Give advice not options, ABS chief tells lawyers

Moles: Clients are looking for something a bit different nowadays

Lawyers must be prepared to give their clients advice rather than a range of options, the managing director of a fast-growing wealth management and legal services firm has said.

Neil Moles said the Progeny Group, based in Leeds and London, had doubled in size in the past year to 70 staff, including 15 lawyers, and aimed to grow just as quickly this year.

The group is made up of Progeny Private Law and Progeny Corporate Law, alternative business structures licensed last year by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, with Progeny Wealth, a wealth management firm, and Progeny Asset Management, both regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Progeny Asset Management is the latest addition, joining the group in October last year.

“Sometimes lawyers just take instructions rather than giving actual advice,” Mr Moles said. “Clients of ours have gone to lawyers and been given three or four options, but they haven’t had advice on the best one.

“I’ve had the same experience. I’ve said to lawyers: ‘Tell me which option to go for, and tell me why. What would you do?’ Clients are looking for something a bit different nowadays, and they need to be guided more than ever in such a complex world.”

Mr Moles gave inheritance tax as an example, where there were “lots of different routes” to saving money, and it was easy for lawyers to avoid giving advice on the most suitable one.

“In the wealth planning world you have to recommend the best route for the client,” he said. “We don’t charge clients to listen to them, but to provide them with solutions.”

Mr Moles said Progeny had signed a lease this week to quadruple its office space in London’s West End.

He said many of the firm’s clients were high net worth individuals and business owners, many of whom were “disillusioned” with the advice they were currently getting, whether it was legal, or involved wealth planning or accounting.

He said the firm did not use hourly rates, but offered clients either a fixed fee, for example for a will, or a ‘project fee’ for a transaction such as the purchase of a business.

Mr Moles said it was crucial to discuss costs with the client at the “first possible moment”, before putting it in writing and sticking to it. However, he did not believe Progeny was under any particular pressure on costs.

“The legal world is going through something of a journey on costs and transparency, just like the financial services world,” he said.

“I don’t believe that every area of law can be commoditised. If our clients are getting quality service and advice, they are prepared to pay for it. There are plenty of examples of people going for the cheapest solution and regretting it.”

Mr Moles added: “Our aim is to deliver profit, rather than revenue for the sake of it. It’s not a matter of passing on costs to the clients. If we run our business properly, we’ll make a profit.”

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