What’s driving private client demand?
Private client work can cover a range of complex issues often for high net worth individuals. Across Yorkshire and the North East, the market has remained robust, with landowners and entrepreneurs keeping the level of work buoyant.
Commenting on the demand in the region was Catherine Henry. In a recent article, she highlighted the effect of real world issues upon the need for private client work, despite the number of vacancies falling.
One of the major reasons attributed to this was the decision to leave the European Union during June 2016. Although Henry acknowledges that private client law is considered to be “fairly recession proof”, wider economic activity is bound to affect the market. As law relevant to private client lawyers has had little influence from EU regulation, the impact on an individual level has been relatively minimal. However, a greater impact may be felt later down the line, when EU funding begins to deplete and non-profit companies are affected. Whilst the market is relatively stable at present, Henry highlights that these changes are likely to increase private client demand as time goes on.
Another influence on private client demand is the level of public recognition regarding estate planning. Since 2015, the number of over 55s without a will grew by 6% in 2016, up to 36% according to figures from Unbiased.co.uk. This is not, however, a process which will be immediate, as levels regarding estate education among the public are relatively low.
Cases covering the consequences of estate administration in the mainstream media certainly aid awareness, having raised the profile of the potential problems caused. Henry draws attention to the case of Melita Jackson, regarding an estate £500,000 going to three animal charities, as well as Heather Ilott’s legal challenge over her mother’s inheritance. Decisions such as these alert the public to consider their own circumstances, and recognise the importance of writing a will.
In addition to high-profile cases, another, more inevitable factor affecting demand is the UK’s ageing population. Although this has been a driver for the rise in wills and contentious probate work, the largest impact has been on estate planning. As house prices grow and the taxes around estates grow more complex, the importance of careful planning – largely for the benefit of children and grandchildren – has grown even higher.
Acknowledging a business which has taken advantage of this new market demand, Henry draws attention to The Progeny Group – a new group which together commercial law and private client ABS with an FCA regulated wealth management business. The model is based on combining wealth advice with succession planning advice, providing clients with a simplified service.
Highlighting the importance of private client work was Martin Hasyn. The director and co-founder of The Progeny Group stated: ‘Just consider the changes that have made the front pages of the newspapers and the weekend supplements recently. Probate court fees being debated in parliament, new inheritance tax rules, Supreme Court decisions on testamentary freedom – the list goes on. We are dealing with issues which a significant proportion of the adult population is interested in and needs advice on.’
Despite the rise in demand, Henry highlights that this alone will not be sufficient for a successful career within the market. Although stating that “the list of skills is endless”, Henry mentions that attributes such as emotional intelligence and having a personable approach are of great importance. Similarly is the ability to deal with a wide range of people, offer flexibility, and being clear and concise when explaining complicated matters.
Highlighted in a previous report, statistics indicate that private client lawyers are more likely to stay within a firm for the entirety of their working life. Unlike other sectors, private client work can offer a greater amount of flexibility as well as part-time work. Figures also indicate a rise in the number of older lawyers who are choosing to work into their retirement.
Figures indicate that the trend in rising demand is not set to slow just yet. Within the Yorkshire and the North East, opportunities for private client law has risen during the last three years. If this continues into 2017, there will be a rise of 145% in private client jobs this year in comparison to 2016.