A day in the life of a conveyancing solicitor

05 Apr 2013

Being a conveyancing solicitor can often be mildly depressing, as you continuously empathise with the emotions of your clients, their highs and lows of the moving process, their frustrations with slow conveyancers, with mortgage offers that are promised but seemingly take ages to arrive, and the worry that someone in the moving chain might get cold feet, or simply fail to realise they are part of a chain and no one party is in control – nor should they be.

But the joys far outweigh this. Truly being there for a client, firmly on their side, from the moment offers are accepted to the keys being handed to them/the cheque being sent to them. Their delight at an exchange, and even more so on the day they move in when they rush to the estate agents to pick up their keys.

9am – Greeted by a flashing voicemail light on my telephone and an Outlook inbox with a few client emails (using a Blackberry I am mildly amused when at 11pm the previous night I can instantly reply to a client email and inadvertently spook them with my totally unexpected reply – well if it is important to them to email, I am happy to reply if I have a moment – and it leaves me with less emails when I come in to work).

9.15am – Coffee in hand, I review any client files on my desk that have any previous day’s post/emails to reply to.  Otherwise, voicemail messages listened to and emails responded to, new post for the day then arrives and the day’s work starts. I start digitally dictating for a secretary.
Rarely do we allow any work to remain over from the previous day. Modern conveyancing demands prompt action, as do clients and estate agents.

11am – 3pm – All post has arrived, and it is all put with each client file to still be worked on during the day. I dislike having messages sitting in my Outlook inbox, so when emails arrive I stop what I am doing and I always aim to provide an instant reply. A rod for my own back perhaps, as clients could be forgiven for thinking that is what they can expect – but they usually can with me.

My preference for my Team is to prioritise the use of email over actual posted letters. If I receive enquiries from a buyer’s lawyer, I will either call my client for answers (if a written record is not crucial) or email them and invite a speedy reply, so in turn I can ‘bat the answers back’. Keep up the pace and give no excuse to the other conveyancer to sit back.

If I am buying a property and I receive a contract package, years ago the temptation would be to groan and push the pack to one side, but certainly not now. It is so easy to pick up the digital dictaphone and ask that ‘we use the letter replying to contract papers’ and looking through the papers ‘please type the following enquiries…..’. Instant review, instant letter creation, and same day delivery back of a full comment on the seller’s papers. Again, keeping up the pace.

1pm – Lunch time. From a legal point of view I should perhaps say I always take my full hour, but tempting as it may be, I have clients who want to move, conveyancers to chase and calls to make, so a working lunch is quite common place.

2pm – Calls may come in from conveyancers who realise they better start to be active and make contact, sometimes pleasantly surprising me with a request to at last exchange contracts, though to explain a common enquiry, conveyancing solicitors do not actually tend to telephone each other too much.

Some use posted letters even for two sentences of text without any enclosures (I still fail to understand the logic – don’t their office managers scold them for wasted stationary) other than perhaps buying themselves some more time to delay, but most use emails and faxes. Telephoning each other leaves no written trail, and if at a later point the ‘he said she said’ argument arises, what then? And most conveyancing enquiries will involve asking for the other lawyers to ask their clients something, so telephoning the lawyer will not secure an immediate answer, so putting it in writing is more productive.

Speaking on the telephone can also take longer than a line of text in an email. Most conveyancing solicitors have at least 60 clients they look after at any one time so being monopolised on the telephone would grind them to a halt.

With all the exchanges of contracts I can squeeze out of other conveyancers concluded, and delighted clients preparing for their completion days, the telephone calls begin to reduce, and work that requires more time to think about can be comfortably carried out.

4pm – I am called to sign my post, check correct enclosures are included in letters including any cheques. I return to my desk – but I am not a robot, I do walk around the office and my team and annoy… motivate them with humour.

5pm – Our secretaries depart for the evening, having been superstars as always. Thereafter, it really is a productive time, and I can send numerous emails to clients updating them in great detail, with cc’s to estate agents too, and from time to time surprising clients that I am still in the office and working on their files.

7pm – oh good grief, my wife was expecting me home at 6pm, I have to go.