Private client lawyers act for private individuals on legal matters such as wealth management, wills, trusts and probate.
What does a private client lawyer do?
This is becoming an increasingly important area of the law as individuals seek to preserve, grow and pass on their assets, whilst minimising tax liabilities.
Private client law is practised at law firms of all sizes. High street and local solicitors focus on work like wills, trusts and probate for members of the public. Regional, City and specialist firms tend to act for higher net worth individuals, and families and estates, particularly on tax planning and wealth management.
At these law firms there are two relatively distinct groups of clients:
Traditional or ‘old money’ clients including landed gentry and their estates, alongside organisations such as the National Trust and English Heritage.
Entrepreneurial or ‘new money’ clients, who have made their money through business, for example.
Old money clients have tended to be more risk-averse in their attitude in contrast to the new money clients who generally have a more commercial approach to risk. The latter, has led to an increase in international nature of high net worth private client work, with firms using complex trusts and offshore tax structures as vehicles to preserve wealth through minimizing tax liabilities.
There is also a contentious side of this work as disputes arise.
How to become a private client lawyer
To work as a solicitor, you can either take the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), or if you are eligible, you can study the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
If you qualify through the SQE, you will also need to complete two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE). To prepare for the SQE, we recommend studying one of our SQE courses, which have been designed to give you the knowledge and skills for a successful career as a solicitor.
If you’re eligible to study the LPC, you will need to get a two-year training contract with a law firm. To find out what route is right for you, see our Becoming a Solicitor page.
Once you complete your two-year training contract or QWE, you can apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to be admitted as a solicitor.
To become a barrister, you will need to have completed an undergraduate law degree, or if you are a non-law graduate, a conversion course, before completing the Bar Practice Course (BPC). You will then need to secure pupillage.
You can also study a Master of Law (LLM) in International Finance Law or an LLM in Banking and Debt Finance to give you the knowledge and skills to move into this sector.
What skills are required?
To be a private client lawyer you need to have an interest in people and their affairs, whilst acting with discretion and empathy. Private client lawyers need to be very strong technically, have excellent communication skills, great attention to detail and strong drafting skills.
The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners