Curious about how we work? Explore our FAQs below. Can’t find the answer to your question? Contact us and we’ll be only too happy to help!
Why is Stirling Haigh a “Legal Consultancy” and not a “Law Firm” or “Solicitors”?
The short answer is that our consultants are not acting as solicitors when providing services. Law firms comprise solicitors who are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and when we provide services to our business clients we are not regulated or authorised by the SRA.
The longer answer requires a bit of background. In the UK, there are certain activities which are “reserved” to solicitors (and in some cases other authorised, regulated persons like barristers or licensed conveyancers). These are:
the exercise of a right of audience (i.e. the right to act as an advocate in court);
the conduct of litigation;
the administration of oaths.
We do not conduct any of these reserved activities. We provide legal advice and other services that are not an activity reserved to solicitors.
So: since it doesn’t make any difference to our work, you may well ask why we don’t just practice as a law firm. The answer is that, like many of our clients, Stirling Haigh is an international innovative group, we are often at the forefront of controversial international disputes involvement governments and high-profile cases, as such we want to remain independent. Further, practising as a regulated law firm requires the annual payment of various contributions (including a proportion of the relevant practice’s turnover) to the Law Society and/or the Solicitors Regulation Authority. It also increases insurance costs by a significant factor (regardless of whether or not you conduct the reserved activities set out above) and requires management time to be dedicated to prescribed regulatory administration. All in all, our view is that we can run more effectively as an international legal consultancy and strategic advisor. Further, by keeping our running and administrative costs down, we are able to pass on the benefit of savings to our clients and provide our services at a much more competitive rate than solicitors providing the same services.
However, from a client’s perspective, using an unregulated consultancy as opposed to a firm of solicitors is not all upside. While our view is that the cost benefit to the client outweighs the downsides of using a legal consultancy, we want our clients to be fully informed of the position to make up their own minds. Here are the key distinctions:
Solicitors are required to maintain mandatory levels of professional indemnity insurance cover (at least £3,000,000 per claim). Stirling Haigh only maintains professional indemnity cover of £1,000,000 per claim (although we are willing to take out additional cover in relation to specific transactions or projects).
Solicitors are subject to rules issued by the Solicitors Regulation Authority relating to the conduct of their business (and in particular imposing ethical standards and a duty to act in the client’s best interests). We are not subject to those rules. In our view, this makes very little difference to the client, as it is clearly in our best interests to act honestly whether or not we are subject to written rules requiring us to do so. Also, as anyone with access to Google will discover, the existence of the SRA rules does not necessarily prevent rogue solicitors from acting in breach of those rules.
If you’re unhappy with the service received from a solicitor, you can raise a complaint with the Legal Ombudsman. If you’re unhappy with our service, then you cannot complain to the Legal Ombudsman but will have to raise your complaint with us directly. It’s not happened yet, though.
Solicitors’ advice can be “privileged”. What this means is that correspondence between a client and solicitor can, if made confidentially and for the purposes of legal advice, be withheld from a court or third party in connection with legal proceedings. Advice from non-regulated advisors is not “privileged”, which means that our advice may be disclosable in evidence in the context of a legal claim. In this sense, our correspondence and advice is treated in the same manner as advice from your accountants, management consultants, HR consultants or anyone else who is not a regulated legal advisor such as a solicitor or barrister.
Do you have professional indemnity insurance?
Yes, we have professional indemnity cover of £1,000,000 per claim. We also have public liability cover of £5,000,000 per claim. If we are advising you in relation to a particularly high-value or high-risk transaction, then we are more than happy to discuss increasing our professional indemnity cover as necessary.
Do you work for law firms and barristers?
We are happy to provide support to law firms and barristers chambers and do so regularly. However, because we are an unregulated legal consultancy (and our consultants are not practising as solicitors when working through Stirling Haigh Limited) it will be imperative that our law firm client makes absolutely clear in its own dealings with its clients that our consultants are not held out to be acting as practising solicitors.