A week in the life of…Equilaw Managing Director Claire Barker
Claire Barker, Managing Director of the national firm of solicitors, Equilaw, was at the centre of the Council’s recent rule change on remote legal advice. She shares some of the details of that particular working week.
Monday: I get a report at 6am every weekday to tell me what work is coming in, so I always look at that first. Then I walk my three dogs, a Labrador and two greyhounds, with my husband for about 45 minutes, which sets me up for the day. Now that we are in lockdown, the commute downstairs is short and I can crack on with my emails and calls.
This week I have been asked to help to formulate a modification to the Equity Release Council’s Rules and Guidance to allow for non face-to-face legal advice in equity release cases. Technically, this should be an easy piece of work but, given the history of the sector and the need to protect borrowers and uphold standards, it requires careful thought. I speak to my Operations Director, Ailsa Roberts, to share thoughts on how the process might look and ask her to draw up a flowchart. I will then draft the guidance around it.
Almost all of our staff are now working remotely, so I catch up with them on our group chat – the mood is positive and they are getting used to the new ‘normal’.
Tuesday: Lockdown fever is starting to hit the sector, and I am deluged with questions from financial advisers, lenders and solicitors about what a remote legal service might look like. Some think that this will be a silver bullet and immediately release the deadlock with an even speedier service, so I am trying to explain that it needs to be as robust as the existing process and will therefore have several hurdles to overcome. I issue some draft guidance and the flowchart to the Council’s Solicitors Working Group and we set up a conference call to discuss. I also have daily calls with various Council board members to keep them updated.
The outdoor highlight of today, other than my dog walk, is the one-mile trip to the village shop in the car, which has been sitting on the drive for too long already. It feels slightly naughty to be going out!
Wednesday: I have an Equilaw Board meeting with our investors scheduled today on Zoom. I put on make-up for the first time in about two weeks. Feels very odd! I am enjoying being at home in the glorious weather though and am lucky enough to live in the countryside, so news of the virus seems strangely removed from here.
We talk at the Board meeting about remote legal advice and I outline how it might look. We discuss risk management and the sorts of clients and cases where it might be appropriate and the Board approves my recommendations.
In order to make the required process changes, all of the lenders’ solicitors documentation needs to be amended, along with their instructions to borrowers’ solicitors. The Solicitor’s Certificate is one of the principal documents and I am now on version six, following various consultations.
Thursday: I do my usual PT session via FaceTime this morning. It is slightly strange not being together in the gym, but it works and I quickly realise I need to keep up the regime. I promise to do more stretching at the weekend (but we both know this won’t happen).
I catch up with my Business Relationships Team a bit later, on Zoom. They are fielding hundreds of calls every day as to whether remote legal advice has been implemented (it hasn’t yet). It needs to be approved by the Council’s Main Board. I join the Main Board meeting on a conference call, along with Ailsa, to outline how the new process looks and to answer questions. I am later told that it has been broadly approved but individual lenders and their funders will need to get comfortable with it and assess the risk.
I answer emails and calls from lenders during the rest of the day and continue to draft the guidance which is designed to give background, context and reasons for the new process.
Friday: The Council is due to make an announcement today about the modification of the Rules and Guidance so we need to ensure that everybody is agreed. The Solicitors’ Working Group has another conference call and we share our ideas on best practice. The Council’s announcement is duly made and I continue to answer queries about what has changed, which are now mostly arriving from funders. However, the work is done and it’s the weekend! I have a lovely bottle of St Veran chilling in the fridge and it’s got my name all over it…plus it is my birthday on Sunday and I need to plan a cake!
To view guidance of delivering remote legal advice click here.
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