Welcoming Paul Saunders To The Awards Judging Panel

We are delighted to officially welcome Managing Director of Legal Eye, Paul Saunders 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, he discusses what sparked his interest in risk and compliance, what he will be looking for in relation to entries, the key main challenges the industry is facing, as well as offering practical advice to businesses to ensure firms in the sector are compliant and protected from risk.

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

I was appointed Managing Director of Legal Eye in 2016 after 28 years as a solicitor in the legal profession. During my time in practice, I had been at Board level in a number of firms including roles as CEO and COLP for five years at a large Midlands law firm and most recently as Head of Lender Services and Residential at Shakespeare Martineau.

I was also Director of an IT firm for five years supplying services to the legal industry. Earlier in my career, I worked quasi in-house providing legal services to the UK operation of a world-wide leading automotive manufacturer including management of a European legal panel dealing with cross border negotiations.

I have wide experience in relation to management and strategic planning of law firms.

What initially sparked your interest in risk and compliance?

Having run several Law Firms over the years risk and compliance is at the heart of running a good business, I do not view it as a stand-alone tick-box process. So, I believe that if you are running a business them risk and compliance is integral to that process. It is not possible to run any business without an interest in them consciously or subconsciously. It is the route to maximising profit and sleeping at night.

As a judge of the British Wills and Probate Awards, what will you be looking for in relation to the entries? What will make them stand out from the rest?

I’ll be looking for firms and businesses that genuinely place risk and compliance at the heart of their organisation. Having a robust and systematic approach to risk and compliance helps to drive the right behaviours from everyone in the firm – whatever their role or level of seniority.

Where organisations are able to show that they have done this well, demonstrating real leadership around risk issues and being able to evidence ongoing commitment to activities such as training, supervision and mentoring, this will make their entry stand out from the rest.

When complying with regulations becomes a bureaucratic exercise done just because the regulator insists, then risk and compliance can add little value beyond just demonstrating compliance with the minimum standards. Firms that thrive understand that the right approach to risk and compliance can not only help to protect a firm against risks but can also support its strategic development, profitability and growth; providing firm foundations for the firm in the years ahead.

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

Private client lawyers and advisers are often the unsung heroes of their firms and organisations. Yet they are providing a service that’s critical to most families and on which most of us will rely at several times in our own lives. Advisers in this sector have to be technically excellent, incredibly organised and, perhaps most importantly, need very good client handling and listening skills in order to do the best job for the client and their families.

It’s so important to take time out and recognise all the good things that go on in this part of the legal world, and that’s why we’re delighted to support the British Wills and Probate Awards again this year.

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

The legal profession as a whole faces multiple challenges at the moment. Against a background of seismic regulatory change, firms have an opportunity to radically rethink the way they offer services. We also need to be alive to the fact that change can bring threats – for example in the form of new and different competitors – and work out how we’re going to overcome those threats.

There’s also the challenge presented by the changing way in which people want to interact with lawyers and buy legal services generally. In an era when more and more people increasingly want to use multiple channels to communicate with their chosen adviser, we must keep pace with change. It’s a real challenge to balance the huge benefits of seeing clients face to face and speaking over the phone – with an ever growing demand for digital channels through which clients want to communicate. As well as the clear implications for risk management (it’s perhaps easier to attempt to commit a fraud from behind a keyboard than it is face-to-face for example) there are also issues around how to make work profitable and how to make sure that the advice given is fit for purpose (potentially challenging as arguably not all of the relevant information is as readily available through an online portal as it would be when chatting to a client over a cup of tea).

There are huge opportunities in the sector for those who are prepared to be innovative and to meet changing consumer demand. I’m looking forward to seeing what new ideas people have put into place and included in their award entries this year!

What measures could businesses in the Wills and Probate sector put in place to improve their delivery of service?

This is such a wide concept but I always believe that putting the customer at the centre of what we do matters and listening to the consumer is the best way to build a strong successful business. If we don’t give the customer what they want they will not spend their hard earned money with us.

What practical advice would you give to firms in this sector to ensure their business is compliant and protected from risk in an ever-changing legal landscape?

Conduct, or have conducted, a gap analysis and see in practice what needs to be changed to achieve your goals but look sensibly at the ones that are achievable and you will benefit from. It is easy to spend money on consultants and IT but if you are not going to benefit from their work then it is pointless to incur the cost.

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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