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40 . Glasgow Business September/October 2013

“When you agree to any pricing schedule

you have to understand the details of the service you’re being offered,” said Coral Riddell. “Who does the client expect to talk to – the trainee or the partner? What medium do you want to be communicating through, and how oſten? “You may also have criteria within your

own organisation as to who the lawyer can speak to. Ask yourself who the lawyer should be taking instructions from and who should they be reporting to.” Of course, the adviser’s terms should be

established from the beginning, not only in respect of the level of fees relating to their scope of service, but also in terms of what facilities they have for payment. “You need to be able to plan your cashflow,”

said Jim Lockhart. “So be sure and ask your adviser if they can break the fees up over 12 months, rather than receiving a larger bill when maybe you haven’t made provision for it.” Ultimately, however, the key to any good

relationship is that hard-to-define feeling you get when you’re dealing with an adviser face to face. “So much of it is to do with gut instincts,”

said Coral. “And even if you like the person you’re meeting with, is that actually the one who’ll be doing the work? Do you mind if someone else in the firm carries out the work? It might be more costs effective to do so, but

Seeking advice outside the office

It’s not only in business you may need to seek legal advice, and the same guidelines apply when it comes to finding a lawyer to work with in your world outside of the workplace. Family lawyers can advise you both before you embark on a relationship, and of course after it has broken down.

But as with a commercial lawyer, the expert

you turn to should be able to demonstrate their professional accreditation and qualifications, in this case in all aspects of family law, including collaborative law and mediation. You can get information on that from the Family Law Association website, or from the Law Society of Scotland.

Equally as important in this area of law is the personal relationship you have with your solicitor,

it’s important to consider in advance what you expect and what service you are agreeing to.” Ken McManus from ICAS agrees,

with a reminder that in such an important professional relationship, the ability to be transparent is also key. “I would always put it down to personal

chemistry,” he said. “See how you get on, and ask yourself, how comfortable would you feel

says Lisa Girdwood, Partner in Family Law at Simpson & Marwick. “This is a different form of law, so the

relationship does have to work on a personal level,” she said. “While the lawyer has to maintain a clear professional distance, nonetheless there has to be a degree of empathy because clients are sometimes having to divulge the most intimate information about their lives. So having a good relationship with your lawyer is pivotal.” Lisa also recommends being clear about the pricing structure before you enter any agreement. “If a lawyer is unwilling to give you that

information I would be very cautious,” she says. “They should be frank and upfront about what their charges are, and give the client a clear view of what their service is going to cost.”

bearing your soul to this person? Because believe me, there is nothing you can hide from your accountant. You may be able to put on a flash image and appear to be running a wealthy business and drive a Mercedes, but your accountant knows it’s a lease vehicle and it’s going back next week. You can’t hide from him, so the most important thing is to have an empathy.”


What services do they provide? Try to choose an adviser or firm that offers the type of services that suits your requirements and has experience of advising businesses like yours.

What qualifications, accreditations and experience does the adviser have? If it’s to provide financial advice, there is a minimum level in the UK that advisers have to hold and they should be able to show you their certification. Check your lawyer’s membership of the Law Society of Scotland, and remember there are different accountancy qualifications – but only CAs are members of ICAS.

How do they charge for their services and how much? Ask if there is an initial planning fee, whether they charge a percentage of assets under management of if they charge by hourly fee, project fee or retainer. Compare payment options to see which is best for your business.

Ask if you can see a business plan they have prepared for another client. This should provide you with a

good idea of the areas your adviser can help you with and will provide a basis for an initial discussion.

How much contact do they have with clients and will you be working with an individual or a team? Is there regular face-to-face contact or is there a quarterly review? Is most communication done over the phone or via email? Will you only deal with the adviser or with a small team?

After your meeting with a potential adviser did they seem interested in your business? If they asked lots of questions and seemed interested in how they can help you that’s a good sign. Make sure you choose someone you feel at ease with and who gives you confidence.


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