Lovely bubbly: expensive champagne from sophisticated client is probably a gift
Q. I successfully completed a complex commercial matter for an established wealthy client involving significant sums of money. By way of thanks, the client has just delivered to me a crate of champagne, which I estimate cost him in the region of £500. Can I accept it?
A. You need to refer to rule 3.04 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007, which applies not only in these circumstances, but also when a client proposes to leave a gift in his or her will to you, to anyone in your firm or to a member of their family.
The rule does not prevent you from accepting the gift, but it does require you to ensure that the client first takes independent advice if the gift is significant, or significant in relation to the client’s likely estate and the reasonable expectations of prospective beneficiaries.
There is no definition as to what constitutes a “significant amount” and this will therefore depend on the particular circumstances, but guidance note 58 to the rule does state that, in general, anything more than a token gift will be considered significant and could leave the recipient exposed to allegations of misconduct if the client was not separately advised.
In this case, bearing in mind the client is a sophisticated user of legal services with considerable assets, it seems reasonable to take the view that the gift is not significant.
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