Diary of a high street conveyancer; 11th July 2022

I have seen a lot on LinkedIn again this week about the volume of emails received by solicitors. This is something I have mentioned before.

It was interesting to see that the author of the post said exactly what I have said before and continue to say – how can we do our “work” when we get so many emails and other interruptions during a working day? I have been in the routine of dealing with emails and telephone calls during the day and then having to do the “proper” work (contract bundles, reviewing contracts, advising clients, etc.) in the evening – but this is a bad habit. Is there an alternative?

Here is a scenario you will all be familiar with. Estate agents call/email for an update. You think: “I will answer that shortly, I just need to finish this financial statement for a client so that they can transfer the balance monies to me.” The client then calls/emails and states that the agent has not been able to get hold of me or that I have ignored the email and not responded. This then means that I have to explain to the client that I was working on something else which was a little more urgent (always a difficult thing to say because every client’s house move is the most urgent thing to them) and I was going to get back to the estate agent when I had finished the piece of work I was doing.

Why should we have to explain ourselves? Why should we be distracted in this way? Surely it is for us to decide what is the most urgent thing, not the agent? When reports say that the relationship between solicitor and agent is difficult, this is one of the reasons why.

When are we meant to review the contract documents and prepare the report to send to the client? When are we meant to consider the additional enquiries, discuss them with the client and send replies? So many of us are still working evenings just to stay on top of the work, and there is no answer to the barrage of emails we receive day in and day out. Relentless. You see a client for 15 minutes and come back to around 30 emails. You switch the laptop off at 5pm on a Friday and at 9am on a Monday morning, there are 200 emails which have been sent over the weekend – what a demoralising start to a week. Many of us work on a Sunday evening just to clear the email overload so that we can head into Monday feeling optimistic rather than dreading it.

Is there an answer to this? Answers please on a postcard to:

Worn-out high-street conveyancer
Care of Today’s Conveyancer

Don’t send those replies in an email – my inbox is already full enough!

This is written by a real high street conveyancer who wishes to remain anonymous. Read more in Today’s Conveyancer every week.

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4 Responses

  1. This is why I do not do the job anymore. I have been qualified 25 years with 30 years experience and the emails and volume of work broke me. Literally five years ago I had a breakdown working so many long hours with the pressure was horrendous (and juggling a life and the firm I was at weren’t very helpful) I decided to locum and have been since then. I do the job in short bursts for a week or two at a time knowing that there is an and to it, but during those weeks I give my all again and it reminds me what a difficult job being a conveyancer is now. 30 years ago it was busy but sensible, you could afford to dedicate time to individual Clients and matters, now it’s all rush and some Clients do feel short changed and as for the agents they, in my opinion, need to realise how difficult a task it is and rather than tittle tattling to Clients wait and have a conversation with the conveyancer as to how best to achieve communication and updates as to both professionals availability. The job is hard enough, if you want to do it right, without outside pressure.

  2. I completely agree; the advent of the digital error has been here for a while and it seems to increase people’s expectations and we continue to be driven down on fees but are paying out more (energy bills and insurance spring to mind). I’ve not met anyone yet that has control over emails or has found a way of dealing with them efficiently. Perhaps as an industry we need to become more ‘tech savvy’. We could introduce new technology but that is expensive and the fees would have to increase to pay for it.
    Sometimes we are our own worse enemies; we reply to the odd one or two emails straight away but when people come back straight away they then expect continuing immediate responses. Perhaps we treat emails as post and dealt with in date order. Easier said than done I know.
    Perhaps we go back in time to proper time recording and proper billing based on time recording. That might limit emails to those necessary ones. I can’t imagine that years ago that interested parties were willing to spend time and money on writing 5 letters a day and posting them!

  3. Thank you for posting this. This describes my day exactly, and it is reassuring to know that I am not the only one. In fact it is the norm and it is very wrong. Where is the Law Society/SRA? Hello? Anyone there? Why are estate agents allowed to bombard us with chase ups and email. I am becoming more and more aggressive in my replies, because it is just getting to me. I send pre-contract enquiries on Monday cc the Estate Agents to the email and on Wednesday they email me for an update, because they have heard from the vendor that they discussed my enquiries with the buyer’s solicitors. And God forbid I do not respond immediately. There is just such disregard for what we do. These people have not got the faintest idea of how much scrutiny we have to put into these files just to avoid negligence, nevermind doing a good service. I have about 50 live files (post payment on account but pre completion). It is nearly impossible to handle and the money is not very good. It is a sick environment. I take pride in what I do, but if things don’t change I am not going to be around for much longer and they can replace me (10+ PQE) with a newbie paralegal. We need to stop Estate Agents contacting us willy nilly. They are not a party to the transaction.

  4. This is all depressingly familiar but I am afraid these are self inflicted wounds. The profession does not value itself and cuts fees, squandering the goodwill asset value of your practice. If you don’t value the service you are providing and the very considerable knowledge and skill set you have why would you expect clients and estate agents to respect you? The estate agent is probably getting 1% for their ‘service’ – they no doubt have solicitors falling over themselves to bid for work at £1200 for the pile of work and pressure of a £650k purchase. How could the agent have respect for the conveyancer in that scenario? Have the confidence to charge a proper economic fee, educate your clients and the estate agents about what you will and won’t do, that will permit you to give a good service, your good client base will grow and you may even have some goodwill in your practice at the end of the month. If someone is going to shop around for the lowest quote, ‘winning’ their business is a Pyrrhic victory and you will only get stress and ultimately a worthless conveyancing practice.

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