Roadmap for 2014
The elected members Council at the IPW has spent the summer of 2013 considering what direction the IPW and the ISPW should take now that it’s clear that regulation of our sector in England and Wales has been kicked into the long grass. Even if finds its way back onto an agenda, it could be in the guise of a single regulator for all legal services, where there would be no place for a Willwriting regulator. In Scotland, regulation is also in the long grass but in theory, there is the potential for a light touch sector specific regulatory regime.
Therefore any immediate plans for the IPW to create a regulator for the Willwriting in England and Wales have been abandoned. In Scotland, as long as there is potential of a regulatory regime which looks not too dissimilar to the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) Approved Codes Scheme, we will remain engaged with the Scottish Government.
As part of our re-evaluation, the IPW Council has taken note of comments made by members on our internet forum and we have also considered comments made by members in online surveys that we have conducted and we now have a plan.
The appointment of Sally Brown as the Chief Executive of the Institute is a game changer for the Institute and its members. For the first time ever, the Institute will be managed and directed by a full time employee who has none of the distractions of running a Willwriting business which have beset previous Chairmen.
But much, much, more than that, Sally has the skills to enable the IPW in England and Wales to create a mechanism that will enable its members to provide regulated legal services. There is much legal work which, although regulated, is reasonably transactional. The Council has identified this as an area where benefits that might otherwise go into the pockets of shareholders, investors or partners of third party law firms can be retained by the Institute and its members.
We intend to provide the opportunity for membesr to provide to their clients a wide range of legal services including:
- A ‘get a grant’ service for members who provide estate administration services.
- An estate administration marketplace. We know that there are members who like to carry out estate administration work. We know there are members who don’t like to carry out this type of work and choose to refer it to trust corporations or law firms. We will be looking to create a market place to join the two together so that the work and the profit are retained within the Institute membership.
- A conveyancing service for non-commercial property. Initially this is likely to be limited to property transfers in estate administration cases, but the potential to extend it to a range of non-commercial property transactions is huge. Have you ever lost a client because they have re-written their will with a solicitor when they moved house? Do you receive change of address notifications from which you have been unable to earn anything? We’re looking to change that for institute members.
- The trust drafting service and, perhaps more importantly, the accompanying technical support for members and the families of those for whom trusts are created will continue through McClures Solicitors unchanged. We don’t intend to compete with the best in the market.
- The contentious probate service provided so effectively by Wilkes Solicitors will continue unchanged – it makes no sense to invest in the low volume highly specialised work that Wilkes do so well.
We will be looking to provide a range of services which benefit clients and generate revenue for members:
- The provision of pre-paid funeral plans by award winning provider, Dignity, will continue unchanged. Every plan delivered by an Institute member benefits both the Institute and the member, but we will be looking to restructure this arrangement so that those members who provide this service through Dignity benefit more than those members who don’t.
- The provision of document storage facilities through National Willsafe will continue unchanged. Every client who stores their documents results in a benefit to the Institute and the member, but we will be looking to restructure this arrangement so that those members who provide this service benefit more than those members who don’t. There are some members who could see their Institute membership fee funded entirely by such an arrangement.
- The Council have reached an agreement to promote Will registration. There have been a number of half-hearted attempts to provide such services, but to date there is only one that has had any staying power. The difficulty is that this particular service has previously been the preserve of solicitors, however the Institute hase been instrumental in breaking that stranglehold and in the New Year members will be able to provide Will registration services with a firm that is likely to last the distance. Furthermore, there will be a revenue earning opportunity that will be UNIQUE to Institute members.
- Under discussion is access to a direct debit collection service. Many members collect regular payments for services such as document storage under standing orders, which pay a fixed sum from a specific account to a specific account. Those members who have been using this system for some time will know the long term difficulties that come when clients move bank accounts, when the fee is due for increase or the payment needs to be directed in a new direction – such as when a business is sold. Direct debit collection solves all of these problems but can be difficult to establish, especially for new and/or small businesses and can be expensive. Using group buying power we hope to be able to remove both of these barriers AND deliver a direct benefit to those members who sign up to the service.
We will be looking to provide a range of services which benefit members:
- Most membership organisations provide tangible benefits to members. It is something which previous IPW Councils and committees have looked at but have struggled to get off the ground because of the limited size of our membership. Now that the Institute has a membership which is so much bigger, those conversations have more meaning to them. Better still, the Institute is now part of a network of 10 Code Sponsors under the TSI Approved Codes Scheme and between them there are around 26,000 members. Working with our friends and colleagues in other Code Sponsors has the potential to deliver real benefits which would otherwise be denied to members
- Most Willwriters fail not because they are poor at writing Wills, but because they find it difficult to find anyone to tell their story to. The Institute has always been clear that it’s not a business opportunity and it’s not a franchise, but we do need to do more to support our members. We will be investigating ways in which our website and social media channels can be used to interact with consumers and generate benefit for the Institute and its members. Time and skills are an issue here, but as with anything to do with technology, the answer is to ask a teenager and therefore we are looking to recruit an apprentice to manage our website and social media content. Anything which drives consumers to our website, identifies their needs and directs them to a member who can fulfil those needs will be looked at.
- Training and education has always been a cornerstone of Institute membership. And that is not going to change. While the training that we provide doesn’t derive much financial benefit, it does contribute to the overheads of the Institute and it does generate memberships. We cannot ignore those benefits and so we are looking to re-structure our training and move it onto a different level by getting our training recognised and accredited and by moving much of it onto a distance learning platform to enable study to take place when and where it most suits the student. This is something which is easier said than done as most awarding bodies want substantial fees or to be able to deliver the training themselves and want to see significant numbers taking part in the training. To achieve the accreditation that we need we will be looking to provide training outside of IPW membership –for example, in Scotland and to people who are not members of the Institute.
- The services and benefits that every Institute members currently enjoys will continue and should not be overlooked:
- An active and vibrant internet forum
- Regional meetings in 11 areas around the UK
- The support and recognition from Trading Standards Institute and in particular the search facility at www.tradingstandards.org.uk, which is attracting increasing numbers of visitors and searches every day
- Recognition from an increasing number of stakeholders, especially in the charity sector, that Institute membership means something and provides justifiable assurance to consumers.
- Monthly newsletter
- Quarterly colour magazine, Inheritance Matters
- Technical support and document checking service
- Professional Indemnity Insurance at competitive rates and which doesn’t cut corners on cover and comes with substantial technical support – especially when it’s needs most, when a possible claim is notified
- Representation with various agencies from the LSB to the OPG and the opportunity for your voice to be heard when the Institute invites member contribution before it responds to the endless consultations that pour out of these organisations.
It’s an ambitious plan – almost a re-invention of the Institute. None of this will happen overnight and some of it might not happen at all. But it’s important to understand that the emphasis for the Institute existing has now changed and that the Institute will look a lot different 12 months from now.