Landmark ruling for ‘no win no fee’ model

The Court of Appeal has failed to be persuaded that a conditional fee arrangement was champertous*, and therefore unlawful in the landmark ruling of Sipthorpe and Morris v London Borough of Southwark [2011] EWCA Civ 25.This case sets an important precedent for probate lawyers and international probate genealogy firm, Finders, who specialise in identifying and tracing heirs. As part of the Finders’ fee model, clients may choose to ask Finders to work on a contingency fee basis wherby a percentage commission is agreed with heirs, payable from their individual net share on distribution of the Estate. Crucially, a fee is not charged if an heir cannot be traced.

In Sipthorpe and Morris v London Borough of Southwark, the Court upheld a solicitor’s conditional fee arrangement which indemnified the claimant against the defendant’s costs. Delivering the lead judgement, Lord Neuberger – Master of the Rolls, acknowledged that a variety of factors has led to a ‘relaxation of previously tight professional ethical constraints, so as to permit a variety of more flexible funding arrangements’.

Commenting, Daniel Curran, the Managing Director of Finders, said:

“This case serves to underline that companies who receive a conditional fee are operating in accordance with public policy. This is an important ruling for Finders, who operate a similar fee model as one of the choices offered to clients when it seeks to locate people who may be beneficiaries under a will or intestacy rules.”

Finders international probate genealogy firm (the BBC refer to Probate Genealogists as Heir Hunters in their TV series) constantly monitor legal developments to ensure that all their fee options are in keeping with current trends and legislation.


Notes to Editors:

* Champerty is defined as ‘maintenance in which the motive of the maintainor is an agreement that if the proceeding in which the maintenance takes place succeeds, the subject matter of the suit shall be divided between the plaintiff and the maintainor’. (Stroud’s Judicial Dictionary of Words and Phrases [7th Ed.])

Finders International Probate Genealogists can be contacted via their website at

Daniel Curran
Written by Daniel Curran
Daniel is a leading figure in the UK Heir Hunting industry. He is from Isleworth in West London and has lived in London for most of his life. He has been in the probate genealogy profession since 1990. He formed Finders in 1997 after 7 years at another firm.