Will-writer eyes conveyancing opportunity after receiving ABS licence, while IFA plans MDP

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12 September 2012


Conveyancing: should bounce off probate work for instructions both ways

A will-writer is planning to use his new alternative business structure (ABS) licence to expand into the conveyancing market, Legal Futures can report.

Jim Goddard, a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners who has run Complete Wills since 1999, said he is primarily a will-writer but due to a chain of events arising from an abortive attempt to merge with a law firm, he has founded Cheshire-based Goddard Dunbar & Associates Limited to provide residential conveyancing.

He was close to merging his will-writing business – which he says has more than 12,000 clients – with the law firm when it closed down. He employed one of the firm’s conveyancers “so as to retain her expertise” and set up Goddard Dunbar “to complement my existing will-writing business; both businesses should bounce off each other in terms of introductions”.

The firm is licensed by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) for conveyancing work only. Mr Goddard said he plans to grow the conveyancing business and become regulated by the CLC for wills and probate work as well, at which point he will merge the will-writing business. He does not plan to seek external investment, having obtained start-up funding from the bank.

The process of applying for the ABS licence with the CLC was “time consuming in terms of gathering information” but it was “relatively simple” and working with CLC staff “has not been a chore”. In total the process has taken nearly 10 months, part of which was “our fault” in being slow to put information together.

Meanwhile, Care Matters – a firm of independent financial advisers in St Albans specialising in the over-55s – is working on plans to form a multi-disciplinary ABS with a law firm, Labrums. The two are in the same office building.

Care Matters founder Lorreine Kennedy said the two are still working on the details of what will be called ‘Beyond 55’, but that it was a “sound proposition” to combine “the expertise and excellence we have with the credibility of a forward-thinking law firm”.

The two already refer work informally and Ms Kennedy said the arrangement was working well for both the firms and their clients. However, she said the Solicitors Regulation Authority was not particularly helpful when she asked for guidance on setting up an ABS.

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A recent Legal Futures article reported that the number complaints involving use of social media by barristers is increasing. The BSB have warned that “as social media and the internet become more prominent in our daily lives, there is an increasing need for barristers to be very careful about what they post whether in their professional or personal lives”. While inappropriate use of social media isn’t anything new, what struck me when reading that paragraph is that, for barristers, I would argue, there shouldn’t be a defining line between the personal and professional. As a barrister, you are your own USP, your personal brand is everything.

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