Welcome to the latest interview from the National Association of Licensed Paralegals. Today we are joined by Tony Watson, owner of Wills & Legal Services, a national Specialist Paralegal Law Firm based in Worcestershire. If you wish to listen to the podcast, you can find it here.
Describe yourself in two sentences, or less:
Ambitious, driven by success but, more importantly, by ensuring that all our clients are at the forefront of everything we do.
What’s your favourite movie of all time?
Sadly to say, It’s The Longest Day, about the World War II D-Day landings. It’s my favourite because it’s about success, it’s the start of the success of beating the Germans.
When you retire, where in the world would you like to live, money no object?
Well, if I’m honest, it’s where I currently live. A little tiny village called Bishops Frome, which is on the borders of Herefordshire. We live in the middle of nowhere and we have dogs, sheep, horses, ponies and chickens. Our daughter’s fully gown up now, so my wife and I enjoy the animals after working hard during the day.
Can you give me an overview of what Wills & Legal Services does?
Wills & Legal Services, as you said at the beginning, is a specialist paralegal law firm. Some years ago, will writing was looked at as to whether or not it should be regulated, because there are an awful lot of people in the will writing industry who don’t associate themselves with any regulator or any organisation, like NALP or similar. So, we really promoted it with the legal services board, to say it should be regulated. And [because] it wasn’t regulated we then formed Wills & Legal Services National Paralegal Law Firm, specialising in will writing and later-life planning, and that’s how we grew.
How did you discover NALP?
After regulation was refused by the government, having come from a financial services background, which was a regulated environment, we were very disappointed. We actually own our own firm of solicitors, so we have that regulation there, but we wanted a structure in place to enable us to follow guidelines, rules, if you like. We looked at the Institute of Paralegals, but we weren’t very impressed with the IoP for many reasons. It was at that point we found NALP. We contacted Amanda and things progressed from there, very successfully.
What was it about NALP that really impressed you?
If I’m perfectly honest, Amanda, as CEO of NALP, commands an awful lot of presence. As opposed to the other organisation we looked at, we found the advice and direction Amanda gave us was second to none. We feel it has a very good infrastructure and also the different courses and training it offers to us are [also] second to none. I’m aware that NALP is constantly trying to improve what they’re offering. I think NALP has evolved into the 21st century. A lot of these other organisations are still way back. As an example, my wife has been in the legal profession for 30 years of her working life. She used to be a backroom secretary for solicitors. The solicitors were there at the forefront with the client, but the solicitors would then give my wife the work to do and she would do it with no recognition. But, because of NALP, my wife now is at the forefront. Also, I believe NALP gives the consumer more choice. A lot of people think you can only go to a solicitor but paralegals are very powerful people. Paralegals, in my opinion, and it’s only my opinion, have more legal knowledge in certain areas of law than your typical high street solicitor, who in my opinion, is a jack of all trades. Is he a master of none? Because if he hasn’t got those people, i.e., paralegals, working for the practice, he wouldn’t do the work.
Every person in your team is a NALP member, can you explain why this is?
We have 34 paralegals who advise clients nationally on wills and estate planning. We have 22 legal staff in our legal department, who are all NALP members. The reason for that is it gives our paralegals focus and security in knowing that they can progress, it’s not a dead end job. I go back to working in solicitors’ practice… if you’ve got a secretary or an administrator, where does their future go? They can start at 20 years of age and when they’re 50 they’re still a secretary or an administrator. We have a structure here, we are investors in people, and by using NALP and the journey our paralegals can go on, they can become somebody. And they can be recognised in the legal profession, and they have an identity.
How does a NALP qualification help your staff do their job?
It helps an awful lot in the progression of people’s ability. There are too many of them to give precise indications of the different courses they enrol in, but the knowledge… knowing that we will support them if they approach us on an appraisal and say, ‘look I’m doing these wills now. I want to further myself’. We’ll point them straight to the NALP website to show them the sort of things they should be considering. So, they will gain knowledge through our association with NALP.
What are your aspirations for Wills & Legal Services?
We have plans over the next three to five years to grow even bigger than we currently are. We’re looking to have 60 paralegals in the field, advising clients. We want to become one of the national leaders within this industry. Our ethos, as I said, is to put the consumer at the forefront of everything we do. And to give them confidence and belief that having paralegals is another option. That the knowledge they [my team] gain, through experience and through the courses, [means] that the consumer has the confidence to realise that you don’t just have to go to a high street solicitor. There’s more choice out there.
How can NALP can help you achieve these aspirations?
I think what NALP is doing is great. I really sincerely hope that NALP keeps evolving. People now… the consumer wants choice. And the choice they get, they want to go to somebody who knows what they’re talking about. The days have gone where going to a high street solicitor… he can be a divorce lawyer today and a litigation lawyer the next day and a will writer the next day. The general public want to go to a specialist, to somebody who only deals in that area of law. And from NALP’s perspective, NALP gives that opportunity for people to focus on something and be absolutely 100% spot on in what they’re actually looking to achieve. It comes back to the consumer getting the best deal out of it.
Thank you for your time, Tony.
And thank you everyone for taking the time to read this transcript. If you would like to know more about NALP and how we work to promote the paralegal profession and help our members with their careers, please click on any one of the links above.