Moving issue

FOCUS ON: Residential conveyancing - Leeds & Yorkshire Lawyer - Issue 108
Stephen Coupland explains how outsourcing your residential conveyancing requirements can actually help retain clients.

Over the last three years the conveyancing landscape has changed significantly, with many firms looking at the practical and financial viability of continuing to provide a conveyancing service for their clients.

The number of property transactions in the UK has halved since 2008 and there are now far fewer firms whose main focus is conveyancing. The Land Registry statistics show that of 4,618 firms who registered applications with them in November last year, only 147 registered over 50 transactions.

What is clear is that many firms are still offering a conveyancing service simply to retain clients, i.e. not from a profit-making perspective, but to ensure that the client doesn’t instruct another firm which could then pick up the rest of their business.

The obvious solution is to outsource to a specialist conveyancing-only firm that has nothing else to sell to your client.

Why outsource?

There are three key reasons to join those firms that are already outsourcing residential conveyancing.

When it comes to analysing the cost of delivery, numerous factors have driven down fees at a time when bank interest is also negligible. Increasing professional indemnity premiums, a lack of volume and the need for huge investment in IT and specialist staff means residential conveyancing is loss-making for most mainstream law firms.

So, the question you need to ask yourself is: why fund a department when you could outsource? Niche conveyancing firms deliver the process and the expertise that matters to your clients. You retain your client, avoid the risks, focus on your profitable departments and generate an income through Solicitors Regulation Authority-regulated feesharing agreements.

Secondly comes the issue of lenders in general being risk averse and consequently removing firms from their panels. They want volume, specialist expertise, robust processes and Law Society Conveyancing Quality Scheme accreditation. Therefore, if you are not on a major lender’s panels, you can’t serve your client properly.

Last but by no means least is the issue of compliance. It stands to reason that if you’re not investing properly in your department, its processes and procedures, and you can’t afford senior conveyancing professionals, then it may not be too long before an SRA inspection visit uncovers breaches of their code of conduct. You need to ask yourself whether your firm is sitting on a potential fine and if your partners are at risk of having practising certificates revoked. Why take that risk?

“Client retention in this marketplace is imperative,” explains Rob Lewis, Director of Advantage Property Lawyers. “A firm like ours only does residential conveyancing so your client relationship is safe and we guarantee outstanding customer service.

“We currently work with law firms of all sizes who outsource conveyancing to us. They trust us, and pass the risk and responsibility on to us, and in return we ensure we keep them fully informed. They remain in complete control of their client relationships and generate a feesharing income for them.”