Solicitor, conveyancer or lawyer – which is the best choice to handle a transaction?

So here’s the thing.

Last week, a prospective client called us for a conveyancing quote. However, she wanted to be sure that the person who would be handling her case would be a solicitor.

Naturally, we asked: “Why is it so important that you have a solicitor?”

She replied: “Because I want to be sure the work is carried out correctly” (or words to that effect).

Which set us thinking – what is this opinion based on and is it relevant?

After all – as an agent, does it make any difference to you what type of lawyer works on your cases?

Avoiding the obvious answer.

Before anyone says, we don’t care about the type of lawyer (which has no formal definition by the way), what’s important is they communicate well and get the job done – this is missing the point.

Many consumers want the work to be done well, because they know that there can be problems after they move in or when they come to sell.

And given that a solicitor is seen as someone who is educated and expert, if you use one for your conveyancing, they are more likely to get things right.

Solicitors are expensive – so let’s go cheap

The problem is, all that education and expertise can come at a higher price. Which people don’t want to pay because any money spent on conveyancing is seen as a bit of a waste.

Especially as most see it as just an irritating tick-box exercise, so why pay any more than you have to?

Some customers are happy to use a cheap service, and if that means not using a solicitor then so be it.

The perception problem

Unfortunately, for those people for whom quality IS important, the distinction between the different types of lawyer does cause an issue.

After all – as we’ve seen, an educated expert solicitor can be seen as better than a “conveyancer” who, in the customer’s eyes, could be literally anyone, such as the person who makes the tea.

Which is a problem.

This is because, in our experience of working with nearly 3,000 law firms over the years, the number of solicitors we consider to be efficient, responsive and expert is very, very small.

Which means that whilst consumers might feel that using someone who has the badge of a solicitor will increase the likelihood of good service, there is no evidence to back this up.

Indeed, the information we have is that insurance costs are higher for solicitor-run firms than conveyancing specialists, indicating a higher risk profile due to more claims.

How important is the TYPE of qualification?

People spend thousands of hours and pounds gaining qualifications; what IS the difference between a licensed conveyancer, solicitor and Chartered Legal Executive and how important are qualifications for doing conveyancing?

All three have successfully completed examinations, which requires skill, diligence and commitment.

However, only two need actual working experience in conveyancing to qualify.

Most solicitors must complete two years of on-site training but we have seen this to include creating court bundles, immigration or assisting on commercial leases. Once they have finished that time they can practise any law they like.

Including conveyancing.

We have interviewed qualified solicitors who have never seen a lease, not heard of the Council of Mortgage Lenders or know what management company accounts are, let alone understand a wayleave agreement.

Before anyone thinks we are bashing solicitors, we are not – we employ lots and they are all fantastic!

Which is the point – in conveyancing, the type of qualification is not the critical factor but the expertise.

Is qualification everything?

It’s worth remembering there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people practising conveyancing today with no recognised qualifications, relying instead on their training and expertise to get the work done.

Effectively, safely and accurately.

The challenge for consumers is that for every experienced and expert unqualified lawyer there are many people doing conveyancing that should not be let near an electric kettle, let alone a conveyancing transaction.


Whilst solicitors are perceived as a “safe” option when it comes to selecting a legal practitioner, this does not stand up to close examination. Everyone, especially agents, must remind people that the quality of the work and the delivery of the service is the critical factor when choosing a legal provider, not the cost nor the badge.

  • Peter Ambrose is founder of The Partnership, an independent conveyancing practice

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  1. TwitterSalisPropNews

    Bingo Peter! The public should always check the quality of the actual person hanlding their legal home move.

    The public want the legal work done well, because they don’t want a knock on the door months into moving in to find their ‘conveyancer’ messed up, or worse yet, problems when they come to sell.

    BUT…….the current scandal is that right this second we could badge our office cleaner (no disprespect to cleaners – you just get the point) as an actual conveyancer, and then let them loose on the public as a conveyancer. There is literally no professional barrier to this. A true scandal.

    It doesn’t help that the public almost NEVER ask about the person handling the legal work, so we could charge normal conveyancing rates, whilst our new ‘cleaner’ conveyancer messes up and the poor home owner sits of legal defects the moment they move in….while we rely on our insurance to pay out.

    As a result, standards in conveyancing are the lowest I have seen in over 20 years. “No one asks, so lets recruit cheap clerks and set them lose at the same high fee”.

    To make matters worse, software companies and ‘we can make conveyancing faster’ outfits imply conveyancing is only a tick-box exercise, so why would the public think to check the quality of the person handling the legal work.

    What a mess!

    As a conveyancing firm, we know of no other firm we deal with which is remotely as prompt as we are – we know this (and can therefore say it) as we dleiberately choose to be very prompt as a marketing angle – nor as thorough during the same pace  (again for the same reason). We are both of these because we only take the best CVs – becasuse…..the pubic derserve the best. If we offer the best, work will keep coming in.

    And year on year for the last 10 of my watch, we keep having record years.

    Meanwhile, the CVs we reject crop up in transactions we then have on with other law firms – which we always find alarming/disappointing for the public.

    There are simply too many law firms who want legal fees to keep coming in at the expense of offering a decent legal sevrice.


    Demand the very best conveyancer you can


    1. GPL

      So, here’s the thing Peter…..


      From your Department of “Sweeping Statements” you deliver the following…..


      ” This is because, in our experience of working with nearly 3,000 law firms over the years, the number of solicitors we consider to be efficient, responsive and expert is very, very small.”


      Very, very small? Really? Honestly?


      I struggle to accept this statement as being “very, very” accurate.


      As an Estate Agent over several decades, I have interacted with Solicitors on thousands of transactions over the years and I haven’t witnessed your poor statistical experience.


      There is much to comment/challenge in your “analysis” however, for now, I’ll get on with my work





      1. Peter Ambrose (The Partnership)

        Thank you for your feedback GPL on my opinion piece.

        You say that you are an estate agent ( it’s a little difficult to tell when people post anonymously).

        May I ask on what grounds and by what measures you judge whether a lawyer is expert and efficient?

        My opinion ( because that’s what this is) is based on our experience of completing 15,000 cases.


      2. TwitterSalisPropNews

        Peter is dead right, thousands every year and our lawyers say the same. It is the worst I have seen in 20 years and no prospect for improvement on the horizon.

        The standrads out there are shocking – what is almost heartbreaking is when we exchange knowing the other lawyers missed legal issues…..but it is not our role to advise them/their clients.

        1. PeeBee

          “The standrads out there are shocking…”

          Yeah.  Some of the eejits can’t even spell…

          1. TwitterSalisPropNews

            Thanks for your contribution PeeWee….oops another typo.  

            1. PeeBee

              Oh – how original.  NOT!

              Been called far worse… by far bigger and far better.  And, to boot, most of them can spell – setting them further apart again from your miserable effort.

              Face it – you’re out of your league.  Or leeg, as you may recognise it better.

  2. AgencyInsider

    Well written and interesting piece.

  3. janeearley

    I had exactly this conversation with a buyer yesterday, they were agonising over whether to use their family ‘solicitor’ or our recommended conveyancer.  I suggested that she should make the choice based on the solictor’s area of expertise rahter than just the fact they were a ‘solicitor’.

  4. Woodentop

    So does this article read, there are just as bad solicitors, lawyers and conveyancers ….. you take your chances no matter how qualified they may be, its all down to the individual. H’mmm now what other industry does the conveyancing profession make comment on that one!

  5. Property Money Tree

    Peter, I have never been a Conveyancing solicitor, nor am I currently practicing, but having practiced for many years as a solicitor, there are some statements that I feel the need to dispute, not just as a solicitor, but also as a buyer and seller of property.

    You say

    “ The problem is, all that education and expertise can come at a higher price. Which people don’t want to pay because any money spent on conveyancing is seen as a bit of a waste.”

    Property is the most expensive purchase owners are ever likely to make.  Why would you think they’d then consider their protection ‘a bit of a waste’?  The process can be tedious because whatever their label, conveyancers are not known to be proactive, and that is frustrating, but that is very different to the process being a waste of time.

    You also say:

    ”Indeed, the information we have is that insurance costs are higher for solicitor-run firms than conveyancing specialists, indicating a higher risk profile due to more claims.”

    Your statement is disingenuous.  It is impossible to accurately compare apples with pears.  Most solicitors’ firms have more than one department and their insurance will be for ALL their work, and not just conveyancing.  Their premiums, no doubt, are higher than those of other conveyancers, but:  1.  Unless you can find a solicitors’ firm that only does conveyancing like you do, you can’t compare the two.  2.  Even if you were to find such a firm, you would then have to make sure that the terms were comparable.

    How much are you insured for?

    When I last practiced, I had to carry £2,000,000 worth of cover with the value of each claim up to £1,000,000.  I don’t know what terms Conveyancing firms have to have, but it won’t be far off of that.

    This is why when I’m instructing someone, I ALWAYS use a firm of solicitors (whether a solicitor, conveyancer, or legal executive will do the work).  Why?  So that if they balls it up, I know I won’t suffer any financial loss.  To date, I have therefore always rejected “free legal” offers when choosing a lender, because the providers are never solicitors’ firms.

    So again, what are your insurance terms?  If they are comparable, then you would have gone a step towards making people like me consider using alternative service providers.  To me, a small difference in price (and that is all it is, let’s not be mistaken) is worth paying to get that peace of mind that I am making a financial transaction that is effectively cast in stone.  Surprisingly, you do not mention security as being a factor that the service buyers take into account.  Effectively, the insurance GUARANTEES you the BEST service (irrespective of how bad it might be in reality).

    Lastly (for me :)), you say: “Most solicitors must complete two years of on-site training but we have seen this to include creating court bundles, immigration or assisting on commercial leases. Once they have finished that time they can practise any law they like.
    Including conveyancing.“
    If a solicitor qualifies without taking a seat in conveyancing, NO solicitors’ firm will employ that person in a Conveyancing department in the capacity of a qualified solicitor – for one, it will be against the terms of their insurance cover.  That is why such people probably apply to you (they can’t get a job anywhere else!).  Further, they can’t practice that on their own, so your statement is unfortunately, again misleading.

    As a buyer with a mortgage, sometimes I have little choice as to whom I instruct, because most lenders now have panels that their solicitor must be on – we buyers therefore tend to choose from the panel because it is simply stupid to pay for 2 services (the lender’s, and then your own if you decide to go off panel).  This can also explain why you are not getting as big a share of the market as you’d like, thus prompting your piece.



    1. Peter Ambrose (The Partnership)

      Dear Property Money Tree
      More than happy to respond to your questions.
      We carry £2m insurance because that’s what our regulators recommend.
      Conveyancing isthe highest risk area of law and commands the highest premiums – that’s what pushes the prices up.  That’s why  we see solicitor firms are setting up separate limited companies just to do conveyancing.  The other disciplines have much less exposure.
      We absolutely see NQ solicitors without conveyancing experience practising it – your information about them breaching insurance is not correct I am afraid. You are also not correct that solicitors can’t practice on their own. 
      I won’t reply to your other defamatory comments about my company but given that you are a solicitor you would already know that!

      1. Property Money Tree

        There is nothing defamatory in my original post; absolutely nothing that’s untrue!

        Again, I challenge you about NQs being able to set up shop – as a solicitor – on their own (within the law, let me make myself clear).  Which insurance company will insure them?  For how much, if there was such a foolhardy one?  This is what makes it virtually impossible to do so today.

        About NQs without experience practicing it – if they have no experience, they’d have to be heavily supervised to, I reiterate, comply with insurance terms.  If they are supervised, they are not technically “practicing“; they are still in training, even though they will be a qualified solicitor.  Solicitors know better to lie to insurance companies.  We are all taught the principle of ”uberrimae fidae” and the consequences of breaching it.

        I’m sorry that you felt so upset by what I wrote (to the point of conjuring up an issue of ‘defamation’), I was simply trying to balance out what I consider to be an inaccurate marketing piece.  If you offer a good service, by all means sing your own praises from the rooftops, but if you try to get a leg up by undermining someone else, or a whole profession (as you did), you will find getting to that rooftop very heavy going indeed.

  6. Conveyancer19

    If the qualification is not important why do you put such emphasis on being a Solicitor?!

    Your trading name is The Partnership “Property Solicitors” yet you are regulated by the CLC.

    The only qualifications on your website are those of the Solicitors, why are the qualifications of your Licensed Conveyancers not recognised?!

    The article seems to contradict the thoughts of your company.

    1. Nemo Conveyancer

      I’d be interested to know how such branding escapes the application of s24 of the Solicitors Act.

      In general, I’m not convinced the vast majority of the public know the difference between the different qualifications. Nor care. Most will rely on recommendations of one form or another.

      As mentioned above, Conveyancers that deliver a good service will find a client base regardless of the badge on the wall.

  7. Simon Brown ESTAS

    We went out to dinner last weekend with 4 other couples (all home owners). One of the couples announced they had just put their house up for sale. I said “have you instructed someone to do the conveyancing yet?”, 3 out of the 4 couples around the table looked at me blankly. I rephrased the question using ‘solicitor’ and everyone new what I was talking about.

    The fact is the average seller or buyer doesn’t understand the term conveyancing, they assume you need a solicitor to complete the process. A lot more needs to be done at an industry level to explain that good specialist ‘property lawyers’ can really help to get transactions through to completion. Agents can certainly help to get this message across.

    1. Nemo Conveyancer

      Once, whilst getting a haircut, I told the barber I was a Licensed Conveyancer. He replied that he’d ‘always fancied driving a lorry’… I’ve stuck to calling myself a ‘Property Lawyer’ ever since.

  8. Alan Murray

    Ah the old chestnut opinion piece returns as it can always be guaranteed to garner a lot of responses. Typically some of the usual suspects have already cut and pasted their standard response which, while containing some salient points does lose it’s lustre after being rehashed seemingly every month.
    I remember when I started work almost forty years ago a job in a Solicitors office was looked at as being one to aspire to. In those days everyone was respectful to each other, unqualified conveyancing firms were shut down and prosecuted by Trading Standards departments, Solicitors were unable to advertise their services, costs were pretty much standard across the board as everyone worked from the same fee scale, and deeds packets could be the size of a garden shed! But guess what, this job was a far more enjoyable experience then, standards were higher, the levels of professionalism were higher, and the customer service was higher. The hot shot lawyers recently qualified who think they are the profession’s gift to conveyancing and they know best would hate me saying the old days were better, but hey they were. And I speak not from dewey-eyed nostalgia, I comment with the benefit of experience (okay and hindsight too).
    I was not allowed to deal with a conveyancing file until I had worked for at least two years now you can walk into an office in the morning and have a caseload by afternoon (I worked for a very short term in a factory firm so I know this). Nobody can tell me that recent phenomenons such as factory conveyancing, indemnity policies for everything, team conveyancing and technology are an improvement on how we practiced thirty years ago when standards were what we should be aspiring to again now. I have yet to come across a firm working within those criteria and operational guidelines who are competent or professional. In fact I would say the two words team and conveyancing when next to each other are guaranteed to send shivers through my body! Nobody will ever be able to PROVE to me technology is an improvement and substitute for experience. The firms I know who claim to have the best technology in my experience are actually just bad conveyancers with technology.
    After all my years of working I am still learning how to improve on the service I give to my clients. I am still expanding my knowledge to become a better conveyancer. I am not relying on a tick sheet or technology to do the job for me. And therein lies the crux of the matter, there is no substitute for experience. Of course the question is “How do you have your prospective clients understand that is the only criteria they should be using to instruct a conveyancer”? Which is the question the opinion piece asks? If there was an easy answer though I guess this article would be redundant.
    Ultimately the Law Society is to blame for the mess in which we find ourselves. By effectively allowing deregulation the profession has turned into the wild west where cowboys proliferate. By not keeping an eye on the way firms operate, by not stopping people practice due to incompetence and rule breaking and by not generally regulating, the vested interests and institutions that have spent millions buying into conveyancers have taken over. Now they are here they are not going to go away short of there being a massive collapse in the property market which hits them in the pocket. Profits come before everything these days, forget the poor client buying their dream (or first) house. All they are is a number on the file. CQS are just initials not any way of proving competence, I have worked at firms who fail to comply but still renew without difficulty each year.
    I still love my job despite all the hurdles that now exist to carry it out on behalf of clients. But I also feel fortunate that I will be able to retire in the next few years because I don’t see any improvement coming under the present custodians. I predict the future to be several one stop conveyancing shops filling the high streets just like Estate Agents, in the name of choice. And progress? I think that will ultimately be the basis on which clients choose their conveyancers probably getting what they paid for in the process.


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