University: University College London
Tax work for private clients typically involves advising ultra-high net-worth individuals and families, including trustees and family offices, on managing their assets in a tax-efficient way for the long-term benefit of future generations. There’s often an international element, and frequently work may also involve considering complex trust and corporate structures, Wills, succession planning and immigration matters.
To truly love what you do is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and by sitting on the tax, trusts and succession team at Charles Russell Speechlys, Orrie Hamilton has found this pleasure.
Following an undergraduate degree in history, Orrie undertook a Graduate Diploma in Law, followed by the Legal Practice Course and a two-year training contract at Charles Russell Speechlys, of which he loved every moment. Reminiscing on the diverse practice areas covered during his training contract, Orrie reflects on the four seats he undertook; after his first seat in the corporate team, he experienced a corporate secondment at a private equity firm, followed by a seat in the tax, trusts and succession team and finally the corporate tax team. For Orrie, completing a client secondment “was a nice way to continue on from doing corporate [work]
”, and ultimately “really useful” for understanding what matters most to our clients, which is a key strategic priority for the firm.
A decent proposal
“The main highlight of the training contract was that the HR team and the partners I worked with were all very receptive to how I wanted to develop myself”, explains Orrie. From the seats he wanted to sit in, to the specific work he was interested in within the seats, Orrie found Charles Russell Speechlys to be incredibly encouraging of his career aspirations and interests. But how did Orrie convince the firm to afford him such leniency as a trainee? Simple – he put forward a proposal. Orrie’s training contract experience at Charles Russell Speechlys tells the time-old tale that if you don’t ask you don’t get. By proposing an unconventional training contract route, particularly in the sense that Orrie didn’t sit within the litigation team at any point and instead undertook the trainee litigation programme to allow him to sit within two tax seats, Orrie completed a training contract he describes as “perfect for me”, thanks to the firm’s accommodations.
This, as well as Charles Russell Speechlys’ “diversity of practice areas”, were green flags for Orrie, which confirmed that this was the right firm for him, as well as “the fact that a lot of the corporate work we do still has a private client focus which I thought was quite unique compared to other firms I’d looked at.”
It’s all about trust(s)
As an associate in the tax, trusts and succession team, which Orrie describes as Charles Russell Speechlys’ “way of describing non-contentious private client work”, you must wear many hats. “It’s really difficult to explain what we do in a nutshell because it covers so many different areas and touches on so many sectors”. To summarise: “broadly, private client work involves estate planning and asset protection, as well as tax advice”.
"It’s really difficult to explain what we do in a nutshell because it covers so many different areas and touches on so many sectors"
Orrie enjoys the breadth of work offered within his team, especially the cross-border element afforded through the internationally mobile nature the clients. Because of this “I actually find that a lot of the work we do is ‘structuring’ work,” he explains. “Whether that’s setting up trusts and advising on existing trust structures” or assisting clients that are looking to move jurisdictions by providing advice on their UK tax status or assessing what Charles Russell Speechlys could do “to ensure that their worldwide estate is dealt with in a tax-efficient manner and in a way that allows [their] succession objectives to be achieved”.
Orrie also undertakes work dealing with putting structures and governing arrangements in place for when the next generation may take over a family business. This regularly involves working with family offices and trustees, often for clients with young children who are considering exactly how much control they should have over certain assets and at what point in their lives this should come into effect.
Ongoing collaboration and enjoyment
Looking back on his early days in the team, Orrie admits joining as a trainee with “a few misconceptions” about private client work. “I’d thought the work was a lot more focused on Wills and standard estate planning, when actually there’s much more corporate structuring involved than people might think, and so you’re often dealing with corporate entities.” Orrie adds that as a result he “found that tax and trusts has this really nice balance between advisory work on the tax side” which he enjoys, but also the faster-paced nature of transactional work where clients are reorganising interests in their corporate and/or trust structures on the other. In fact, dealing with the more transactional aspects is something Orrie particularly enjoys due to the exposure he gained during his corporate seats as a trainee. The lessons he learned during his training contract “and being able to feed this back in to [his] day-to-day work is really satisfying”.
When discussing the highlight of Orrie’s career, it’s the consistent cross-team collaboration that first springs to mind. He remarks that, especially as a junior, this helped him to feel truly integrated into the firm and meet a wide range of teams.
“I’d thought the work was a lot more focused on wills and standard estate planning, when actually there’s much more corporate structuring involved than people might think, and so you’re often dealing with corporate entities”
“The constant learning experience is definitely a highlight for me,” he adds. The variety of work that comes through means that “you learn so much that’s new every single day”. For the private client team, it’s not just about “reimplementing what was done last time” whenever a new project comes through. Instead, “there’s quite a lot of problem solving from us”, as well as there always being “a degree of research” involved. Orrie also particularly enjoys working with Charles Russell Speechlys’ international offices and other law firms, explaining that “quite often we come across issues that have a cross-border element” which provides great opportunities to learn about private client work in other jurisdictions.
Global movement towards transparency
Looking at the challenges private client lawyers are facing at the moment, Orrie emphasises the “global movement towards more transparency”. He highlights issues such as emerging requirements to register trusts, overseas entities that hold UK property and firms’ increasing compliance and money laundering obligations that’s led to more due diligence queries. “It’s a source of frustration”, explains Orrie, “because even though these processes are valid and necessary”, the regulations can sometimes make clients feel as though they’re having to jump through continuous hoops which often causes delays.
Although these regulations don’t impact the amount of work coming into the firm, it’s an additional hurdle for lawyers to deal with and something that all members of Orrie’s team must carefully consider when advising clients and issuing guidance.
Remain calm and speak with intention
In Orrie’s eyes, making sure to utilise the plethora of networking opportunities and resources available to law students is a core element of succeeding as a solicitor. “Speak with lawyers and understand what their practice area involves,” he recommends, while highlighting the importance of finding out about the diverse journeys and experiences of different solicitors.
Orrie also recommends attending law fairs and engaging with law societies, especially for non-law students. He sings the praises of the prestigious LawCareersNetLIVE conferences which take place each year. “There are people I met there [LawCareersNetLIVE] who then applied to the firm”, Orrie tells us, acknowledging the fact that these candidates then went on to complete vacation schemes before securing training contracts. “LawCareers.Net is a great resource to sign up for.”
For those interested in a career in law, there’s one thing that Orrie wishes he’d known before starting out: “Things will happen that are entirely out of your control and it happens to everyone.” Remaining calm in the face of unpredictability, taking the time to “think about how to respond” and demonstrating that you can deal with arising issues and efficiently address the problem from the client’s perspective demonstrates a maturity that everyone will value.