The fact that Co-op Legal Services chase Probate work in England and Executry work in Scotland is nothing new. What should we call this – coffin chasing? It happened to a friend of mine between the time of his mother’s death and the funeral. He received a phone call from the Co-op (they weren’t specific about which part of the Co-op it was). They asked him if everything they had arranged for the funeral was to his satisfaction. They then went on to offer him their services to wind up and ingather his late mother’s estate. Fortunately, he had already contacted his mother’s lawyer who held her Will. He told the Co-op he didn’t need their services.

Accountants break cover in Scotland

Jump forward 18 months to Autumn 2016. I was speaking at the Society of Solicitors for the Shires of Selkirk and Peebles (SSSP) – a mouthful, I know, but a good bunch none the less. This was when I first heard about accountants doing Executry work. One of my solicitor clients told me he had been approached by his accountant asking him to make an application for Confirmation to an Estate they were winding up. They offered the princely sum of £500 for that. The accountants had already carried out all the pre-Confirmation enquiries.  They said they would deal with the ingathering and distribution of the Estate as well. What they might charge for that service is anyone’s guess.

A few months later I was meeting with a solicitor client in Glasgow and he mentioned he had received a mailshot letter from a firm of accountants offering Confirmation work for £300 a case. A drop of £200 in only a couple of months.

ACCA gains regulatory scheme approval

I heard a few more whispers about this on my travels in the last 12 months or so and then in January I read in Legal Futures that the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) was given permission to regulate their members in the delivery of Probate work. Legal Futures reported that the Legal Services Board who approved the regulatory scheme said ACCA members would make a “positive contribution” to the legal market – and it has 90.000 members in the UK and Ireland. I should also mention that the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales already has approval to regulate its members to deliver Probate services and ACCA members could carry out Probate services by that route.

To become qualified to deliver this service, accountants have to attend a two day course (or four half day webinars) and complete a two hour assessment. 

Then, just a week after I read the Legal Futures article, along comes another one in the very same publication about a multi-discipline alternative business structure – and accountancy practice that merged with a firm of licensed conveyancers and then took over another firm of accountants and, in addition to its residential and commercial property work, is now looking at delivering Wills and Probate work whilst being regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers. You can read that article here.

Be afraid, be very afraid

If I was (still) a practising solicitor carrying out this kind of work I think I’d be worried. I recommend you read some of the quotes in the Legal Futures article – it’s clear accountants believe they will win a lot of this business. You can read the Legal Futures article in full by clicking here.

Accountants are adept at keeping in touch with their clients. They prepare their accounts once a year at least and give tax and business advice. It’s not a hop, skip or jump to recognise clients might well prefer them to deal with the Executry and Probate work.

Will solicitors allow this work to slip through their hands? Quite possibly. If lawyers don’t keep in touch with existing clients and grow client loyalty, the how can the possibly complain when another professional who keeps in touch with the client gets the work?

You can still win this business!

It’s not hard to keep in touch with clients – OK, you’ll need to get your ducks in a row to make sure your communications are compliant with the GDPR – and if you use email, it’s very affordable to keep in touch regularly.  Our email Newsletters for law firms clients know all about that and continue to build loyalty month on month as well as winning new business from their existing clients.

Make no mistake – the accountants are coming – and they’re very good at promoting their  services to clients. Are you happy to accept that? Or are you ready to do something to avoid your clients being tempted to use them?

If you don’t know where to start – ask us. We’d be happy to help. Law firm marketing, especially using email marketing and email newsletters is simple, effective and, most of all, affordable!

To learn more, call us on 07855 838395 or click here to email us.

Author: Brian O’Neill

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