Welcoming Lakshmi Turner To The Awards Judging Panel

We are thrilled to officially welcome Chief Executive of Solicitors for the Elderly, Lakshmi Turner to the judging panel for the upcoming exclusive British Wills and Probate Awards, which is brought to you by Today’s Wills and Probate, alongside headline sponsor, Arken.legal (UK) Ltd, a leader in software solutions for the legal services industry.

In this interview, she discusses what sparked her interest in this field, the key main challenges the industry is facing, and how wills and probate professionals can assist older and vulnerable clients to plan for later life.

Please could you provide us with a summary of your professional background and your present role?

I am the chief executive of SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly). SFE is a membership organisation and as such everyone except me and the SFE administrator is a lawyer. Prior to joining SFE, I was a marketing director. As I have an MBA, my focus has always been on business strategy, taking a very strong customer centric approach. My skills in branding and communication have helped transform SFE into the organisation it is today.

As CEO, I am responsible for everything! SFE has a board of directors and a team of regional directors. My role is to guide the board to help them to shape the strategy for SFE and then I am responsible for delivering it. We work closely with a team of technical consultants who are at the top of their field in older client law. This team helps SFE to create all its best practice materials. We deliver this through webinars, conferences, seminars and our highly prized book of knowledge containing our best practice guides in a number of key areas. We also have two externally accredited qualifications. Our OCCP Award (older client care in practice) is unique as it focuses on the soft skills needed to work with older and vulnerable clients.

I also run the SFE website and all our marketing and promotional activities. I edit the SFE newsletter which is a huge team effort with up to 10 contributors in any one edition.

I am responsible for positioning the SFE brand and pushing SFE to deliver on its goals as follows:

  • Recognisable mark of quality and the go-to brand for the public seeking legal advice
  • Industry experts – the go-to brand for media, the sector in general, and charities, MOJ etc… in particular
  • In club for lawyers working in this field

Together with our fabulous PR agency, I also drive our PR and social media strategies. SFE is increasingly visible on social media with a large, vibrant Linkedin group, an active Twitter feed, a Facebook book page with interesting content for public and an informative blog, written for the public by SFE members.

What initially sparked your interest in this field?

I came to the legal profession quite by chance 15 years ago. I soon realised that the legal profession was very behind in terms of its business approach and had a fairly low opinion of marketing.

I was fortunate that the SFE board was forward thinking and initially brought me in to do some business development work back in 2004. I also had a long standing software client who had software products and business in the solicitor, barrister and probate sectors. So, over the years, I have developed a good understanding of how the market operates and what the key concerns of SFE members are.

I have developed an in depth understanding of the issues facing older and vulnerable people, women (and men) in the sandwich generation, and all of a sudden, I find myself to be very popular at dinner parties, with people wanting advice. I am happy to talk in general terms about the issues we are all facing as we hit middle age and beyond, but my mantra is always – “use an SFE member.”

How do you think professionals in the Wills and Probate sector could improve their service delivery?

Solicitors have a reputation of being, aloof, expensive and not approachable. I can only speak for the older and vulnerable client sector – it takes a special person, with a particular skill set to be successful in this area. Of course, at SFE, we provide training and produce best practice materials to help with all of this. The many members I have met, do not fall into the ‘traditional’ view of solicitors. Quite the contrary, in fact, many are gentle, patient and prepared to go the extra mile for clients. If they would only improve their marketing and external communication skills, perceptions may well start to shift.

As a judge of the British Wills and Probate Awards, what will you be looking for in relation to the entries? 

I am always on the look out for a compelling story. What was the issue/challenge being faced and what steps were undertaken to overcome this and turn it into something fresh and positive?

I will be on the look out for innovation and out of the box thinking.

I will also be looking out for what lessons were learnt from a particular project or initiative and what aspects have been taken forward into everyday business dealings.

What will make them stand out from the rest?

If a project or initiative has had an impact on the whole industry or that it has the future potential to do so. Or if a particular person or team really went the extra mile and this had a transformative effect on the firm.

How important do you think it is to recognise outstanding achievement and highlight progression in the sector?

The legal profession is a traditional sector, having been around for centuries and having always done things in certain ways. With robots, AI and the like coming along, it is so important to recognise people who do things differently and embrace new technology and ideas whilst never losing sight of the customer experience.

What do you think is the main key challenges the industry is facing at present?

There are too many to mention in a couple of sentences. Automation and online services really mean that solicitors need to re-think their offering. In my opinion, it is not an either/or. There will always be clients who like the reassurance of a face to face meeting and feel the need for human interaction. There will be others who want the polar opposite. There is a way to cater for both, either that or become incredibly niche and ultra-specialised.

How can Wills and Probate professionals further support older and vulnerable clients plan for later life?

Invest in a megaphone!

It is a question of getting people to start having conversations. Discussing money should not be a taboo subject. Discussing what happens if you start to have significant health problems or lose mental capacity should not be seen as too scary – it is fast becoming a reality for families to cope with as people are living a lot longer. We have all seen what happens if people suddenly have to start trying to have these conversations in a crisis situation.

We should be talking openly about the need for people to understand the issues, seek expert advice, get things in place and live life to the full, checking from time to time, that what they have in their plans are still what they actually want.

The British Wills and Probate Awards will take place on the 17th October at the prestigious Belfry Hotel and Resort in Birmingham, where the array of category winners will be announced and celebrated.

For information on this year’s categories and which ones best represent your business, please click here. Furthermore, bookings for this ‘not to be missed’ event are open here where you will find information and pricing for individual tickets and whole tables of twelve. Don’t miss out on this fantastic opportunity to showcase your firm or fellow professionals and to be in with a chance to win an accolade for high achievements within the industry.

Are you looking for a unique way to boost your company’s brand exposure? Find out why sponsoring an award will increase your firm’s profile and reinforce your reputation here.

The event is key for the Wills and probate calendar, so if you work in the industry, make sure it’s in your diary!

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