Whilst on the Diploma, a friend of mine said to me in response to my expression of enthusiasm for private client work that she “did not fancy dealing with dead people’s stuff”! My response at the time was that I liked the idea of maximising people’s wealth so that they could pass that on to their family.
I have now been in the Personal & Family department for seven months. This practice area is just so much more than I (or my friend) had imagined and such a challenging seat.
I have been involved in applications for guardianship orders which has meant dealing with adults with incapacity legislation as well as the dreaded social benefits legislation in all its obscurity. It has also involved dealing with clients who find themselves in really difficult situations and ensuring that I not only helped them understand the process and issues involved, but also managed their expectations. To see matters through from the start has been such good experience. I’ve developed an interest in capacity work in general, which led me to go to hear Baroness Hale speak on Law and Psychiatry: a total treat.
Contentious private client work is really “floating my boat”. It is academically challenging whilst still relying on those good client skills. For example, I’ve had experience of considering issues arising out of executors’ fiduciary duties as well claims by cohabitants on the death of a partner.
I think working in this area, you have to be aware that disputes can arise and thorough file notes must be part of your daily regime. It is worth taking a look at the recent Smyth v Romanes’ Executors case, where the pivotal evidence was the file notes taken by her solicitors. It also covers all the areas of challenging a will and is a good read, even for those who feel that a career in private client may not be for them.
I know executry work may not, on the surface, sound as exciting as a multi-million pound transaction, but if you are at all interested in human behaviour, for instance, then things like ascertaining what constitutes regular gifting out of income can actually give a huge insight into how someone lived, what they thought important and their personality to some extent. And as I’ve discovered, executry work can often bring up significant, interesting and exciting legal issues.
I don’t know about the readers of this blog, but I love getting up in the morning and just not knowing what the day will bring: that call to a client regarding their will may transform into a serious assessment as to their capacity to make that will. What you thought would be a routine executry can suddenly change with the discovery of a previously unknown family member. If you like that idea; to expect the unexpected, then Private Client may be for you.
On November 7, 2014