COMPANY NEWS APRIL 2016
INTERVIEW WITH RED SQUARE LONDON’S MANAGING DIRECTOR
The co-founder, corporate and immigration lawyer and the managing director of Red Square London (RSL) Tatiana Sharposhnikova, tells the newspaper “Angliya” about her business. Red Square London is a unique company and does not have an equivalent in the Russian-speaking community in Britain. The company is registered with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), Licence No. 591917, as an Alternative Business Structure (‘ABS’). This means that it is not a traditional law firm, which would normally be set up as a partnership and employ only solicitors. The unique set up of the business allows Red Square London to employ not only solicitors but also other professionals, for example, business consultants and accountants. The SRA also granted Red Square London a quality mark-accreditation under the Conveyancing Quality Scheme as property solicitors-specialists. The accreditation means that conveyancing process conducted by Red Square London’s lawyers is of the highest standard at all stages of the process, from the acceptance of new clients to the administrative matters dealt with at the end of property transaction. Thus RSL operates as a Family Office with full legal licence assisting its clients with a wide range of matters as well as legal affairs.
– What is a Family Office and how does it work?
– 60% of our clients ask us for assistance across the full range of services we offer. Some of our clients had already have their own advisors in the UK and came to us on recommendation from our existing clients because they wanted to receive all services under one roof. We have qualified solicitors specialising in company law, immigration law, and conveyancing as well as an experienced business consultant and an accountant in our team. Our clients often remark, that the bigger the firm, the less individual attention there is. The individual approach for our company means not only dealing efficiently with their enquiries and instructions, keeping in mind any specific circumstances of the client, but also the establishment of a personal and close relationship with the clients and their families, In other words, the goal is not only to take care of a matter, but to establish a firm relationship with the clients and support them and their families throughout their stay or residence in the UK.
– With which matters do your clients usually come to you?
– Matters for which our clients ask our assistance vary greatly. It depends on the immigration status of a client or a family, and whether or not they intend to do business in the UK. Prior to moving to the UK, the priority issues concern immigration and finances. If a family is already in the UK, the matters usually relate to property or businesses. Very often we are asked to explain to our clients the types of property ownership in the UK: leasehold and freehold. It is very difficult for the Russian-speaking clients to understand that if you buy a leasehold, you own the property only temporary and you may not be able to infinitely pass it on to your relatives as an inheritance despite the fact that they often pay huge sums of money especially for the property in London. Besides, if the lease expires in 80 years or earlier, you may not even be able to sell the property and even if you find a buyer, he or she may not be able to obtain a mortgage for the purchase since banks are likely to be very unwilling to lend in such circumstances. We recommend not to buy a leasehold property with such a short lease term. It is also difficult to explain that regardless of how much money and time you spend, regardless of how good your lawyer is, until the contract is signed, any party to the sale and purchase agreement may walk away from the transaction. One of the solutions we offer is the signing of exclusivity agreement which obliges the parties to sign the contract within a specified period of time. If this condition is not fulfilled, the party who broke the contractual promise, has to compensate the other party’s expenses. We also strive to complete conveyancing transactions within the shortest possible timescale.
– Which difficulties do you face as a Family Office?
– Compulsory checks “Know Your Client & Source of Funds checks” is one of the main issues that come to mind. Identity checks do not usually pose problems as opposed to the source of funds checks. It is often the case that the client has had the money for a long time in an off-shore bank account but the business through which the money was earned no longer exists. How can you show where the money came from? We have a practical approach to this issue and I would like to emphasise once again our individual approach to every client which I mentioned at the beginning of the interview. We consider the circumstances as a whole and ask only for those documents which are really necessary. Many lawyers are wary of the risks and ask for the enormous amount of documents which are not really necessary if you know what you are working with. Every situation has to be considered individually taking into account the history of the client and the relationship we have with that client. I, as a qualified lawyer, have to make a subjective decision in relation to the legality of the client’s source of funds.
– Where did the idea to create the company such as Red Square London come from?
– To answer this question, I need to tell you a little bit about my background. I studied eight years and was trained as a solicitor in the UK and Europe to become a qualified lawyer (one year on a Foundation course, four years at a university including one year in Europe where I studied private international law and the EU law, one year in a law school and two years as a trainee solicitor). After having received my education and training, I worked as a solicitor in law firms for over ten years mostly dealing with the Russian-speaking clients. The last four years of my practice (before Red Square London was founded), I worked in Squire, Sanders & Dempsey’s London and Moscow offices. During that time the clients started asking more and more to assist them with the matters which neither my department nor any other department of the firm could deal with. We certainly had a large database of useful contacts but within the firm we could not offer the full range of legal and business services that our clients and their families required. That was the time when the Family Office with a legal capability – Red Square London – was born.
– If I am not mistaken, this is a popular trend and there are many similar firms…
– Not quite. Yes, there are many Russian-speaking professionals who are working in law firms, accountancy firms and other firms but only very few of them provide assistance with immigration, conveyancing, business and domestic matters under one roof. In order to be able to do so, a law firm has to have the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s licence. Often many companies take on the matters but pass them on to other companies or partners because their own licence does not allow them to provide services they advertise. In some cases this has a significant impact on price or/and quality of service.
– How can one understand that the company outsources matters?
– Licence can tell. For example, an OISC licence (Office of the Immigration Service Commission) allows a firm to deal only with immigration matters but does not allow to provide, for example, conveyancing services. For the provision of the full range of legal services, the company must have a SRA licence, as I have mentioned before. Then you need to see who is on the team. It is important, that the employees are employed full time, have high academic achievements and work experience in well established companies.
Red Square London has an SRA licence (number 591917). Half our employees are only English-speaking whereas the other half are both, English and Russian-speaking. This gives us an in-depth understanding of the laws of this country and at the same time an understanding of the culture of the Russian-speaking clients.
The most important thing for us is to establish solid, long-lasting relationship with the clients. That is the reason why we work very hard to find the best solutions for our clients’ matters. Once we take them on as our clients, and without charging them for every phone call, we try to be as helpful as possible. We are always happy to answer any questions for example “What does it mean in English”? or “I don’t understand the document, please explain”.
I would also like to mention our accreditation as conveyancing specialists in the UK (Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme). Such accreditation is not easily achievable. In an exercise spanning almost six months, the Law Society carried out a robust and forensic examination of our practice standards, practice systems and fee earner’s knowledge. The renewal of the accreditation means that our clients can rest assured of the continued excellent service provided by our conveyancing team.
– Is RSL basically a legal concierge?
– I have not heard such a description but I think yes, you can say so. As a matter of fact, our specialists can assist with immigration issues of any complexity; set up, acquire or manage a business; prepare business plans; assist with property purchase, sale, renting or letting; prepare wills, prenuptial, postnuptial or any other agreements and assist with many other matters which our clients may require. Well-being and success of our clients is of paramount importance for us.