OPINION: Why conveyancing should be a box ticking exercise

Peter Ambrose

When it comes to insults, there’s one uttered by solicitors of a certain vintage, desperately dog-paddling to stay afloat in choppy conveyancing waters, when frustrated by other lawyers;

“They just a bunch of box-tickers”.

They will then sit in smug admiration, confident there’s no comeback from that bombshell.

Sadly, as someone who runs a firm that has been accused of this heinous crime in the past, it’s not quite a terminal an insult as they might think.

What do they actually mean?

We should note that it’s not only lawyers struggling to adapt to Conveyancing2024 who use this phrase, but the home buying public as well.  Which is understandable, because to the outside world, conveyancing should not be difficult. Only it is. Just ask any agent.

It’s actually quite tricky to pin down the definition of a “box-ticker”. There’s some evidence to show that the title is given to anyone who didn’t qualify as a solicitor before 1986 having passed the Advanced Patronising Skills module in the LPC examination.

The general concept is that it’s someone who has to tick a box to say that something has been done and cannot move forward until that box has been ticked. In other words, those that are totally devoid of any capability of thought, merely replying in the manner of Little Britain’s Carol Beer; “Computer says no”.

So box-ticking is a bad thing?

What makes the accusation questionable is that having more experience does not make anyone invincible – we are all human after all.  Given there is no logical connection between accusing someone of not knowing what they are doing and them ticking a box to say a task is complete, making this argument stick is a bit of a stretch.

It’s made even the more complicated by the fact that many lawyers we speak to and hire, don’t use any form of detailed checklist – there really is no connection between experience and the use of checklists.

Given that conveyancing is a process of risk management, it’s the insurers that are going to have the last say on this.  If you ask them what profile of lawyer they prefer; someone going through a step-by-step checklist to make sure that nothing is missed, or someone starting with a blank sheet of paper because they’ve done this for decades, it’s going to be pretty clear from their facial expressions on whose side they will be betting.

Finally, we couldn’t let a review of lawyers’ often random approach to risk management go by without mentioning how they manage pre-contract enquiries – which is where most of the delays and problems occur.  We agree that using standard enquiries on every property is wasteful of everyone’s time – the buyer’s lawyer asking about a conservatory on a third floor flat and the seller’s lawyer replying with a “facepalm” emoji.  But if we had a pound for every time an experienced lawyer told us that “we don’t use precedents for enquiries” we’d probably have about 30 by now.

Given lawyers use precedents for letters, reports and the documents they produce for each case, we struggle with why they don’t use them for enquiries. Given this is the number one area of claims, surely a standard approach to wording would make everyone’s lives a lot more efficient.

Just saying, that’s all.

Let’s leave the “tickbox” comment for the birds

The concept of the single all-powerful all-brilliant lawyer running all aspects of a file from start to finish, unencumbered by checklists or precedents, demonstrates a misunderstanding of Conveyancing2024.  Anyone with quality control experience will know you cannot check your own work – perfunctory file reviews to satisfy the regulator’s annual audit just don’t cut it.

The next time you hear a lawyer complaining that the other side “are merely box-tickers” try asking them what checklist and quality control procedure they use.

Be prepared for an embarrassed silence when it dawns on them that it might be them causing issues, just in another form – that of higher insurance claims.


Peter Ambrose is the CEO of The Partnership and Legalito – specialists in the delivery of conveyancing software and services 



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  1. Anna Naemis

    Now and again there are tv programs shown where right on, woke talking heads sit down to watch shows from the seventies like Love Thy Neighbor or Till Death Do Us Part and pass comments on how awful and non-PC they are, and how did they get away with it. Which of course they were, but times were different then and they were borne in a society that didn’t realise it was crossing lines. So my point is, if you were not there, and didn’t know the way things operated at a point in time, you cannot criticise, in the same way as sporting teams or persons across the years cannot be compared.
    But there are still people of a certain vintage who can remember when conveyancing was full of professionals, when you could hold a conversation with your opposite number, when transactions were quicker, fees were generally higher and exchanges and completions were not held up whilst files were signed off by the one person in the firm with some conveyancing knowledge. Also we had a Land Registry that returned applications on time and was actually staffed by competent people who knew what they were doing. Why would we want to return to that work environment? Certainly give me that situation rather than the damaging environment brought in by the Legal Services Act which left us where we are today with snake oil salesmen everywhere and standards that reach new lows by the week.
    Offensive articles such as this which serve no purpose towards improving conveyancing today but just set out to insult the experienced, able core that seeks to maintain standards day in day out should also bear in mind that those of us reading them know individuals who work and have worked in specific firms and therefore have knowledge that the grass is not greener on the other side. In fact it may be a swamp.
    Not to mention the CLC Code of Conduct which is probably breached by some noxious assumptions here.
    What is it I said earlier about standards in the profession reaching new lows by the week?

    1. Peter Ambrose (The Partnership)

      I think that you’ve somewhat missed the point.

      I am in no way criticising the value of expertise or experience – indeed – as you say, we are suffering from a chronic lack of both these days and this damages all of us.

      I am concerned about the lack of training and processes being put in place by experienced practitioners – a short-coming I see regularly in candidates that I interview.

  2. jan-byers

    Very true
    Large conveyancing firms with admin staff dealing with a file and who will not talk like a human being


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