTS) and none of their professional experience has been developed in the UK and/or in a Magic or Silver Circle international law firm.

Luckily, the UK job market allows law firms to hire lawyers as contractors even for a couple of days and they are in great demand where specific skills and languages are required.

In fact, law firms (and corporations) frequently outsource specific aspect of trial or hire directly lawyers to perform an initial review of the documents related to a case. This job is called document review.

What the role of a document reviewer entails is explained in depth here, but for the purpose of this post it is sufficient to know that, in many instances, the amount of documents that a law firm needs to look at is enormous and the deadline is often quite tight. Over time, technological developments and budget constraints pushed law firms to find more efficient and cost-effective options of assessing the relevancy of a document for a specific litigation; one of which is to hire lawyers as contractors with the sole task of running a preliminary screening of the material on an electronic review platform. The filtered results are then passed on to the team of associates actually working on the case, in preparation for the witness interviews or for the trial bundles.

Document review is currently in great demand and with above average salary rates (ranging from £ 18/hour for paralegal roles to £45/hour for highly sensitive review in foreign languages). It represents an excellent professional experience and a fantastic stepping stone in the UK legal industry. It also perfectly fits those who are looking for a flexible life-style, without renouncing to the benefits that a law firm salary generally brings.

If you are interested in knowing more about document review and if you want to have access to our current job opportunities in Europe, fill in the form below and get in touch with us.