housing in England

Conveyancing caseloads up 79% over last decade – and there’s more to come, data suggests

New data has revealed the average conveyancing caseload per firm increased by 79% over the last decade amidst soaring transactions and a drop in those undertaking work. What’s more, a fresh study has suggested demand for property law expertise is set to rise again in 2023.

More work – and less firms

Property transactions nearly doubled from 714,000 in 2012 to 1.3 million in 2022, meanwhile the number of active conveyancing firms fell by 10% over that decade. This, according to Search Acumen’s latest Conveyancing Market Tracker, has led to “unprecedented pressure” on the conveyancing sector amidst soaring caseloads.

 

Annual transactions across the decade. Source: Search Acumen

 

The number of active conveyancing firms decreases every year for a decade, despite transaction volumes doubling. Source: Search Acumen

Demand set to increase further

Though caseloads may already be through the roof, a handful of factors are set to lead a further acceleration in demand for property lawyers and conveyancers in 2023, a new study has suggested.

LexisNexis’ latest Gross Legal Product (GLP) index for the property law sector draws upon “hundreds of datapoints” to predict future demand including house building data, Help to Buy schemes, mortgage lending statistics, planning applications, and stamp duty taxes.

Through assessing these datapoints and others, LexisNexis predict a 7% increase in demand for property lawyers and conveyancers across 2023.

This comes against a backdrop of a 1% fall in demand in 2022, a 9% rise in 2021, and a 12% fall in 2020 – indeed, LexisNexis say demand has “yo-yoed” in previous years and the data assessed via their index seems to reinforce this.

Source: LexisNexis

Who is doing the work?

Of those undertaking work, the top 50 firms accounted for 20.5% of all transactions in Q4 2022 compared with 19.3% a year earlier, in which 1% is equivalent to an extra 3,000 transactions at current levels of market activity.

The top 200 firms were responsible for almost two in five transactions in Q4 (39.5%), compared with 36.5% ten years earlier in Q4 2012.

Conversely, activity for firms outside the top 1,000 decreased, accounting for 24.6% of all transactions in Q4 compared with 25.9% a year earlier.

How the top firms are increasing their market share across the decade. Source: Search Acumen

“It’s been an unprecedented decade of pressure on the conveyancing sector,” said Andy Sommerville, Director of Search Acumen:

“With transaction volumes rising while firm numbers have consistently fallen, this has obviously created new commercial opportunities, but equally put huge strain on lawyers to meet the needs of the market through some of the most challenging years we’ve ever seen.

We cannot underestimate how critical the UK conveyancing sector has been in keeping the property sector going, with lawyers going above and beyond, putting themselves at risk of burnout to meet the needs of their clients.”

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