Conveyancing boom exposes skills ‘gap’

Topics: Law Society activity,Conveyancing

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Conveyancing is booming, according to a new market bellwether, but experts have pointed to a recruitment gap following the recession.

Conveyancing is booming, according to a new market bellwether.  


The first quarterly ‘Conveyancing sentiment’ survey, conducted by search provider Searchflow in association with the Gazette, also reveals that a large majority of firms are also brimming with confidence about the sustainability of the upturn.

Some 64% of partners and practice managers surveyed at 131 firms of all sizes reported that conveyancing volumes had grown by at least 10% compared with last year, while 23% reported a rise of at least a quarter.

Much of the growth has been driven by clients ‘walking through the door’ rather than referrals, with only 6% of firms reporting growth from lender panel instructions. Greater links with local estate agents resulted in increased referrals from that source for nearly a third of firms.

Firms have remained cautious on recruitment, but the desire to take on more staff is also on the rise. A third of respondents reported additional hires of solicitors and paralegals, while more than 50% did not expand their workforce. But more than three-quarters said they feel ‘positive’ or ‘very positive’ about business prospects, with 42% considering increasing headcount over the next six months.

Perran Moon, Searchflow’s marketing director, said: ‘It is heartening to see a positive and sustainable outlook on the market. While firms have been understandably nervous about over-resourcing in case the upturn was short-lived, solid local partnerships and marketing are bearing fruit for high street conveyancers.’

The buoyant mood was reflected at the Gazette’s latest conveyancing roundtable, sponsored by TM Group. However, practitioners pointed to the ‘skills gap’ that now exists following such a long period of retrenchment.

Browne Jacobson partner Alan Radford warned that firms which made redundancies during the recession have ‘had to start the conveyor belt all over again’.

He added: ‘Bringing [recruits] through and training them up to the point where they can take on cases themselves [is] time-consuming. And recruiting at the moment, with the volumes increasing, has left a huge pressure on everybody.’

Law Society deputy vice-president Jonathan Smithers, a conveyancing specialist, concurred. ‘Recruiting skilled staff is extremely difficult,’ he said.

  • Revised conveyancing forms CON29 and CON290 have been published by the Law Society following a consultation. The Society aims to launch the forms on 1 October.

Readers' comments (31)

  • ‘Recruiting skilled staff is extremely difficult,’ because:

    1. The pay is poor.
    2. The responsibility and stress factor is considerable.
    3. A high percentage of residential conveyancing is undertaken by cheap labour in the form of unqualified personnel who often don't know what they are doing.
    4. No matter how well qualified and knowledgeable you are, you will get knowhere if the other side are incompetent - and/or you are unable to pigeonhole - everything!!!
    It takes two to tango in the world of conveyancing.
    5. The CQS is a joke.
    6. No matter how good a conveyancer you are, your client will hate you unless you can complete the transaction quickly, cheaply and efficiently. The incompetence of the other side will probably cut no ice at all with the client.
    7. Lenders and their panels and their employees are nearly always impossible to deal with. They are also largely ignorant, particularly in the area of property law, rude and extraordinarily inefficient in every concievable way.

    Small wonder then that - ‘Recruiting skilled staff is extremely difficult,’- Mr Smithers!!!!!!!


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  • Sorry for the spelling mistake. No excuse for that!!!


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  • Here we go again, look for the increase in insurance premiums. How did the Law Society let us loose the ability to charge a percentage of the price? Whilst I think that agents get sill money, .5% on the sale and 1% on the purchase might make conveyancing attractive again and keep the insurance premiums down.

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  • Hilarious, the fact is the pay is shockingly bad and the level of pressure and responsibility is extremely high. You get little thanks for the work you do either from client or employer and you either dont have enough work and you are worrying about your job or you have so much workthat you have to work silly hours (unpaid I might add) just to keep your head above water. There's no skills gap just a shortage of highly qualified people prepared to put up with the crap for the money on offer. . Would love to get out of conveyancing but I cant see a way out :(  they should do a survey on how many conveyancers would choose to do what they do I think it would be very revealing

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  • What an extraordinary turnaround. 35 years ago there were half as many solicitors and twice the number of new houses built. Either lawyer productivity has fallen dramatically or the data is wrong.

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  • There is certainly an gap in conveyancing skills, but also an opportunity to get it right this time around. Lack of proper training was a huge problem last time around; also poor wider personal skills in traditional firms that struggled to equip themselves to compete just on price. Hopefully the same won't happen again. We've had involvement with appointment of new - well trained (with MMU Law School) and well managed - legal services apprentices in Manchester. I believe there are plans afoot for well defined development through an apprenticeship route for conveyancers; both for new and existing employees - so there's a chance. Take a look at today's Blog at Inpractice UK for some of the good news and positive steps that can be taken.

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  • It is a horrible, thankless, mega-stressful job, considered pointless by the public (they may be right sometimes) and the lowest of the low among our fellow lawyers.

    And then you look at your pathetic pay at the end of the month and wonder how you ended up like this.

    A shortage of conveyancers? I don't care.

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  • Kamikaze conveyancing pilots looking for another crack at departmental supremacy and taking the firm down with soon we forget!

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  • Given Chris Grayling's intended plans to dump a load of criminal defence solicitors onto the dole as a result of his legal aid cuts and 2-tier contract system, maybe the conveyancing skills gap will be plugged by ex-defence solicitors reinventing themselves as property lawyers. Defence solicitors are well accustomed to low pay, long hours (we can frequently be found at a police station near you at 1am) and being looked down upon by the general public.

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