Legal Jargon Explained – What is Private Client Law?


When you look for legal advice, you're going to be looking for someone to help you with the issue at hand; whether it's a will, administering an estate, or setting up a trust. It's likely that you're going to come across the term Private Client whilst looking for help with any of these issues.

Legal Jargon Explained – What is Private Client?

It's an area of law that covers things we're bound to encounter in life – death and finances – but lots of people don't know what it is.

Sarah Ali, Trainee Solicitor specialising in Wills and Probate at Simpson Millar LLP explains this little understood, but frequently used, term:

What Does Private Client Mean?

Private Client lawyers provide private legal services for individuals, as opposed to corporate entities. The term encompasses legal services such as;

  • Drafting Wills and other legal documents
  • Advice for executors of Wills, and handling probate disputes (contested probate)
  • Wealth management services, including property and tax advice
  • Advising on trusts and estates, and any disputes that arise
  • Power of Attorney and Court of Protection services with regards to the financial decisions being made for people who lack capacity

Where Does Private Client Law Come From?

As you can imagine, many of the areas covered by Private Client, such as the need to pass on and protect property, are age old problems.

Trusts have been recognised as long ago as the Middle Ages, when landowners returning from the Crusades in the 12th Century found that those they had entrusted their land with would not return it. The Courts of Chancery were therefore afforded the discretion to decide the fair (equitable) owner.  The principle of equity itself has foundations in Roman law and comes from the Latin concept of justice and equality, Aequitas.

On the flip side, some areas of Private Client are relatively new and are continually evolving. In the last decade have we seen the introduction of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. This introduced a process for making decisions about another person's life and property if they don't have the mental capacity to make decisions themselves.

Whilst many areas of Private Client law have historical foundations, the law in all areas of Private Client is constantly subject to change. For example, the rules governing inheritance tax (IHT) thresholds often change depending on government policy; we recently saw the Conservative government increase the IHT tax free allowance to up to £1 million.

Why Do I Need to Know?

Despite the areas of legal advice that fall under private client being commonplace services that we are all likely to need at some stage in our lives, it remains a term that many people don't understand fully.

It can even be argued that the distinction between private and corporate clients doesn't need to be enforced. The private and corporate division is neither relevant nor practical for clients that want to choose a firm of solicitors that are flexible and able to provide support with a range of legal issues throughout their lives.

Simpson Millar LLP is proud to be a full service law firm, providing both personal and commercial legal services. With us, you can access flexible, accessible legal services with the added peace of mind that you're seeking advice from a specialist.

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