Let’s not forget to give conveyancers the clap

At the start of October, for just a couple of days, something very strange happened.

Everywhere you went on social media, lawyers were receiving praise.

“Thank you for your hard work … heroes – every one of you … amazing support”.

Someone even suggested a campaign to give conveyancers the clap like the NHS back in March last year.

Although I might have misinterpreted what they actually meant ( some confusion between STD and SDLT? )  it did bring back memories of a population standing on doorsteps banging pots and pans in recognition of the NHS.  Now, after a derisory pay increase and stories of nurses being abused by the public, that adulation and respect has a surreal “Sliding Doors” feel about it.

Which begs the question – will this new-found love of lawyers follow the same depressing trajectory?

Not by choice

Having interviewed dozens of lawyers over the past 18 months, it’s clear that conveyancers were in first place in the “Drawing the Short Straw” competition during the recent property boom.

Working long hours under unrelenting pressure in an outdated process that everyone thinks is overdue for a revamp, or in modern parlance, “not fit for purpose”, there are many parallels between the NHS and buying a property.

For choice, you’d rather not go to hospital in the same way you’d rather not speak to a lawyer.

After all, when was the last time someone who’d been to hospital jumped on Trustpilot to post “Great experience … can’t wait to do that again.”

It’s hardly a visit to Legoland is it?

Are conveyancers like doctors and nurses?

This question will no doubt spur some bravely anonymous readers to post something offensive after this piece.  How on earth can you contemplate comparing NHS staff to conveyancers?

Even our most enthusiastic clients would struggle to describe us as life-savers.  We can make them more comfortable but even the lubricant that is technology can’t eliminate the digital rectal examination pain that is the house buying process.  But comparing lawyers to those for whom we whooped last spring is just a step too far, surely?

So here’s the thing.

In the same way that everyone knows the NHS could do with improvement, actually solving the problem turns out to be quite tricky.

Firstly, there are simply not enough people to do the work and training up new doctors and nurses takes years.  That’s if you can get people to do the job in the first place.

Which is exactly the same as lawyers.  The SDLT holiday has caused many to re-evaluate their lives and have left the industry.  This is a double whammy; aspiring new lawyers have fewer experienced people to train them, so it takes longer and the quality of training will be poorer as those few experienced lawyers have less time available to spend on that training.

Secondly, the systems that underpin the NHS are hopelessly out of date and their interconnected nature makes them almost impossible to fix.  The last attempt cost about £10bn by the time it was scrapped.

For lawyers, although we have seen some trivial changes such as electronic identification checks, fundamentally, the nature of the process makes it difficult to fix in one go, as activity is always in progress and can’t be put on hold to await implementation.

Thirdly, the NHS suffers from exploitation from private companies ranging from drugs distributors to main contractors who increase costs to the service despite adding no value.

Lawyers have exactly the same problem.  They are called Panel Managers.

Finally, the eye-watering charges for car parking simply mask the fundamental problem that the pricing model for the service simply does not work.

It’s the same for lawyers – their cajones-free approach to fees is embarrassing.  Although the appalling service provided by some suggest they should be “free at the point of delivery” like the NHS, for others their false low fees are nothing but a smokescreen.  Sneaky additional charges such as “two week exchange to completion surcharge” are as outrageous as forcing hospital visitors to pay £10.00 per hour for parking.

Let’s remember to praise them

As an agent, deep down, we know lawyers, like nurses and doctors, are trying to do their best, so let’s remember how they made you feel on October 1st.

How can you forget those cheerful smiling faces on your buyers when they realised they saved a whole £165 in Stamp Duty thanks to you and their lawyer.

And if you do feel like giving your favourite lawyer the clap, well, heck, why not indulge?

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27 Comments

  1. Property Poke In The Eye

    Yes, let’s clap for the conveyancing solictors who doubled their fees and were still useless at communication.  But made out they were helping.   Automated email replies saying they were busy dealing with cases  – really??  so was everyone else  in the prooerty chain.

     

     

     

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    1. Rob Hailstone

      Absolutely no point in wasting time trying to respond to someone who oviously has no idea of what it was like in a conveyancers office recently. You sound beyond bitter and twisted PPITE, sad.

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      1. jan - byers

        They had to work hard – they were not on the Somme –

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  2. Rob Hailstone

    As entertaining and thoughtful as ever Peter, and I agree with your sentiments. However, some estate agents may want to wait until the New Year before they bestow praise (the clap or other) on conveyancers. Yes, the SDLT holiday has ended, but of course the world and its wife now want to be in their new home by Christmas. A certain amount of pressure therefore remains, and conveyancers still need the (uninterrupted) time to focus on processing that work.
     
    You are spot on when you say: “The SDLT holiday has caused many conveyancers to re-evaluate their lives and have left the industry.  This is a double whammy; aspiring new lawyers have fewer experienced people to train them, so it takes longer and the quality of training will be poorer as those few experienced lawyers have less time available to spend on that training.”
     

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    1. localagent735

      you say that ‘conveyancers still need the (uninterrupted) time to focus on processing that work.’. 

      although some agents do just call, ask for an update and add no value to the transaction. Most agents who are proactive and assist in the process makes the whole process less stressful and speed up the process.

      The worst thing any conveyancer can do is just ignore everyone… which unfortunately they feel they are above agents and do regularly

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  3. John Murray

    Interesting headline…!

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    1. AcornsRNuts

      My first though was have they tried penicillin?

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  4. MarkRowe

    That headline… oh PIE … lol

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  5. smile please

    If Peter was made of chocolate he would eat himself.

    im pretty active on social media I have not seen one person praise a conveyancer, however I have seen a lot say what a nightmare they have and continue to be.

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    1. Rob Hailstone

      I have seen plenty of ‘thank you’ cards, chocolates, flowers etc. Maybe conveyancers don’t feel the need to justify what they do and take the limelight like some others (myself included of course!).

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  6. If Carlsberg made Estate Agents…

    Until estate agents,  buyers and sellers alike, realise that Conveyancers are not sales progressors, nothing will change. The estate agents job is to make the conveyancers life as easy as possible by doing the running around, dealing with council offices, chasing searches etc etc. If the relationship between agent and conveyancer is there, all transactions would or should take far less time but it is a two way thing!

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    1. smile please

      I think its both the conveyancers AND estate agents job to do the sales progression.

      However, My staff try tirelessly to assist conveyancers in getting documents in, and sort out outstanding enquiries but the conveyancers do not / will not answer phone calls or emails.

      Over the last 25 years i have been doing this it has only got worse.

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    2. WiseOwl1

      If Carlsberg…….spot on.
      The last 18 months have furthered the case that lawyers should take over estate agency.

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  7. Countrybumpkin

    Happy to run around to make conveyancers job easier but running around in circles chasing a tail because non communication means we don’t know what we’re running around for. Back to the communication issue but thank goodness most of our buyers and sellers opt for our recommended lawyers – life goes so much better with communication

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    1. smile please

      Agreed.

      However, if your recommendations are like ours, they are the best of a bad bunch. I have never met a consistent, proactive, nice conveyancer.

      Firms we recommended are ones that do not sulk and take our calls and we can have ‘Frank’ conversations with.

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  8. jan - byers

    They had to work hard – they were not on the Somme –

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  9. Property Poke In The Eye

    I think a good start would be if all solicitor conveyancing firms could have an online or over the phone pay by debit/ credit card system for clients to instruct and pay.

    Followed by the office admin team who actually pick up the phone and get the client questionnaires etc filled out followed by an electronic signing system such as Adobe Sign.  Last week a solicitor sent 6 documents for the client to print off sign and send back most of the documents were duplicating same personal information.  The client didn’t have a working printer/scanner which delayed the transaction.

    So these TWO things will be a brilliant start for conveyancing firms to work on.

     

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    1. smile please

      Super suggestion.

      Shows how far behind the curve conveyancers are.

      We have had conveyancers refuse to send paper copies out they will only email PDF’s we have had MANY Doris and Harolds 70+ try and fill these out on the screen not realising they need to print, fill in, scan and email back. Not all email owners have a printer.

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  10. LVW4

    I’m in the process of selling and was initially overjoyed to be told the solicitor uses a digital ID check and all documents are sent electronically for completion and signature. The ID was great; no trips to the bank for certified copies! But having completed the myriad e-forms, I signed and saved them because my co-seller [who doesn’t live with me] also had to sign. It didn’t work! Only one mobile can be associated with the system; mine, which means my co-seller can’t use it. Bottom line, the forms had to be sent for my co-seller to compete manually! Surely, I’m not the only seller in this position. What about those who are divorced? Why not use Docusign?

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  11. Rob Hailstone

    I have just spent four hours in a meeting with (amongst others) four coal face conveyancers. All have the latest systems and technology. They are hardworking diligent and decent people. I have not been at the coal face for 15 years and only now do I realise how challenging (ridiculous in fact) the conveyancers role in the 21st century is. They weren’t moaning or complaining just stating the facts. They have been struggling with Lenders, Local Authorities, HMLR, Management Companies (spending hours and hours on the phones trying to chase each one at different times), sometimes clients and sometimes other conveyancers and esate agents. The list of issues outside of their direct control keeps getting longer and longer.
    I am not trying to defend every conveyancer or conveyancing firm, just like no one could defend every estate agent, but quite frankly, comments like: “they were not on the Somme” are puerile.
    The only sensible way forward is for agents and conveyancers to try to begin to understand each other’s 21st century roles and work out how best they can help each other.

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    1. smile please

      Rob,

       

      If agents are contacting conveyancers trying to offer assistance in chasing management companies and clients for replies to enquiries BUT the conveyancer will not take calls or return emails ….. Its their own fault they find themselves in this mess.

       

      Secondly, from what i understand most conveyancers on average have 50 – 100 open files at any one time. (Not counting bucket shops) If they were to put their fees up by just £50 per file that is an extra £2,500 – £5,000 which easily pays for a part time admin assistant to come in three days a week 10am – 3pm to chase outstanding replies.

      As you have said it’s more work than ever for them but they still in 2021 will not change the way they work and have not in 40 years!

      Just hoping things get better is not a plan. They need to look at their business and service and re-write how they conduct themselves.Its not the 1980’s

      Its admirable you and Peter stick up for your colleagues but cant you see the issues that are right in front of you?

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      1. Rob Hailstone

        Three of the four today run their own businesses, all in slightly different ways, and I will pass on your comments, but feel sure they have enough nous on an individual and collective basis to have already looked look at what you have suggested (and much more). My one conclusion is that it is not the process that is broken (yes, it is very creaky) but the conveyancer’s role that is now almost unsustainable for a myriad of reasons.
        I will not defend any conveyancer not worth their salt, BLG member or otherwise. We have circa 4000 conveyancing firms, 3000 of which are what is called ‘the tail’ (firms that carry out a modest amount of work individually and may not be tech savvy etc). In many cases, in my opinion, ‘the tail’ is a big part of the problem. However, the other bodies I mentioned also need looking at.

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        1. KW

          What is your solution Robert? We are genuinely interested.

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    2. KW

      I get it. I have mates who are conveyancers. I don’t think we do anyone any favours slagging them off! We need to start collaborating properly. How can we do this?

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  12. Sorrybutno

    There will always be exceptions but… The typical nurse is underpaid, works unpaid excessive overtime and goes out of their way to help in impossible circumstances. The conveyancer I had was non-communicative and worked set hours. ‘your vendor said it would fall through if we don’t complete today? Oh sorry I work 8am – 4pm’ is a periphrasis of an email I got 2 weeks ago and a day before they went on unannounced annual leave for a week.  I’m sorry but whilst noone should have to work beyond their contract, the two are not even remotely comparable.

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    1. Rob Hailstone

      Like I said, look at ‘the tail’. Very difficult to force those firms to improve or shut up shop. And I have never compared the work (etc) a medic does to the work a conveyancer does, and I don’t think that was Peter’s intention.

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  13. #ImpressiveConveyancing

    Conveyancers have certainly revealed how remarkable they have been over the last 18 months.

    Rather than working 9-5 and failing to get people through all the various stamp duties and lockdowns, they did the opposite, they worked all hours, literally 9-midnight in many cases, and got everyone moved.

    Really, outstanding. They have shown they are the strongest part of the moving process. They know it, estate agents know it, the Government know it.

    The question is, will they realise that minimising enquiries and adding pace got deals done and huge revenues generated, or will they go back to their old ways and be slow……so far, sadly, they’ve gone backwards. So little is currently exchanging.

     

     

     

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