The whole Will Aid system is built on the idea that lawyers do something good for a month (as if we do not do good for the rest of the year by providing a good service, albeit for a fee) by waiving their fees for charities.
Actually, it is more like there is a fundraising charity out there, which does all the marketing, then says they will donate the proceeds of the campaign to 8 or 9 charities. I have not looked too closely about the amount that actually *goes* to the end charities *after expenses*. Certainly as solicitors, we are expected to pass on the whole of the donation to the charities and not to retain any part of the donation. We are at liberty to charge an additional fee if the will concerned is more than a “straightforward” will – but then again, few of the people who consult during that period require very basic wills – most being middle class and well provided for. Almost as if the message about making a will never reaches those for whom it would really be beneficial, like those on benefits, for whom the usual prices for wills would be well outside what they would consider affordable. And once they are in front of you, charging extra when they have been led to believe that it’s £95 (and no VAT) becomes moderately difficult – some take it as an affront.
The thing is, the most recent slap in the face appears to be that after last years will aid campaign – there were still people who had not made wills and who had missed the boat for that year. Unwilling to pay the usual prices to solicitors rather than the discounted fee that they would have donated to charity, those enquiring were told that making a will did not require a solicitor, and could be done by an unqualified person.
That is of course true – but the fact that so many solicitors (and the Law Society) have been donating time and expertise pro bono, as well as the risk associated with the work (so covered under the lawyers’ insurance not the charity’s insurance) it seems a bit of a slap in the face.
Why would anyone slap the hand that feeds like that? Could it be that there is some incentive that is paid to the charity for so many potential clients being referred? Could it be that the regulatory requirements of the non solicitors are far lower, or that the attention devoted to the clients is of lower quality? Could it also be that if the non-solicitors retain up to a quarter of the “donation” that this is not in fact, setting both sets of providers on a level playing field?
You give and you give, and then someone else walks off with the prize… Perhaps it is somewhat naive of solicitors not to expect professional fund raisers to act in this way, if they can get money for the charities thereby. If chuggers can pursue the elderly so they are desperate enough to commit suicide then this is fairly minor in the scales of the lengths to which fundraisers will go.
Will we do Will Aid this year? Ho hum….