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Diary of a high street conveyancer: 21st August 2023

I had decided what I was going to write about this week, and I am sorry to say that it was fees. I then saw the results of Today’s Conveyancer’s poll and was struck by the answers given to the question: “what do you currently see as the key issues facing residential conveyancers?”

“Low fees” was in the top five. Then, as often happens when you think of something, I saw a tweet which said:

“There is a misconception that all lawyers are overpaid and rich when, in reality, many are underpaid considering the amount of work they do and the stress they deal with.”

I looked at some of this tweeter’s other tweets and I could have written them myself. Another tweet said the universal job description of a lawyer is being perpetually overworked, exhaustively tired, and unconditionally grumpy.

I am by nature, not a grumpy person, but I agree with what this tweeter writes. Another tweet which I felt was particularly relevant to conveyancing is that we manage multiple crises all at once, perpetually forever.

When you look at the result of the Today’s Conveyancer poll, this is obvious. The matters that conveyancers see as key issues are those things that we all know so well. Yet, the public think that we are overpaid and rich, although I am sure that I am not alone in having clients say to me on a weekly basis – if not more often – that they would not want to do my job and don’t know how I do it. Perhaps they think that the pay justifies the stress we experience on a daily basis.

So – and I am sorry as I sound like a broken record – keep your prices high. Know your worth. If you know that you do a good job, charge accordingly.

If a potential client tells you that the firm down the road are cheaper, tell the client that you are happy that they are concerned about saving money on the biggest purchase of their life and send that client down the road.

We know that it is unlikely that the firm will be cheaper once they add in the extras and, if they are cheaper, then we know that the service provided by that firm will not be as good as the service we provide.

Again: know your worth.

It is likely that you know the firm which that client is comparing you with. You can’t say too much about that, but you know that you are better.

Charge more. Conveyancing is complex, there are recruitment challenges, there is the cost of PII cover, there is the long standing issue of referral fees, there are increasing compliance burdens – all of which are mentioned in the poll – but stand up for yourself and your firm, and increase your charges.

Know your worth – and make sure others know your worth.

4 Responses

  1. Couldn’t agree more – you and I are definitely on the same wavelength as your thoughts every week match my own. At my firm we charge quite high fees, BUT that is because we have a major Referrer and end up paying them, on average, half of those fees per transaction. That leaves the net fees which I can put towards my annual target much, much lower. I appreciate that it is probably essential to have excellent Referrers these days, but when they earn virtually as much as I do as a Conveyancer, something is not quite right! At some point the system has to change. Oh for simpler days, when we used to charge a scale fee based on the sale/purchase price whatever the type of transaction without all these “add-ons”, which are common in today’s conveyancing, to make your fees up to what they should be. Then, of course, you have to argue the point with the client that we are not “ripping them off” (as one client said to me the other day whilst arguing about the additional fees and disbursements) although they are all sent a copy of possible additional fees in their Onboarding Pack. I officially work four days a week but, again, this week I have actually worked a full seven days just to keep my head above water and to stave off my “deliberate delaying” of the transaction, according to some! Happy conveyancing guys 🙂

  2. 100% agree with the OP’s comments on workload, crises, grumpiness etc. Over a conveyancing career spanning 37 years, I’ve come to realise it’s the norm and part and parcel of the job.
    Don’t agree with referral fees…..never have done but only within the last 7 years have I been working for a firm who simply refuse to get involved with them. Are we busy? Absolutely! Is it stressful? Absolutely……but probably less stressful because we aren’t having to cow-tow to estate agents and other referrers and answer every single email that comes in asking if weve done this…or done that….”here are your exchange targets for the month”. It’s about time something was done about it……..I still come across clients who have not been told that they were referred to a particular lawyer because the agent was getting a backhanded.

  3. I am qualified and have been doing this job for 15 years. I’ve not had a pay rise in 4 years. There is always some excuse to not do so (COVID, costs, interest rates, future crashes) Since 2008 I’ve been told numerous times I am lucky to be in a job. I was made redundant in 2008 and it took until 2015/2016 to get a decent wage to reflect my qualifications. I won’t say how much I am paid but I do not pay 40% tax but it is some 18% above the mean average salary for all workers. Solicitors/Conveyancers/SRA/CLC do not stick together. We should all refuse to pay agent referral fees and we should charge our worth without fear of some factory firm coming along and undercutting us. Frankly, we should all form a union and down tools until we are supported in full and that means fighting to get a reduction on our indemnity insurance premiums. If we can have fewer costs but higher fees, the staff should be paid better, we will be able to take on less work, give a better level of service and everyone wins.

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