Interview with: Paul King, Founder
April King | View firm profile
What do you see as the main points that differentiate April King from your competitors?
At April King, the client experience is designed around what works for the client. We know some people are very busy – whilst others are nervous about visiting a lawyer. We are happy to visit clients in the comfort of their home and our friendly, no-jargon approach will immediately put them at ease. At the same time, we have set up a geographically diverse network of locations so that we can accommodate those who feel more at ease in a more formal setting.
Unlike far too many firms, we try to avoid simply posting out Wills for our clients to sign where possible as this can be rather stressful for clients who are not lawyers themselves and should not have to navigate through the myriad of formalities. Instead, where it is feasible geographically, we arrange a second appointment to go through the Will and oversee execution. We don’t rush clients – these are important decisions that affect their family’s future – so if a third appointment is desirable, this is arranged. All of this is included in our highly competitive fixed fee structure which gives clients certainty.
We are also assisting more clients than ever before who do not fall within the traditional private client demographic. For example, we work with business owners to ensure that should they be unable to make decisions, their company can continue to operate from day-to-day. This is a specialist area of law that is often overlooked because of incorrect assumptions as to what would happen if a partner or director was incapacitated. It can come as quite a surprise to many that family members or business colleagues cannot quickly gain the authority they need under such circumstances – and businesses can grind to a halt. As for our private clients, we work to accommodate business people who are always very busy and welcome the fact that we’ll come to them! We advise owners with all types of business structure in relation to both making a separate Business Lasting Power of Attorney and dealing with their business assets in their Will, ensuring business continuity.
We assist clients from every walk of life and advise on estates and businesses that range from little in terms of financial value to multi millions of pounds. Regardless of the wealth at stake, our private clients typically have very similar concerns. They want to protect their assets for future generations and ensure they are not eaten up by care fees, creditors, divorces or other similar threats. They want things to be sorted so that their children and grandchildren do not have additional stress and worry on their deaths. Rather than offer the standard Mirror Will solution recommended by so many firms, we offer innovative bespoke solutions designed to shelter assets for future generations in a legal, fair and legitimate way. Ultimately we assist the client in creating harmony rather than discord on their death.
We take a wide view of our clients’ circumstances and offer proactive rather than reactive advice. Having more than 25 years of private client experience allows us to take ‘a view from the bridge’. Every client’s circumstances are different – but often family, property, tax and commercial issues become apparent whilst we are taking instructions. Each client is matched to one of our experienced advisors, be it a Solicitor, Legal Executive, STEP Practitioner, Barrister or other Legal Expert. Where the matter lies outside of our expertise, we have forged close partnerships with a group of select specialist practitioners over the past 25 years, allowing us to obtain the very best advice for the client with complete confidence.
We are keen to educate our clients and the wider public about “products” on the market which claim to offer the same protection but in fact put their assets at risk. A common example is the so-called ‘Asset Protection Trust’ – a vehicle used by unscrupulous companies in an attempt to prevent assets being depleted by care fees. Through our information packs, website pages, blogs, newsletters, brochures and talks, we show clients that there is a better way which is accepted under current rules and regulations. Our client-centric jargon-free approach has earned us recognition in the Legal 500 and we were finalists for two prestigious CILEX awards which was a great honour. It’s exciting to see the firm and my team receiving the recognition they deserve.
We know our strategy and values are hitting a chord with clients old and new because we’re still growing at a rapid pace. April King’s reviews and feedback are also a testament to the fact that we’re delivering what our clients want, in the way they want it.
Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?
With people living longer and the rising cost of care, there is a continued interest in protecting assets from care fees. Sadly, too many people have gone down the Asset Protection Trust route and have been duped out of thousands of pounds. Others have given their home to their children but continued to live in it, hoping it will be ignored in a means test. Local Authorities are severely limited on funding and they are actively chasing people who have sought to deprive themselves of assets this way. I can see a lot of litigation for Asset Protection companies who have peddled these trusts for far too long.
With that, we see a growing interest in legitimate solutions such as those that we offer. These don’t seek to shelter assets in an unfair and improper way – rather, we help ensure that our clients only pay for the care that they have received, and not for their spouse’s care. For many clients, this can mean preserving half the value of the family home for their children or grandchildren.
We are also seeing a lot more awareness and interest in our business succession solutions. Really, any Director or Partner needs to be looking at the practical consequences of losing capacity either temporarily or permanently on their business. There is so much misinformation on this topic and that has left too many business owners sitting comfortably, thinking they are protected by their Partnership Agreement or Articles when they are not. Discrimination legislation meant that many provisions in these documents cannot be relied on. Legal sources also sometimes quote a well-known New South Wales case but that is not an authority for England and Wales. Specialist advice should be sought to protect continuity and our lawyers are here to provide just that.
Another continuing growth area is contested Wills. An aging population means that children stand to inherit later in life and elderly parents will sometimes decide that the child already has everything they need. With house prices continuing to soar, this can make the prospect of challenging a Will or estate for lack of reasonable provision more inviting. More complex family structures and far more instances of estranged children also fuel challenges to Wills.
Our firm can assist those looking to challenge a Will or estate but we also work hard to minimise the likelihood of a challenge to the Wills we draft for clients ourselves. Where a couple have an estranged child they will often want to disinherit as a punishment for the way the child has treated them. We help clients to see the bigger picture – such as the effect that a challenge might have on the family after their deaths. We offer practical solutions, drawn from our vast range of experience in this area. Our advisors have the ability to ‘push back’ and challenge a client’s perspective rather than simply carrying out instructions, with the aim of putting the client in the strongest possible position.
What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?
We’ve continued to develop our structure and strategy around a client-first approach and that has driven some big changes over the past 12 months. Previously we were trying to open locations on the doorstep of every client but we have realised this does not best serve our client base. We now operate a more efficient dispersed model, primarily calling in on clients at their convenience but with a more comprehensive network of locations for those who prefer an office appointment. We also now have solicitors working in bonnie Scotland, providing an adapted version of our innovative specialist solutions to clients that work under Scottish Law. It is very exciting to have added this beautiful country to our geographical reach.
We’ve also continued to recruit specialist lawyers from a range of backgrounds to ensure our clients always receive ‘big picture’ contextual advice. We’re constantly working on the quality and breadth of our lawyer training to ensure that our lawyers really are at the top of their game.
Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?
Technology is a huge focus for us at the moment – we’re working on both systems to improve client services and systems that will bring efficiencies in terms of cost and time. We’re always looking at new technology that will improve how we work with clients but this has to be right for our clients – intuitive, secure, easy to use and adding value, rather than solutions that are simply convenient for our team. It’s all about the client experience and what we do is driven by client feedback, testimonials and reviews.
We use tech to give clients more options too: for example, holding a telephone or Skype conference to fit with a client’s busy schedule. Again, this is all about putting the client first and delivering a service that works around our clients’ lives, adding value wherever we can.
For our lawyers who are often on-the-road seeing clients, tech allows us to keep in touch, monitor progress and offer a high level of support thanks to the changes we’ve introduced. Our lawyers also have access to a vast repository of up-to-date legal webinars, allowing them to refresh and develop their knowledge and skills constantly when not engaged with client work.
Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three year’s time?
The growth of technology and availability of information means that clients are price sensitive and will shop around. They do want stability but they also want value for money and if all they’re getting is a legal document drawn up, they’ll go with the cheapest option. Law firms have to work a lot harder now to really understand their clients and to deliver more value. That’s what keeps clients with us.
Clients have always looked to April King for leadership and direction throughout their lifetime. It’s not uncommon for us to advise whole families through the generations, for both family and business needs. We’re not just another high street shop for Wills – we’re a big-picture firm that looks at the client’s circumstances and finds better, smarter solutions for them. We try to anticipate what may go wrong in the future and put in place real practical solutions in line with the client’s goals. I think that’s a huge differentiator for us and the reason for April King’s shining reviews.
I believe over the next three years we’ll continue to attract the very best legal talent for the benefit of our clients. We invest so much in our staff and unlike many other firms we can offer flexible working, even for our trainees, which gives us a wider talent pool to recruit from. We are keen to maintain and grow our base of specialists which includes Solicitors, Chartered Legal Executives and STEP qualified Trust and Estate Practitioners – each having their own niche expertise to contribute to our collective knowledge.
I believe our client base will continue to grow and diversify as we have seen in recent times with more commercial clients coming to us for succession advice. We’ll continue to provide holistic advice that goes beyond simply fulfilling client instructions and adds real value to our clients’ lives. In a price-sensitive and increasingly impersonal online world, we’ll carry on driving our growth through client-first personal service and real relationships that champion the high street law firms that tend to rely on outdated templates and fail to appreciate how trust law can be successfully used an