You may have heard the term ‘private client law firms’.  Indeed, we consider Autonomy First to be a private client law firm.  But what does that mean and how does it affect the way we practise law?

What is a private client law firm?

In summary, a private client law firm is focused on providing legal outcomes in one or more aspects of people’s lives.  There are specialist private client firms, such as family, criminal or estate planning lawyers, but there are also more generalist firms, some of whom may provide those legal services, but who may also provide legal services relating to business dealings (usually in the SME market), personal injuries, neighbour disputes, residential leasing, employment and conveyancing, indeed any area where people’s lives intersect with the law.

The alternative to a private client firm is a corporate law firm.  These firms tend to focus on the big end of town.  Their lawyers are often highly specialised in various corporate law areas, such as tax, intellectual property, insolvency, mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and large property developments, to mention a few.

Is there cross-over?  Of course there is.  There are, for example, many corporate law firms that do work in the SME market and also provide some private client services.  So, why worry about the distinction?  The reason comes down to culture.  A firm that practices, or aspires to practise, in the private client space has a very different culture to one that practises, or aspires to practise, in the corporate space, even if they are currently somewhere in the middle.  Most firms at least aspire to be one or the other.

The cultural difference arises from the focus on personal relationships as opposed to corporate needs.  This may manifest in many ways, such as more accessible offices, more mobile lawyers, better client access to lawyers, greater responsiveness by lawyers, better knowledge of client’s personal affairs and more flexible cost of services.

I have always enjoyed working in the private client space because of the impact you can have on the lives of individuals.  You are dealing with people who really care about the outcome of their legal matters.  It just seems to make the law more real, less dry and ultimately more rewarding.

I like to say that, at Autonomy First, we act for people and their businesses.  We are about the creation, maintenance and succession of wealth for and by people.  Much of the work we do is of no interest to corporate firms.  For us, this work has been our careers by choice.  The choice to work for people.