4 in 5 conveyancers would not enter the profession today, survey reveals

Over four in five (84%) conveyancers would not enter the profession if they were an aspiring lawyer today, a new survey of over 200 conveyancers has revealed.

Dozens of respondents to Today’s Conveyancer’s survey gave a reason for this. These included:

“Risk is high, reward is low.”

“When anything goes wrong, the first person the client will look to blame will be the conveyancer.”

“Conveyancers must be equal parts land law expert, planning expert, building regulations expert, horticulture expert, tax expert, as well as a salesperson.”

“Other areas of law have far more respect than conveyancing professionals.”

Of course, 16% said they would stand by their decision: “It’s a fun and exciting area of law where we get to help people – and someone has to do it,” said one respondent.

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers also seems more upbeat with 300 students currently studying for the CLC qualification, something it describes as “a healthy pipeline of future conveyancers”.

Gareth Richards, Vice Chairperson of the Society of Licensed Conveyancers, said he reads the comments regarding conveyancers’ decision to enter the profession “with a tinge of sadness”:

“Whilst most of us are still bearing some scars from the COVID and Stamp Duty Holiday period, conveyancing is still a fantastically rewarding career and I believe that we need to work closely with our regulators in promoting the benefits of working in the profession. There are not many careers where you can have a direct impact in helping someone achieve their dreams of owning their first home.”

However, looking at the challenges facing residential conveyancers, it’s easy to understand why four in five say they would not enter the profession today.

79% of respondents to the survey cited the Building Safety Act 2022 and subsequent issues as one of the key obstacles. Also popular amongst respondents was “mission creep” – the ever-increasing responsibility placed upon conveyancers – chosen by 72%.

One conveyancer’s appraisal of the profession

HM Land Registry delays (63%), the anti-money laundering and compliance burden (61%), low fees (58%), standards of conveyancing and other conveyancers (52%), lack of direction from the Law Society / CLC (46%), PII cost (44%), referral fees (43%), and lenders’ panel requirements (41%) were amongst the other issues cited most frequently.

Another key issue flagged by conveyancers was the volume and the standard of enquiries, flagged by a total of 169 respondents. This comes after a previous Today’s Conveyancer survey found 83% of conveyancers have noted an increase in enquiries of late. “To see enquiries yet again cited as one of the key sources of attrition for conveyancers is sad, but no surprise,” said Karen Babington, co-founder of tech startup Collaborative Conveyancing:

“The survey backs up the urgency in addressing this key element of the conveyancing process so that we retain experienced and knowledgeable conveyancers in the sector.”

The survey also revealed what coalface conveyancers don’t see as the foremost challenges at this point in time. Less than one in four said a lack of upfront information was a key issue. What’s more, just 14% – one in seven – reported a lack of digitalisation as a key issue.

Sue Bence, Chief Legal Officer, Simply Conveyancing, said this is “surprising […] given the challenge presented to clients, estate agents, and lawyers by lack of consistency and availability of up front information and adoption of digitally supported transaction tools”.

Nevertheless, the data begs the question of whether the focus of those making decisions regarding the profession aligns with what challenges frontline residential conveyancers are facing on a day-to-day basis.

Indeed, 83% said the Law Society fails to effectively represent the intentions and views of residential conveyancers. Responding to this, Law Society President Lubna Shuja said:

“We recognise the pressures they are under and the daily stresses they face […] The responses in relation to a continually evolving and expanding role are understandable […] We consistently represent our members having heard from them on their key issues.”

Just 10 of the 202 respondents said the Land Registry represents their views effectively. This comes just weeks after the formation of the Digital Property Market Steering Group (DPMSG), a coalition of government and industry partners aiming to accelerate the digitalisation of conveyancing.

Asked the extent to which the DPMSG will impact the practice of residential conveyancers in the foreseeable future, a total of 81% said they weren’t sure, they didn’t know what it is, or that it won’t impact their practice at all.

However, HMLR appears steadfast, telling Today’s Conveyancer that this survey “underlines the importance and critical timing of the recently formed DPMSG”.

Which of the following organisations do you feel effectively represent the intentions and views of residential conveyancers?

The Home Buying and Selling Group (HBSG) – which has a far broader remit than just representing conveyancers – was chosen as effectively representing conveyancers’ views by just three respondents, despite having representatives from all conveyancing and legal trade bodies and regulators on the group as well as practitioners themselves.

The group is run entirely by volunteers and aims to improve the home buying and selling process for consumers. Its key focuses include upfront information and technology, but also other areas that have undoubtedly had a recognisable impact on conveyancers’ practice. Kate Faulkner OBE, Chair of the Home Buying and Selling Group, said:

“One of the biggest issues indicated in the survey was building safety, and we have been working on this since last December. We agree that it’s causing issues with buying and selling, so we are working on a ‘list of to-dos’ to try and help its implementation. So far, we are pleased to have seen the changes from UK Finance and hope there will be more to come.”

The Conveyancing Association and The Bold Legal Group (BLG) faired better, with 57 and 137 respective respondents stating these organisations effectively represent their views.

Beth Rudolf, Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association, said the responses make it “somewhat obvious” that the ongoing work from the Conveyancing Association, HBSG, and others around upfront information and the earlier instruction of conveyancers “remains vitally important”. Empathising with the issues faced by conveyancers, she added:

“Conveyancing is a vocation and it’s more than likely that if the client isn’t happy, then you are unlikely to be happy either. No one active in the conveyancing space can be happy with the length of time transactions take to complete and the lack of certainty and transparency in the process.”

Rob Hailstone, CEO, BLG, said “many [conveyancers] don’t believe they are being represented at all”. He said representing such a wide range of conveyancers is always going to be difficult, and that representation on a particular issue is likely to have more of an effect if a higher proportion of conveyancers back it:

“I am, of course, prepared to look at taking any action that any of the BLG members suggests I take, and will try to include some in next year’s National Conveyancing Week.

Maybe the time is now for some – or all – of the organisations named to join together to see if they can, at the very least, jointly tackle the top four or five key issues.”

3 Responses

  1. Having been a conveyancer for over 50 years, a large part dealing with residential, I can entirely accept the findings of this research. Resi. conveyancing used to be a proper branch of law, but has become a poorly done admin. exercise. Ultimately, I found the constant, wholly unnecessary pressure, generally poor standards of work of those involved in it and abuse a soul-destroyingly awful job.

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