• April 21, 2024
 Diary of a private client practitioner: 8th March 2024

Diary of a private client practitioner: 8th March 2024

As I was trying to save face, and not fall into a sweaty mess on the floor this morning during my morning spin class, I received some unexpected inspection from the instruction. Sometimes life throws you a curveball…

This is what 2023 felt like to me… so time to rethink and regroup.

2024 really feels like a breath of fresh air. I have never really focused or put a lot of thought into ‘new year, new me’ but this time around I felt like the change of year could not have come soon enough.

For me, my hope is that 2024 is the year where long-term plans, and prioritising my health and wellbeing comes together. Mental health has been plastered across the legal press in recent weeks and it now seems that the spotlight is firmly on some difficult questions about stress, and work/life balance, for our profession.

First up, a change of job. For the first few weeks of 2024, I was on gardening leave, enjoying a breather and recharging. I don’t know about you, but this is the first time in my professional life I have stepped away from work (aside from a couple of weeks of annual leave) and didn’t have the constant train of emails or case load hanging over my head. I don’t think I realised how much stress and pressure sits on our shoulders as a lawyer, without even knowing.

From my experience, working in our area of law, whether private client or otherwise, isn’t one of those careers where we can just put down our work at the end of every day. It also doesn’t help that in private client, we are often helping people through a very stressful, and in many cases, worse time in their lives with loved ones having died or going through something incredibly difficult. For me, I find that I get very personally invested in cases, and outcomes, particularly if I can see a perceived injustice or abuse having played out.

Wind forward to today, going into week three of a new job. Very much a new start and a new chapter in my working life. What is interesting is that I trained with Irwin Mitchell in 2010, qualifying in 2012, and even from my first few weeks can see how much it has changed and grown into that time. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay with the firm on qualification, because there were no jobs in litigation going, but it just goes to show that things can go full circle and how opportunities present themselves.

Somehow, in what feels like the blink of an eye, I am now 12 years qualified.

Starting a new job comes with a lot of unknowns, a lot of compulsory training, but also on the flipside a lot of opportunities. What has been so lovely, is how open and welcoming everyone has been. It is going to take me a while to get on top of all the various acronyms (and believe me, there are a fair few) and understanding the various structure and teams. However, I already feel at home and very much part of a community of like-minded (and awesome) individuals.

As I get back up to speed with all things work, and into the mindset of working again, I can already see how active 2024 has been with so many judgments coming through, which looks set to continue. Claims that were issued in 2020, 2021, and onwards, appear to have made it through to trial, and coming thick and fast with some juicy topics being addressed:

  • Kenig v Thomson Snell & Passmore LLP [2024] EWCA Civ 15: confirming a beneficiary’s right to challenge the legal costs payable from the estate, even when agreed by the personal representatives.
  • Gowing v Ward [2024] EWHC 347 (comments on which can be found in the following link: (1) Post | Feed | LinkedIn and Rea v Rea [2024] EWCA Civ 169 both finding in favour of testamentary freedom and that the will changes made were not done so due to undue influence and/or coercion.
  • Williams v Williams [2024] EWCA 42: where it was held that property acquired the land, not as part of the partnership assets, but for business purposes and no express declaration, it would usually be assumed that there was no right of survivorship attached to the property, such that the property was intended to be held as tenants in common with equal shares, rather than beneficial joint tenants.

I could go on, as there genuinely seem to be loads of cases handed down in the first few months in the High Court, Court of Appeal, and Court of Protection.

We are also still waiting to hear what the Court has to say with judgments reserved and yet to be handed down:

  • Supreme Court in Hirchand v Hirchand: which will determine whether a success fee under a conditional fee agreement is capable of being a debt and part of the financial need for which the court may exercise its discretion to award, in full or part, as part of any award made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants Act) 1975. The very nature of someone bringing a claim for reasonable financial provision often means that they lack the financial resources to personally fund a claim, leaving many with no option but to enter into a conditional fee agreement, and then to have some of their award used to offset this if the decision in the Court of Appeal is not upheld.
  • Court of Appeal in Brealey v Shepherd & Co: whether the trustees can agree amongst themselves, for one of their number who is a professional trustee, to receive reasonable remuneration for services provided to the trust, and whether the requirement for agreement includes obtaining agreement from a person nominated as executor in a will, but who had yet to accept office. There is also a second question on whether the inherent jurisdiction of the Court was to be invoked for the good administration of the trust or only to be exercised sparingly and in exceptional circumstances.

Although we are only a few months into 2024 it seems that the Court’s attitude is focused on giving effect to a deceased’s wishes and that there is a very big focus on costs.

By all accounts, what an exciting start to 2024. Here is to the next 12 years, and the new and unexplored opportunities ahead.

Sarah Bolt is Senior Associate with Irwin Mitchell in their Bristol office.

DDI: 0114 2172685

Mobile: 07386650786

Sarah.Bolt@irwinmitchell.com

www.IrwinMitchell.com

Sarah Bolt, Senior Associate in Wills, Trusts, and Estates Disputes at Irwin Mitchell