Alison Roberts, Professional Services Director (Conveyancing Services) at Countrywide Property Lawyers: Conveyancing — a view from volume business
What qualities do you look for in a Conveyancer?
The obvious ones; commitment professionalism and great communication but also creativity resourcefulness and the ability to solve problems. We don’t want our lawyers needlessly debating legal points whilst our clients are waiting to move in!
In your experience what do clients want most from a conveyancer?
We ask our clients this and it is overwhelmingly clear that they value effective and frequent communication by whatever means they choose — post, email or text. Lawyers forget that although they are working hard in the background, much of what they do isn’t visible and one of the things we have learnt is simply to keep in closer touch and to give peace of mind.
Traditional firms say that you need local knowledge and that volume based national operations like yours can’t provide this — do you agree?
Some areas have particular challenges that demand specialist knowledge but you don’t have to be local to provide that. Our conveyancers have a breath of experience simply from carrying out high volumes of cases all over England and Wales. Some local lawyers stress this point but are happy to act for their own clients when they move away from the area — the irony isn’t lost on us!
Do you a have to be legally qualified to be a Conveyancer?
No. Many of our lawyers are qualified but we also have a lot of conveyancers who are qualified by experience. We also run training programmes that give opportunities to support staff who want to become case handlers. It takes up to two years intensive training but we are lucky enough to have a dedicated training resource which is CPD accredited.
If clients could change one thing about the conveyancing process what would it be?
Probably to shorten the time it takes. There are many different parts of the process — and we don’t have direct control over all of them. However, we are constantly looking for ways to shorten this time and to increase efficiencies without compromising on quality and service.
Volume conveyancers do come in for some criticism — why is that?
Probably because we are successful at what we do. There is a perception that large operations are impersonal and fail to put the client first but nothing could be further from the truth. Organisations like ours have made seven day a week opening, extended hours, web and text updates and transparent service level agreements the norm and clients have benefitted from that. Our business model has allowed us to grow and recruit during this six year property recession and it gives us the flexibility to offer our conveyancers extra support when they need it most. For example, we employ lawyers with no case loads to help through holiday periods and to provide compliance and training support.
Does this environment suit all lawyers?
Conveyancing is the same whether you are in a large or small practice but if you like to work in a closed office dictating to a secretary and are not keen on speaking to clients or introducers then you probably won’t fit in. However, if you like team work, are professional, value those who introduce work to you and think customer service is as important as we do then we’d like to hear from you!
About Alison: Alison is the professional services director at CCS. She is responsible for risk and compliance and contributes to the company goals of driving down transactions times, improving customer service and maintaining quality standards.