I can hardly believe that another SWW Conference has been and gone. It creeps up on us so quickly every year, and after all the genuine blood, sweat and tears required to organise the event, suddenly it’s over.
This year’s event might not have fallen on any kind of special year for the Society, but it has still been an excellent edition of the conference with some wonderful feedback which I am sure has made it for those who attended one to remember. So once more, I welcome you to my SWW Conference Roundup, a retrospective on the event and culmination of takeaways and thoughts, feelings and thank yous to everyone who helped make this event possible.
The format of the first day changed slightly this year, with us having a go at hosting the first-ever SWW Regional Group Open Forum. Every year we invite the SWW Regional Chairs to the conference to meet with us and the members. This year we put them front and centre so that delegates might get to know their chair and fellow regional members better, or, even if they’re already regularly involved with their group, give them an opportunity to catch up with one another. There was, I’m pleased to say, a buzz about the main conference room, with some chairs even picking up some new members – so well done to all.
I touched on the importance of the regional groups in my closing remarks and will reiterate here that their impact is not to be underestimated. They give their time freely to support members locally, and their support for the Society is very much appreciated.
Moving into the talks for the day, it was once more my pleasure to open the conference and provide the Society’s annual update. Touching on membership trends, plans for the College and the future of the Society itself including a top-down overhaul of our image, this year’s presentation was packed with changes. Rounding off with a brief look at what’s happening in the wider sector, I gladly handed over to the Chairman of the SWW Professional Standards Board, Antony Brinkman for his annual address to the conference.
Antony covered completed, ongoing and future projects of the PSB, including the all-new best practice guidance, affiliate membership review, the launch of the mentoring scheme pilot, the all-new fellowship upgrade pathway and upcoming changes to the Society’s governance and compliance procedures for members. The PSB certainly have been busy this year and there’s still more to come, so make sure to check in on their socials and keep an eye out for presentations to your regional group too.
Finishing up the morning Nick Ash took to the stage to give a more in-depth look at the work the SWW PSB have been doing on the proposed governance and compliance measures for insertion into the SWW Code of Practice, which are due to be launched in the new year. These new measures come about at an important time in our profession with the CMA’s current investigation and are designed to empower the Society and the PSB to further investigate allegations of bad practice, including misleading advertising and acts of consumer detriment – whether they be reported to us by consumers or other professionals.
After a short break, we handed over to Richard Orpin, Director Regulation and Policy from the Legal Services Board. Richard kindly gave delegates an update on the LSB’s ongoing Reshaping legal services project as well as sharing findings from their mapping of the unregulated sector, before giving way to an extensive Q&A session for delegates. A thoroughly valuable session, not least as it’s always important that members take an opportunity to meet with representatives from key industry stakeholders, regulators and decision-makers within the wider legal sector.
With two sessions left in the day, we were thrilled to host Neil Denny of Chattertons, who is no stranger to SWW Conference and supporting the Society. Neil led a workshop on the second day of last year’s conference and due to popular demand was brought back for a talk on the first day this year about the art of how to price brilliant work. An experimental, evocative and perhaps at times controversial talk, Neil went into great detail about different charging methods, and, in a first for a SWW Conference, held a live auction for a loaf of his homemade sourdough bread – the winner being the Society’s very own Technical Director Siobhan Rattigan-Smith. Not a fix, we swear!
Rounding off the day’s talk we hosted Mark Abrol, Mark Terrar And Emma-Louise Green of Meridian Private Client LLP. This talk or rather, a short roleplaying session, gave delegates an insight into a real-life contentious probate scenario caused by bad drafting and missing information relating to will writing. Delegates were provided with some practical information and useable takeaways from the session to help prevent scenarios such as this one from cropping up in future. I must say as well that Mark Abrol didn’t look too bad in his wig either!
The second day of the conference has always been designed to be more hands-on. Delegates are split up into smaller groups for a series of interactive workshops, each designed to provide them with some practical knowledge, often around developing their business and client offering. It also serves as an excellent springboard of sorts to showcase new speakers, which often opens up wider opportunities for further training and support through the Society later down the line.
Mike Roberts, Simon Dyer, Chiwi Lee, and Cindy Wong ran this year’s workshops.
Mike’s, titled Igniting Your Online Presence gave delegates a look at the secrets of LinkedIn and how to utilise AI tools such as ChatGPT to enhance content creation. Mike is no stranger to working with the Society, having delivered countless free online sessions for members in recent years – also an expert on all things e-signatures and encryption, it was great to have him with us in person for the first time.
Simon opened delegates’ eyes to the world of crypto assets, including currencies and NFTs. Members are now encountering clients who possess them, and it’s important that they have an understanding of what they are, how they work, and how to ensure they’re accounted for under the terms of someone’s Will. Whilst this may have only been an exploratory session, the Society will pursue additional training opportunities on the subject for members in the near future.
Chiwi and Cindy joined us from Singapore and Hong Kong respectively. The Society has for many years had a link with EPPL thanks to Brian McMillan and it was a pleasure to put that on display at this year’s conference. This workshop looked at the intricacies of estate planning in relation to Asia, with a case study on the estate administration for a British person dying in Singapore, as well as guidance for Asian clients living in the UK, and British clients living abroad. Members are more frequently encountering clients with foreign assets and it’s important that where possible the Society continues to provide support, training and guidance to help deal effectively with this.
I’ve said it before, both at the event and in blogs here, and I stand by the fact that it simply wouldn’t be possible to run the conference on the scale we do without the support of its sponsors. Whilst the financial impact they have on the conference is important, what they bring to the table for the delegates is of far greater value. We always aim to host sponsors that can genuinely offer those who go to the conference something that will either enhance their business or the services that they can offer their clients. Whether it’s software, marketing support, or additional legal services, the conference has something for everybody and with us showcasing even more than before this year, I think that really rings true.
This year’s conference was proudly supported by:
Marsh Commercial, The Estate Planner’s Toolkit, Estate Planning Practioners Limited, SWW Trust Corporation, The National Will Archive, The National Will Register, Lime Solicitors, WillSuite, Meridian Private Client LLP, Today’s Wills & Probate, Legal Growth, The Law Superstore, Capacity Vault and Finders International.
You can find out all about the sponsors here, as well as catch up on all the latest posts from them under the conference category on the news page.
We were delighted once more to have the excellent Dan Wray with us at the conference, who spent the entirety of the first day and the evening taking pictures of all the goings on. We’ve uploaded a selection of photos, including highlights of some of the speakers mentioned above to the 2023 Conference Gallery.
That’s it for another year then. Another excellent conference and I’d just like to say thank you once more to everybody who came to the conference, whether to work or participate. It really is the highlight of the year in the Society’s calendar for me, and I know the team enjoy it as much as I do – it was great to see you there, and I look forward to hopefully seeing you at the next one! 2024 is the Society’s 30th year in business, so next year not only are we planning a special conference like that of 2019’s 25th anniversary, there are other special plans and ideas in the works as well so keep an eye out for more information.
This article was submitted to be published by The Society of Willwriters as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Wills and Probate. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Wills and Probate.