As 2018 draws to its painful and long-awaited end, we’ve spent the last few weeks listening to Mariah Carey explaining what she wants for Christmas, and it set us thinking – as an agent, if you could define an ideal lawyer, what would that look like?
That said, we urge caution when speculating on such “perfect solutions”.
After all, until recently, many people thought they knew what a perfect estate agent looked like: they would charge only £795 (upfront obviously), everything would be online, properties would be listed on all the major portals and sold in a few weeks.
Whilst 2018 has taught us to be careful what you wish for, here are some of our ideas we think make up an agent’s ideal lawyer.
Ludicrously low caseloads
As we know, agents typically struggle to speak with lawyers: forced on hold for ages, leave messages that are never returned and suffer from horrendously slow turn-around times.
Usually this is caused by lawyers having caseloads of between 80 and 150 cases, and who don’t have viable case management systems and use paper files.
The ideal lawyer would only work on half a dozen cases at most – ideally, just those of the agent’s and no one else’s.
Live in the office
It’s fairly common that agents (and clients) can’t get hold of lawyers because they’re on holiday (obviously without letting anyone know in advance), “in a meeting” or the phones are switched off because it’s 5.01pm.
The ideal lawyer would never take holidays, throw unexpected sickies, would start work at 8am and finish at 8pm – and naturally, won’t turn the telephone off during lunchtime whilst they enjoy their lemon curd sandwiches.
Given the lack of knowledge and expertise in the conveyancing industry, agents know only too well what happens when a novice case handler is running a transaction.
They raise dozens of enquiries “just to be on the safe side” and cannot give a straight answer to anything.
The ideal lawyer will have been doing this stuff for 30 years, never has to look anything up and can give answers without using Google.
Despite their many years at the coalface, our ideal lawyer would not suffer from the usual disillusionment, arrogance and bitterness that afflicts so many of the older legal profession, but will smile when answering an agent’s call and will be happy to spend 25 minutes explaining the finer points of an absent freeholder indemnity policy.
Take a view
With litigation tide continuing the rise, lawyers are becoming increasingly conservative and deferring to lenders and clients.
The perfect lawyer would never refer an issue to a lender and would always take a view on all contentious matters, whether it’s a £20,000 allowance or that the house had not been signed off by building control.
They wouldn’t bother raising any enquiries on a purchase and would happily sign contracts on behalf of their client just to get the deal through.
Rather than being holed up in some sweatshop in Southend, the ideal lawyer would be situated upstairs above the agent’s offices, so that agents could pop in and check up on progress on a case at any time.
This would also enable agents to make sure they the lawyers weren’t sneaking out early on a Friday for their obligatory round of golf, or if they said they were in a “meeting”, a quick trip upstairs would bust this myth immediately.
It would also help agents ensure clients didn’t make the mistake of using a traditional local high street lawyer, “so they can drop papers off to them”.
Finally, the ideal lawyer would charge fees of only £200 a case, a price which would make it easy for agents to convince their clients to use them.
Of all the requirements, this is probably the most achievable, because we know some panel-managed lawyers charge this today, although we have to remember their pimps add their cut to this – after all, they’ve got Range Rovers with darkened windows to buy and those things don’t come cheap.
Even though we know when it comes to lawyers even Mariah can’t make all your wishes come true, we do hope you have a fantastic Christmas and a happy new year.
2019 – bring it on.
* Peter Ambrose is founder of independent conveyancing practice The Partnership