Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Inside Business: Legal advice at the click of a mouse

THE GOVERNMENT'S Fairness at Work proposals, published last week, are the latest in a long line of regulations that can have a disproportionate effect on small businesses, writes Roger Trapp.

The big issue for small firms is knowing what the rules entail. Since ignorance of the law is rarely a defence, owner-managers can feel overwhelmed by regulations stemming from both Whitehall and Brussels.

Complete Business Solutions claims to have an answer to at least some of these difficulties. It has launched a software package that, at the click of a mouse, enables small business owners to discover how they can remain within the law when disciplining somebody or defend themselves in a contractual dispute.

The "legal advisor" package is just one of five modules offered by Complete at a cost of pounds 99 each. The others are business letters, contracts and agreements, a health and safety adviser, and a general company handbook.

Richard Wall, the managing director who co-founded the company in Dublin two years ago, sees the whole package as "a framework for managing your business". A former accountant with Arthur Andersen, he points to "a great lack of understanding" among small firms of how to go about business. Many "go out of whack" through not being aware of such things as the variations between different sorts of contract.

The legal package is written by practising lawyers and the other modules are produced by similarly qualified professionals. All are updated biannually or when there are changes to statute.

Although he is talking with accounting firms about promoting the product to clients, Mr Wall does not see small firms as the only market. Complete has already attracted interest from people in govern- ment departments, as well as managers running parts of large companies who do not want to refer all their legal or technical queries to a central office.