Congratulations on becoming a partner in April 2021.
Q: For a time you were based in the marketing team. How do you think that influenced your approach to client care?
I joined Wedlake Bell as a trainee and qualified during the 2009 financial crisis which was not great timing! The firm, wanting to keep me on, offered me a six-month role in the Marketing team. The role taught me about the power of the firm’s brand and engaging with clients on wider strategic projects. I also attended various social media marketing courses (when social media was in its infancy) and started up the firm’s Twitter account! I recommend that all trainees spend time sitting in the business support teams and learning about how vital teams such as Marketing are for the success of the business. I think what I took away most from my experience was the importance of clear and upfront communication. Law is a people industry and ultimately clients are looking for concise, quick answers communicated in a clear way. The role in the Marketing team definitely helped with my client “soft skills”. It also taught me that it’s often easiest to pick up the phone!
Q: What trends do you think will be affecting private clients as we emerge from the pandemic?
The government will have to raise taxes to pay for the last eighteen months of Covid spending. The obvious candidates are capital gains tax (“CGT’) and inheritance tax (“IHT’’) as they are seen politically as taxes on the wealthy. CGT is currently charged at 20% (or 28% on residential property). I think there is going to be a fair amount of gifting of assets or sales to lock in the current CGT rates before they increase. IHT is trickier as the rate is already 40%; however, the government could abolish the “seven-year rule” which is effectively a “wait and see” tax and replace it with a lifetime IHT gift rate of maybe 10% or 20%. So I think we are going to see quite a bit of wealth-shifting between generations before the next Budget in case taxes go up.
Q: Dispute resolution forms part of your practice – what particular concerns do you see right now?
Sadly, when there is uncertainty in the world there tends to be an increase in disputes. My contentious practice covers claims by beneficiaries against trustees, claims against estates, challenges to the validity of Wills, and professional negligence claims against tax professionals and Will writers. The government changed the law last year to allow Wills to be witnessed remotely; this was to avoid witnesses having to be present at the same time as a testator signed their Will to avoid the spread of Covid. Whilst the government’s intentions were well meaning, we do anticipate that this is going to lead to a large volume of claims that Wills are invalid. For example, how can a solicitor be sure that when the client signed their Will there was nobody else in the room exerting influence/control? How can one be certain that when the Will was sent between witnesses that pages were not taken out and replaced? It is also much more difficult to assess the capacity of a client if they are on a screen. All of these issues will most likely lead to more work for our dispute resolution team.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
I play the guitar and own six (my wife has banned me from buying any more). My claim to fame is that I used to be in a band with Charlie Simpson who went on to form Busted. I live in the Chilterns and I also enjoy getting out on my road bike. Our first child is due in August so I may not have much spare time after that!