Philip Bullivant, conveyancing consultant to PM Property Lawyers, considers the question.
In a recent article for the Bold Legal Group, Rob Hailstone lists the accusations that are regularly thrown at conveyancers by estate agents and other professionals such as surveyors. But, as Rob writes, “… All I ever see is professional, hardworking, kind/caring, stressed and often underpaid/undervalued individuals.”
So what’s the problem with conveyancers and is this negativity justified?
These are some of the recent comments Rob quotes:
Most conveyancing firms are at pains to ensure that their charges are transparent, although inevitably there will be exceptions. The perception of ‘hidden charges’ frequently stems from management companies and managing agents rather than the conveyancers themselves. Industry news has been full of stories of companies that charge excessive sums for basic services such as receipting notices and issuing management packs etc. What clients and others may not understand is that these costs are unknown at the start of the transaction so conveyancers cannot advise in advance what they will be.
Stamp Duty Land Tax is another area where misunderstandings can arise and again, where the public view this as a hidden charge.
Conveyancers slowing transactions for their own purposes
Where there is a purchase and a related sale there is often a misconception that conveyancers deliberately delay completion. In fact, it’s essential to synchronise the transactions so that funds are in the right place at the right time. This can of course have repercussions if there is a chain with many different transactions potentially affected.
Conveyancers also have to rely upon third parties for certain information. Search providers, management companies, local authorities and others all work to their own timescales, which conveyancers cannot influence.
Not returning calls or emails promptly
The perception of what is ‘prompt’ has changed considerably as technology enables faster and faster communication. It’s important for all conveyancers to manage their clients’ expectations in this area so clients have a realistic idea of how quickly they will receive replies.
Not communicating generally
Communication is key so far as clients are concerned and it’s essential for conveyancers to keep them informed. This could simply mean copying clients in to letters and emails to the other side’s solicitors if only to prove that things are progressing. Without clear communication clients will quickly lose confidence in their conveyancer.
Closing offices for lunchtime or on time; leaving work early for lunches or long weekends
Lunchtime closing happens less and less often these days and most firms have at least a message taking service.
Finishing on time is somewhat different. To provide a proper service and meet all the client’s requirements there must be time away from phone calls, if only at the beginning and end of the working day.
Not caring about clients
Clients want to be listened to and recognised. If they are treated as a process, not a person, there’s little hope of developing a good relationship. It’s essential for conveyancers to build some kind of rapport and continuity with every client.
It is fair to say that many view the conveyancing process as a necessary evil and a money spinning operation for lawyers. In recent years, residential conveyancing fees have reduced considerably alongside massive changes in technology and greater regulation. New business models are growing and high street conveyancing is feeling the pressure.
In short, the conveyancing industry, like many others, is undergoing radical change. Government pledges to introduce legislation will mean further disruption.
Hopefully these moves will shift public perception as the industry becomes more transparent. However difficult it is to adapt, conveyancers simply must do so. Provided conveyancing firms can assimilate these changes alongside the soft skills required then they should win out in the final analysis.
PM Property Lawyers adds: Conveyancers do often get a poor press, and a few bad examples can tarnish the whole profession. But, as noted above, most conveyancers strive to do a thorough, professional job. At PMPL we work hard to communicate effectively with our clients, to explain charges, and to bring transactions to completion as quickly and smoothly as possible. And we’re always happy to talk through the process and to answer any questions about how we work. Contact us on 0114 249 6926 or email@example.com