High street solicitors need to be agile and innovative if they want to stay ahead

Faced with legal aid cuts, a sluggish conveyancing market and the rise of tech-led disruptor businesses, firms of high street solicitors need to be agile and innovative if they want to stay ahead.

That is one of the conclusions reached by a recent report from IRN Research (UK Legal Services Market Trends Report 2019) which provides a snapshot of a legal services industry that is in generally excellent health. Top-line figures showed a market valued at £35.1bn in 2018, an increase of more than 6 per cent on the previous year.

The research also notes, however, that much of the growth is being driven by the top end of the market, with the leading 100 law firms enjoying a period of sustained expansion thanks to a buoyant corporate sector.

Many of the remaining 12,000 or so firms in the England and Wales face more challenging circumstances, with statistics from the Insolvency Service showing the number of solicitor firm insolvencies rising to 39 in 2018, up from 23 in 2017 and in sharp contrast to 2010’s figure of zero law firm insolvencies.

Such difficulties were underlined in February, when long-standing Brighton-based outfit Howlett Clarke ceased trading. The firm, founded in the 18th century and one of England’s oldest, had been beset by cash-flow issues in what administrators FRP Advisory termed an “extremely competitive market”.

In this context, high street firms need to play to their strengths. Many, for example, will have a depth of local knowledge, community awareness and long-standing trust that could never be delivered by a faceless individual on the end of a phone or via a website.

Such abilities are particularly pertinent when clients are facing issues relating to wills, probate and estate administration. At this often challenging time many will appreciate the benefits of talking through their options face-to-face with their local solicitor.

This may also be the moment when Fraser and Fraser can provide timely and astute assistance.

Renowned as one of the country’s leading firms of professional genealogists and international probate researchers, the firm provides specialist research and support services to the legal profession by tracing missing beneficiaries to unclaimed estates worldwide.

This year Fraser and Fraser also celebrates its 50th anniversary. Over the decades, it has built up a network of European offices and developed partnerships and working relationships with leading genealogists around the globe.

Without a properly documented will or current list of assets it can be extremely challenging for solicitors to work out the value of an estate, the amount of inheritance tax owed, or the sum due to their clients.

A detailed search is particularly important to ensure the correct value of an estate is given to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and that executors and solicitors are not penalised for errors relating to their estate administration.

Regulated by the Association of Probate Researchers (APR), Fraser and Fraser is committed to following best practice to maximise the value of the estate by identifying previously unknown assets and the amount available for distribution to any heirs.

In addition, not only can the firm assist in identifying assets, it can also help manage those assets.

For example, our dedicated staff can check whether a shareholding still exists and provide a probate valuation of shares to ensure a solicitor can complete the necessary Inheritance Tax forms.

Fraser and Fraser can also assist with the transfer and sale of North American securities for both live and deceased shareholders. The firm often encounters UK residents who hold US shares, for example following the 2009 sale of Cadbury to Kraft.

Other areas of expertise include arranging Medallion Signature Guarantees to sell or transfer North American securities in relation to stocks and shares paperwork. The firm can assist in arranging the required bank signature guarantee to effect the transfer and subsequent sale of the holding in one streamlined process.

Efficient, experienced and dedicated to getting results, Fraser and Fraser prides itself on providing a service that is tailor-made to each individual case. As a firm, we share a great deal of common ground with high-street solicitors and we are always ready to work with you on challenging cases.

To discuss how Fraser and Fraser can assist you, please contact us on legal@fraserandfraser.co.uk or call 0207 832 1430.



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