Here’s your Pizza – would you like a “free” “Will?
I know this is just a little bit flippant, but it seems to me that everyone wants a slice of the Scottish Private Client market.
Free Will with a Funeral Plan
In recent weeks I’ve heard from one of my solicitor clients that a funeral firm called him to offer him a funeral plan – and if he met with their consultant, they’d throw in a free Will. OK, so it’s not a pizza, but you get my drift! Later that week, I passed a branch of the very same funeral company and saw that they were advertising Funeral Plans alongside Wills and Estates on their shop front!
Bank executive calls for simplification of the C1 Form
Then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I heard about a former bank executive complaining that the C1 form was too complicated. He said it caused him problems when he was helping people to wind up the estates of their loved ones. There’s a reason why the C1 is structured the way it is – and, perhaps, those who find it too complicated shouldn’t try to complete it, especially when they’re not qualified!
The accountants are coming
Some time ago I wrote about the threat to solicitors’ Private Client business from Accountants in my article “The Accountants are Coming” (you can read that by clicking here). They, too, believe there’s value to be had from executry work. No, they can’t present the Petition for the appointment of executor dative in an intestate estate. They can’t submit the Inventory to obtain Confirmation – they use their local “tame” solicitor to do that. But they can do everything else, including taking the fee for winding up and ingathering the estate. Oh, and did I say that there’s nothing preventing them from offering a free Will?
Co-op legal services appoint McClures
Then there’s the Co-op legal services. They can’t deliver their legal services in Scotland so they’ve appointed a firm of Glasgow solicitors to deal with this for them. McClures, the firm appointed, offer free Wills as well as discounted Powers of Attorney and are also one of the main proponents in Scotland for Family Protection Trusts. With their link-up with the Co-op they stand to gain a huge amount of new business through referrals from the Co-op and Co-op Funeral Services.
Andrew Robertson, the senior partner, in an article in The Herald, reckoned they’d be referred around 500 executry cases a month during the milder months in the year and 1,000 cases a month during the winter. If you’re a solicitor reading this, how many of these are likely to be your clients?
Co-op Funeral Services do a very nice line in telesales when they’re arranging a funeral – the organiser will receive a call offering their “probate” service! This now gives McClures a massive sales force covering the length and breadth of Scotland!
The sound of silence!
And the response from the legal profession in Scotland to these large-scale incursions into their heartlands? Nothing! Nada! Not a whisper from their professional organisation or any co-ordinated response from solicitors. This is very sad. It’s a little bit like sleep-walking into oblivion.
Why isn’t somebody asking “Do members of the public who use the services from the non-solicitor providers have any protection if it all goes horribly wrong?”
Scottish solicitors’ fees for residential conveyancing are already squeezed. Firms find it very difficult to make any profit in legally aided cases – those that still provide that service. It’s likely that many law firms will cease to exist if private client work is attracted elsewhere.
To remain relevant in their clients’ eyes, solicitors can’t take clients for granted. They need to keep in touch with their clients to build loyalty. They need to make sure that they are the first port of call when there’s a legal issue and the client doesn’t turn to the retired bank executive to help them wind up the estate of their loved one!
Quite frankly, solicitors need to keep their name in front of their clients to remind them who is their solicitor. If solicitors are not prepared to keep in touch with their clients – others who value their business will – and, on a positive note, keeping in touch allows solicitors to remind clients of the unique personal service and benefits they provide.
It’s not all doom and gloom!
Thankfully, there are some pioneers out there – solicitors who take a step back and look at their client base as an asset. They understand the value of keeping in touch with their clients between transactions and on a regular basis. Those firms are in contact with their clients – it might be monthly, or bi-monthly or quarterly – building loyalty and repeat business.
Don’t leave this to others – you’ll lose your clients that way. Keeping in touch with clients has never been easier. You can use email marketing or eNewsletters – they’re fast, effective and affordable. Speak to us now if you need our help.
To learn more, call us on 07855 838395 or click here to email us.
Author: Brian O’Neill
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David Borrowman is Senior Partner of the Caesar and Howie Law Group, who are founder members of Solicitors for Older People Scotland.
A graduate of both St Andrews and Edinburgh universities, David has experience in various areas of the law, including civil and criminal court work, commercial and residential property, and issues related to older people. He has previously been a director of ESPC and worked with the Scottish Partnership for Palliative care on the Scottish Government’s “Living and Dying Well” action plan.
Married with three adult children he lists his outside interests as “grandfather duties”. Then if they allow, playing golf, watching golf, rugby and football, whilst reading widely on history and current affairs