In an ideal world, the conveyancing client should expect that their conveyancing solicitor is sat at their desk simply working on that client’s sale or purchase, and doing nothing else; to be available to take all the client’s telephone calls, and to reply immediately to their emails. After all, the client is paying the conveyancer. Indeed, we all become frustrated in our daily lives whenever we email someone and we do not receive a quick reply. That is compounded when we are paying the recipient to work for us.
Unfortunately, the availability of conveyancers is quite different.
Clients would simply not pay the level of legal fee necessary to single-handedly cover the conveyancer’s entire cost of all their salaries, overheads, professional insurance etc, for the duration of your legal transaction – if they were to dedicate total availability to you. In fact, conveyancing fees are the lowest element of moving home (when compared with estate agents, surveyors, mortgage valuations, mortgage arrangement fees, removals) which is mainly due to the sheer volume of legal businesses in the legal process who compete on price rather than quality (and many of whom are not even solicitor firms).
As a result conveyancers are faced with having to act for multiple clients at once to cover their total costs of being in business/keeping the service profitable to run. The typical conveyancer can be acting for 60 or more clients at any one time. Not something that is well known, and so despite their best endeavours to keep everyone happy, a conveyancer may not find themselves immediately available to return a call or email. Combine that with unexpected absences of fellow team members through illness say, and the need to step in to juggle both sets of clients.
However, conveyancers do appreciate that clients will stop coming through their doors if they do not manage to get as close to a ‘total availability’ service as they can.
So what can they do? They can make themselves work efficiently. This represents the second test of a good conveyancer (the first being what level of legal training do they have to even attempt your house move - you might be horrified if you ever asked).
Efficiency is secured by effective management of time and the offering of quality (or more accurately ‘value for money’). And here are the main ingredients:
- The use of the internet (instant access to the Land Registry) and email, which should be promoted on all their literature, inviting clients to sue a direct email address for that conveyance. This enables more instant working methods.
- The reduction in the use of letters, as this slows everything down.
- Frequent updating of clients – ideally at the en of the week en masses on a Friday afternoon – after the day’s completions – and before the weekend. Poor communication is a frequent complain by both the public and estate agents when it comes to conveyancers.
- Prompt – if not instant - replies to emails, rather than storing them up and backing up a conveyancer’s work.
- Availability after 5pm and at lunch. Whether personally or secretarial at least.
- Ensuring that effective cover is always on hand for illness holidays and other absences.
- Ensuring voicemail is used and Outlook ‘out of office’ alerts are in place so your whereabouts are known.
The above are the traits that conveyancers should adopt in their drive to offer top quality. There is no justification for situations where there is a simple failure to respect a customer’s communication. Conveyancers witness this far too frequently from fellow conveyancers.