This is early days and exciting times for Alison Griffiths who only joined Battrick Clark in August of this year to work in the Wills and probate division.
Alison’s background before joining Battrick Clark
Her working life started as a legal secretary for a firm in Wiltshire. Her desire was to become a lawyer and this journey began with her A levels where she studied Law and English Literature at nightclasses. Success in these subjects took her to the University of Sussex in Brighton to study law, after which she became a legal assistant in London. This began a two-year period where she went to law school two nights a week whilst working full-time. Her next role was on a training contract for a Legal Aid firm in Reading and she helped in family law matters and other issues like immigration. As she puts it “I enjoyed the work I did during my training, it opened my eyes to how law can help ordinary people with their everyday issues and I realised that I wanted my law career to focus on using the skills that I had developed in helping people.”
The beautiful city of Oxford was where Alison spent the next two years before returning to Wiltshire, initially to work as a locum in places like Bath and the surrounding area before she landed a very good opportunity to work for the Co-op as a senior case handler dealing with complex estates and training new case handlers. This was a telephone-based role and whilst it was a senior position and called for the use of the majority of the skills she had learnt it lacked one key aspect… the personal interaction with clients. As Alison says “It was my first experience of working for a large organisation and it was a rewarding role, but increasingly I realised I missed the interaction with clients face-to-face and the variety of work in private practice.”
Joining Battrick Clark
This realisation made Alison re-evaluate how she wanted to practice law and the type of firm she would like to work for. Her skills, background and experience allowed her to look at a number of excellent solicitors but for her Battrick Clark stood out as the right employer for her. “Battrick Clark just seemed to have the same ethos and approach I was looking for. If you are going to really help your client, you have to know more than just the legal issues. You need to take time to understand all the circumstances of the client and establish what the client is trying to achieve and help them do that. You can’t deliver a good service without being personable and empathetic. This is the way Battrick Clark work and so I jumped at the chance to work with them.”
How important is it to have a will?
“The simple answer is very! In simple terms, if you have not left clear instructions about what is to happen to your estate when you die, then in essence your estate will not go to your chosen beneficiaries. This can get very complicated and costly.
Even, for example, if you have lived with your partner for many years and you die without a will, the law states that your estate automatically goes to your surviving family members such as your children, your parents or siblings.
Also, if you are married and assume that a will is not needed because everything will go to your spouse, think again. If your estate is worth over £250,000 then the surviving spouse does not automatically get everything.
Additionally, despite many people appreciating that having an up-to-date will is a sensible thing, for many people it is too easy to put off as something to do later. I think some people perhaps are put off because they think it might be too complicated or be prohibitively expensive. As solicitors, we will ensure that the complexities inherent in the construction and wording of a will are done correctly and to suit each client but, we ensure that the process is simple and the advice is clear. And, our prices are very competitive. You can have a single will prepared for £250 plus VAT and a pair of straight forward ‘mirror’ wills for £300 plus VAT.
Do I need a solicitor?
“An increasing trend has been the rise of the what I call the ‘quick and easy wills’ produced by unqualified legal practitioners. There is an ‘off-the-shelf’ appeal to these. Sometimes, you only have to fill out an online form and end up with very little contact. The prices for these are undoubtedly a bit cheaper than using a solicitor, but I don’t believe you should judge the quality of a will simply by how cheap you get it. I sincerely believe with wills you get out what you put in. As I mentioned before, aside from the legal expertise, when we help a client make a will we make sure we get to know them and understand their circumstances.
A form, for example, that ask something as seemingly simple as, ‘who are your financial dependents?’ is actually quite hard to answer if you don’t understand exactly what it is asking. It might include children, relatives, spouses or friends. I have had many conversations with clients about this topic alone and until I have clearly explained what it means, the majority did not know how to accurately answer the question and certainly would not have got it right on a form. I can get to the truth through our conversations and ensure this, and all the other questions, are correctly assessed and stated.”
How is the industry changing?
“I think there are some potentially positive developments in the area of wills and probate for the future. The Law Commission is looking to modernise the whole will-making process including the possibility of making a digital will. They are also looking at dropping the legal age at which you are able to make a will from 18 to 16, which I think would be a very positive step. When you consider what you can legally do at 16, getting married being one, this is a step that makes sense.
However, no matter how the process might change and modernise, the overall object remains the same. You need to have confidence that the person you choose to entrust the preparation and writing of your will, fully understands your situation and needs; is highly competent legally and will show the attention to detail that an important document like this warrants. I know here at Battrick Clark, that is exactly what we do.”