We are UK Solicitors
We are a unique firm of solicitors. We are based in the UK and as such are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). We are also members of the Law Society which means that clients have the protection and comfort of dealing with a UK firm of Solicitors, with all the regulation that comes with it, even though their legal issue may be outside of the UK.
In many countries their Law Society can be more like a Trade Union rather than a true Regulatory Body and therefore making a complaint against that foreign based lawyer may be frustrating and not progress very far, unlike the UK. We are aware of examples of individuals making a complaint about an overseas lawyer to the relevant local Law Society in that jurisdiction which fails to even receive an acknowledgement of the complaint from the Law Society, let alone a favourable decision. Equally the Code of Conduct of Solicitors in the UK is not only stricter and heavily enforced than in some countries. As a UK firm of Solicitors we have to comply strictly with a Code of Conduct.
This is probably one of the most important factors clients should consider when seeking legal advice outside of the UK. One of the key things that UK Regulated Solicitors have to have is professional indemnity insurance (PI Insurance). Professional indemnity Insurance is an insurance policy that covers the client should a solicitor make a negligent mistake. In the UK, Solicitors currently have to have a minimum of £3 million worth of cover per claim, regardless of their claims record. In some countries there is actually no legal requirement to have professional indemnity insurance. In other countries the minimum level required is significantly less than the UK. It is only recently that Spain, for example, required their lawyers to take out PI Insurance and even then it can be as low as €18,000. Therefore if a Spanish Abogado with the minimum amount of cover makes a negligent mistake they will only have insurance that covers them up to the amount of €18,000 per claim, whereas a UK Solicitor will have cover up to £3 million.
We can speak your language
We understand that many foreign lawyers can also speak English but how good is their English? Is it just enough to communicate with you or is it good enough to explain often complicated legal situations to you in terms that you understand? Often there are words that sound the same in two different languages that mean something different. As a UK law firm our native language is English. This means that we can pick up any nuances may exist and can explain things to you without fear of misunderstanding or bad translations. Similarly because we are UK solicitors we can explain things with reference to the UK equivalent, which can help you understand what is happening in the other country.
We understand both sets of Law
Whilst it may seem obvious that whichever lawyer you instruct needs to know the law of the country that you are dealing with it may be less obvious that your legal representative also needs to understand the law of your home country and the interaction between the two sets of laws. There will be interaction between the two countries and this cannot be ignored. Therefore there is a distinct advantage to having a law firm who understands both sets of laws to represent you.
There are several different ways in which having a lawyer who understands both sets of laws is an advantage;
- Buying or selling property – we understand the impact of buying a property abroad on your affairs back in the UK in terms of Taxes (Capital Gains Tax, Income Tax, Inheritance Tax) and also Inheritance.
- Wills – We understand how to make sure that making a Will in one country does not cause a problem or conflict with a Will in another country
- Litigation – we understand which jurisdiction should apply to litigation and also what the issues are with cross-border litigation and enforcement.
- Probate – we understand how to explain to the authorities abroad what the situation is in the UK
Most foreign lawyers lack this depth of understanding which may result in a strategy which encourages you to do something that may be perfectly sensible in their country but may cause you a problem back home. You need a legal team that can look at the transaction as a whole.
We are used to dealing with British clients
Because we specialise in providing legal services to British clients we are used to dealing with them. This allows us the knowledge of the sorts of questions clients expect to be answered, what they are looking for in their Solicitor and what their priorities are.
Foreign lawyers may be used to dealing with British clients but may not understand what they are used to. The reports that they provide on a property purchase, for example, may be extremely limited and may in fact be limited to comments such as “the contract is OK to sign” rather than explaining what the contract says and what the effect of it is.
We are based in the UK
Although the majority of our clients don’t visit us during a transaction we are based in the UK and can therefore easily meet with clients if they wish or if it becomes necessary. We are also open during UK working hours, meaning that it is often easier for clients to contact us. Needless to say telephone calls to us do not require what can sometimes be costly telephone bills to discuss a matter with your overseas lawyer.
We are still local
We have all the advantages set out above of being UK based solicitors but also have a good network of lawyers that we work with on the ground. Choosing us therefore means that you have the best of both worlds.
As we deal with a wide range of different countries, we often find that clients who have done something in one country may have also dome something else in another country. Because we cover a number of countries it means that you don’t have to have one foreign lawyer for one country and another foreign lawyer for the other country. This also means that, as mentioned above, we can look at your legal requirements as a whole rather than just looking at one country.
We have been doing this for a long time with a proven track record. Some of our staff have been dealing exclusively with International Legal issues for over 20 years. We have therefore probably seen your set of circumstances before and therefore know the issues involved and, most importantly, the solutions.
We are independent. We don’t act for estate agents or developers. In fact to do so would be a Conflict of Interest and would be against the SRA Code of Conduct. In many other countries it is also prohibited to act in a situation where you are not independent or there is a Conflict of Interest but this isn’t taken as seriously as it is in the UK and we often find a lawyer acting for both sides on a foreign transaction.
Members of AIPP
We are members of the Association of International Property Professionals. In fact our Legal Director in the UK Peter Esders is on the Board of AIPP and has been for several years. The overseas property market is largely unregulated and the AIPP aims to improve standards of professionalism in that industry. We believe strongly that the overseas property market needs to improve and being involved with AIPP helps us to achieve that whilst giving something back to the industry.