Curious about how we work? Explore our FAQs below. Can’t find the answer to your question? Get in touch and we’ll be only too happy to help.
In 2020 we have been inundated with calls and emails from lawyers considering the non-regulated legal consultancy model and asking for advice on setting up. While it’s nice to make new friends, we only have so many hours in the day. Our FAQ below may be of use, but otherwise we’d be grateful not to receive any further enquiries of this nature.
The short answer is that our 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.
We do 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 joining Windich Legal, this is what each of our consultants did for a living as solicitors. Now, as legal consultants, we conduct the same activity, using the same skills and knowledge, but without being authorised or regulated as solicitors or as a law firm.
So: since it doesn’t make any difference to our work, you may well ask why we don’t just practice as a law firm. The answer is that we 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 our running and administrative costs down, we are able to pass on the benefit of savings to our clients and provide our services at a much 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 our view is that the cost benefit to the client outweighs the downsides of using a legal consultancy, we want our 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.
- 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). We are not subject to those rules. In our view, this makes very little difference to the client, as it is clearly in our best interests to act honestly whether or not we are subject to written rules requiring us 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 our service, then you cannot complain to the Legal Ombudsman but will have to raise your complaint with us 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 our advice may be disclosable in evidence in the context of a legal claim. In this sense, our 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 we do not advise on contentious matters (and are not in the habit of sending emails advising our clients to do anything illegal) this risk generally presents our clients with few concerns. However, we have occasionally had client instructions where we felt that the protection of privilege was essential, and in those circumstances we have recommended our client to traditional law firms in order to ensure that protection remains in place.
And, finally – in case you’re interested – we’ve been looking at the possibility of putting our solicitors’ hats back on and going into practice as regulated solicitors providing services through a non-regulated entity (i.e. we’d all 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 months on there are few or no insurance products available for the new models of practice. Rather than operate without insurance we’ve decided to remain non-regulated until the insurance market has developed further. We’ll keep a weather eye on this issue, and the likelihood is we’ll all be back to calling ourselves “solicitors” again within the next year or so, which may allow us to offer a few additional comforts to our clients such as legal advice privilege.
Yes, we have professional indemnity cover of £2,000,000 per claim. We also have public liability cover of £5,000,000 per claim.
We are happy to provide support to law firms. However, because we are an unregulated legal consultancy (and our consultants are not practising as solicitors when working through Windich Legal Ltd) it will be imperative that our law firm client makes absolutely clear in its own dealings with its clients that our consultants are not held out to be acting as practising solicitors. Think of Windich Legal as being the biggest, baddest paralegal you’ve ever hired.