Curious about how I work? FAQs are below. Can’t find the answer to your question? Get in touch and I’d be happy to help.
In 2020 I received many calls and emails from lawyers considering the non-regulated legal consultancy model and asking for advice on setting up, or otherwise wanting to discuss potential collaborations. At this point the volume of enquiries has become unmanageable and I’d be grateful not to receive any further enquiries of this nature.
Why is Windich Legal a "Legal Consultancy" and not a "Law Firm"?
The short answer is that Max and our other occasional consultants are not acting as solicitors when providing services through Windich Legal. Law firms are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and when we provide services to our business clients we are not regulated or authorised by the SRA.
The longer answer requires a bit of background. In the UK, there are certain activities which are “reserved” to solicitors (and in some cases other authorised, regulated persons like barristers or licensed conveyancers). These are:
- the exercise of a right of audience (i.e. the right to act as an advocate in court);
- the conduct of litigation;
- probate activities;
- notarising; and
- the administration of oaths.
Windich Legal does not conduct any of these reserved activities. We provide legal advice in non-contentious commercial, intellectual property and IT matters, which is not an activity reserved to solicitors. Before setting up Windich Legal, this is what I did for a living as a solicitor. Now, as a legal consultant, I conduct the same activity, using the same skills and knowledge, but without being authorised or regulated as a solicitor or as a law firm.
So: since it doesn’t make any difference to my work, you may well ask why I didn’t just set up a little law firm. The answer is that I can run leaner as a legal consultancy. Practising as a regulated law firm requires the annual payment of various contributions (including a proportion of the relevant practice’s turnover) to the Law Society and/or the Solicitors Regulation Authority. It also increases insurance costs by a significant factor (regardless of whether or not you conduct the reserved activities set out above) and requires management time to be dedicated to prescribed regulatory administration. By keeping my running and administrative costs down, I am able to pass on the benefit of savings to my clients and provide my services at what I think is a more competitive rate than solicitors providing the same services.
However, from a client’s perspective, using an unregulated consultancy as opposed to a firm of solicitors is not all upside. While my view is that the cost benefit to the client outweighs the downsides of using a legal consultancy, I want clients to be fully informed of the position to make up their own minds. Here are the key distinctions:
- Solicitors are required to maintain mandatory levels of professional indemnity insurance cover (at least £3,000,000 per claim). Windich Legal only maintains professional indemnity cover of £2,000,000 per claim. In addition, Windich Legal limits and excludes its liability under its standard terms within conventional commercial parameters. Solicitors are unable to limit their liability to the same degree.
- Solicitors are subject to rules issued by the Solicitors Regulation Authority relating to the conduct of their business (and in particular imposing ethical standards and a duty to act in the client’s best interests). I am not subject to those rules. In my view, this makes very little difference to the client, as it is clearly in my best interests to act honestly whether or not I am subject to written rules requiring me to do so. Also, as anyone with access to Google can discover, the existence of the SRA rules does not necessarily prevent rogue solicitors from acting in breach of those rules.
- If you’re unhappy with the service received from a solicitor, you can raise a complaint with the Legal Ombudsman. If you’re unhappy with my service, then you cannot complain to the Legal Ombudsman but will have to raise your complaint with me directly. It’s not happened yet, though.
- Solicitors’ advice can be “privileged”. What this means is that correspondence between a client and solicitor can, if made confidentially and for the purposes of legal advice, be withheld from a court or third party in connection with legal proceedings. Advice from non-regulated advisors is not “privileged”, which means that my advice may be disclosable in evidence in the context of a legal claim. In this sense, my correspondence and advice is treated in the same manner as advice from your accountants, management consultants, HR consultants or anyone else who is not a regulated legal advisor such as a solicitor or barrister. Because I do not advise on contentious matters (and am not in the habit of sending emails advising my clients to do anything illegal) this risk generally presents my clients with few concerns. However, I have occasionally had client instructions where I felt that the protection of privilege was essential, and in those circumstances I have recommended the client to traditional law firms in order to ensure that protection remains in place.
And, finally – in case you’re interested – I’ve been looking at the possibility of putting my solicitor’s hat back on and going into practice as a regulated solicitor providing services through a non-regulated entity (i.e. I would be individually regulated by the SRA, but Windich Legal itself would remain a non-law-firm). This is a new model of practice which has been available since 25 November 2019 when the SRA rolled out certain regulatory reforms. Unfortunately, the legal world moves verrrrrrry slowwwwwly and although the SRA reforms are in place, even now on there are no insurance products available for the new model of practice. Rather than operate without insurance I’ve decided to remain non-regulated until the insurance market has developed further. I’m keeping a weather eye on this issue, and hope to return to acting as a “solicitor” again when the market has matured, which may allow me to offer a few additional comforts to clients such as legal advice privilege.
Do you have professional indemnity insurance?
Yes, Windich Legal has professional indemnity cover of £2,000,000 per claim as well as public liability cover of £5,000,000 per claim.
Do you work for law firms?
I am happy to provide support to law firms. However, because I run Windich Legal as an unregulated legal consultancy (and I am not practising as a solicitor when working through Windich Legal) it will be imperative that any law firm client makes absolutely clear in its own dealings with its clients that I am not held out to be acting as a practising solicitor. Think of Windich Legal as being the biggest, baddest paralegal you’ve ever hired.