British Wills and Probate Awards: Judges’ Insights Alex Holt and Matthew Lagden

As Champagne Sponsors at this year’s British Wills and Probate Awards 2021, we continue to celebrate with our Judges’ insights series. We will be sharing weekly interviews with the judges themselves to get their views on the future of the industry and what firms need to do to excel.  

Following last week’s interview with Carrie Caladine, Managing Director at Right Legal Group and Eleanor Evans, Partner at Hugh James. This week are joined by Alex Holt, Director of Business Development, The Cashroom and Matthew Lagden, CEO, Institute of Legacy Management.

  1. What is the greatest industry change/shift you’ve observed in your career to date?

Alex: I’m an old man. I qualified in 1993 as a solicitor, so I’ve seen many changes. I’d say the biggest has been the introduction of email communication which has been both a benefit and a huge challenge. Speed of communication has been enabled, but the expectation of immediate response and to be constantly contactable has caused real challenges.

Matthew: The shift online in the last five years, and particularly the shift that has taken place since the pandemic, has been amazing. The pandemic forced the pace, of course, but it was already happening. There is clearly an appetite for online options from testators all the way through the age range from their 40s upwards.

  1. What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the wills and probate industry today?

Alex: I think the sector is trying to find its identity. There is the rise of the will writing volume players, and other firms focusing on the larger estates where IHT is a major factor. The general practice approach may be under threat.

  1. What was the greatest lesson of the events of the past year and a half, and what will be the lasting effect of the pandemic on wills and estate management?

Alex: Adaptability. The need for it was ‘forced’ by the pandemic, but I’ve no doubt that the ability to change and adapt will remain a powerful and important element in any firm.

Matthew: The shift online has opened the will making market, potentially making it much larger. The pandemic also seems to have been a catalyst for younger people to make wills. All of this is fantastic. I think that firms in a position to capitalise on it are going to do very well.

  1. What barriers need to be overcome to encourage greater integration of technology by practitioners in the industry?

Alex: Use experts! Lawyers shouldn’t have to be tech experts. When we support firms with our service we support any PMS at all, and bring a whole wealth of experience and expertise on how to get the best and most efficient operation of the firm’s account package.

  1. What is the most important area to focus investment on across the industry right now?

Alex: Firms should invest that most precious of commodities – time. And that investment should involve taking the time to truly understand what they are delivering, what their process is, and how they can optimise their own client’s experience. The final element of time investment is the potential need to buy in expert’s time to assist with some of the more specialist areas such as compliance or tech.

  1. What trend, beyond tech-adoption, are you most excited to see?

Matthew: One massively positive change is the trend towards charitable will writing. Everyone is now pushing in the same direction – the will writing-profession is now fully on board with charitable will writing and very supportive of charities. Equally charities are investing heavily in this as a form of fundraising, and relationships are better than they have ever been.

  1. How do you expect the industry will expand in future years and what improvements need to be made to the wills, probate and estate management sector?

Alex: I suspect the division of volume, tech-enabled firms, and ‘expert’ firms will continue for some time. Improved focus on what a firm is really about will be essential.

Matthew: When you combine the trend towards charitable will writing with very positive demographics and the introduction of digital technology which is making will writing much more accessible and the future looks very positive. Events like the British Wills and Probate Awards are both a sign of this and have helped to drive it, which is why ILM is so proud to support them.

  1. How has remote working impacted the probate and estate management process and/or client service over the course of the pandemic?

Alex: The personal touch, especially within estate administration, is a key role – more so than in most sectors – and a major differentiator for those firms who do it well. The pandemic of course made things more challenging, if only in relation to the ability to hold face-to-face, sensitively handled meetings. It can feel a little impersonal to deal with such upsetting subjects on a video call.

  1. What are the most important factors for clients to consider when approaching firms and how can firms position themselves as the first choice within their sector?

Alex: I’d say responsiveness is particularly crucial for estate administration, so utilising cutting edge communication technologies may well be wise. Ultimately, we are now in a world where online reviews and ratings will play an increasing role in a person’s decision to buy. Firms must embrace this fact, drive for better client experience, and record the outcomes to tell others.

  1. From your perspective as a business founder, what advice would you share with (aspiring) legal sector entrepreneurs?

Alex: Be clear on your ‘why’. Carefully define the reason you’re setting up a business. What is its market? What are you looking to achieve? How will you measure success? Don’t be half-hearted in your planning.


This article was submitted to be published by Exizent as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Wills and Probate. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Wills and Probate.

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