In an increasingly competitive market, it is important to keep your eye on the ball! Whether your practice’s goal is maintain turnover or you are looking for growth, it makes sense to make a plan rather than just hoping for the best.
As is often the case, as accountants we spend hours giving our clients valuable business advice yet do not prioritise working on our own businesses. This is especially true with marketing, usually relying on recommendations from existing clients, friends or referring professionals for new work.
Of course, I am sure we can all trot out the classroom statement to increase sales you can either seek new clients or sell more services to existing clients. By our nature, accountants don’t tend to be great salespeople, so we tend to discard the latter.
But think of all the times a client has come to you and said can you help with this, only for you to say unfortunately this is not something we do. Arguably the greatest volume of these tends to be legal services. So, if you could provide some of these additional services you can increase turnover without the need for the hard sell.
I hear you say, legal services are just for Solicitors? Many legal services compliment services that accountants already provide, most of us for many years have been forming companies and giving HR advice to clients. Isn’t it worth thinking about what others services could be provided to assist clients and grow your business?
Let’s Get Started
Obviously care needs to be taken. We can’t be blasé and just role out a full legal services solution to clients overnight.
Firstly, there is the need to be competent at the service and have appropriate professional indemnity insurance. Delivering a new service badly will of course, damage your existing business.
Secondly, with legal services in order to protect the public, there are a number of “Reserved legal activities” that only those that are authorised (or exempt) can carry out, namely:
- The exercise of a right to audience
- The conduct of litigation
- Reserved Instrument activities
- Probate activities
- Notarial services
- The administration of oaths
If you are unsure of which legal activities areas are reserved or which bodies can authorise, you may find the Legal Services Board website useful.
Finally, it must make business sense. Is it going to be profitable or just more trouble that its worth? Will the new services have a negative effect on existing ones? Will you be competing with other professionals that currently refer you work?
There are of course several options available:
Refer the work to a firm of solicitors or other legal professionals. Arguably the easiest approach. Hopefully, you will get referrals back.
Undertake only non-reserved legal activities. No further authorisations needed but could limit your success if done in isolation.
Form a “Mixed Practice” of accountants and legal professionals. This would probably result in offering the most legal services. However, there are issues over profit split and complex regulation.
Become authorised yourself. This will mean being to offer some additional services but may be resource intensive in terms of time and capital.
A combination of some of the above.
What We Have Done
As a small regional accountancy practice based in South Wales, we carefully worked through the options and decided on a mixture of solutions.
We carry on delivering the incidental legal services through our main practice Harries Watkins Jones Chartered Accountants. An example of this is company formations, this service seemed a natural fit to our accountancy and taxation services.
A lot of our clients over the years have asked with assistance with probate or to become executors of their Wills. So, we decided to become authorised for non-contentious probate with the ICAEW. In addition, it made sense to add complimentary services such as Will writing, LPAs and Inheritance compliance.
We decided that wanted to create a separate entity to provide these new services, that would still be identifiable to our brand so formed Harries Watkins Jones Wills & Probate. We needed to upskill our staff to ensure competency and added to our existing expertise by employing directly an experienced Wills and Probate solicitor.
Expansion of our referral network, whilst we are now completing Wills and Probate in house this has led to a need for a bigger legal referral network. Any contentious probate matter needs to be referred on and there are spin off services that arise as part of the estate administration process such as conveyancing of property.
Obviously, each practice will vary so there is no one solution fits all. But surely it is worth investing some time in exploring the possibilities.